Is Ransomware a Serious Threat to Your Business Network Security?

At the end of each year, cyber security experts identify the threats that they believe to be most significant over the course of the next year. This year, a number of security specialists named ransomware as the threat to watch out for in 2016. Here is what ransomware is, why it’s becoming a real threat, and how you can safeguard your business against it.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is the act of infecting or intruding into a computer or network and holding the systems hostage for ransom. Sometimes, the intruders threaten to publish the data, which usually contains sensitive corporate or customer information (think Ashley Madison). Or, the hackers might simply take over your systems, preventing you from operating your business. Some common threats include deleting the files, corrupting the files, or distributing the files publicly.

Why Ransomware is Gaining Steam

Attacks in general are becoming more personal. In a random data breach, intruders are in and out and gone. During a ransomware attack, the attackers and the business usually communicate several times. These attacks are more personal. It’s usually much easier to take advantage of someone you don’t see and have never spoken to. Extorting someone practically face-to-face is a different breed of attacker, entirely.

How to Protect Against Malware

Obviously, keeping ransomware out of your systems to begin with is much better than trying to deal with a situation once the attack is underway. The best steps for preventing a ransomware attack include:

  • Keep your systems backed up, and keep as many backup copies, in different locations, as possible. It can be weeks or months between the time the malware infiltrates your systems and when you learn about it, so you’ll want backups dating to before the infiltration began.
  • Educate your users. Most malware used in ransomware attacks (actually, any hack attack) gets in the same way: via a user who isn’t paying attention, lets their guard down, or just doesn’t understand security. Make sure your users are knowledgeable and stay sharp.
  • Employ a solid business network security solution.
  • Keep all software and firmware up to date with updates and patches.

What to Do if You’re a Ransomware Victim

While smart preventative measures can help protect your systems, no computer or network is totally immune. What should you do if your business becomes a victim of ransomware?

  • Don’t pay the ransom — the hackers will just ask for more money or will use the money you pay to levy attacks against other businesses. Paying the ransom is no guarantee that they will release your data and leave you alone.
  • While it is probably not possible to break back into your files using blunt force, it may be possible to trick the ransomware into letting your files go. See if you can set back the BIOS clock to before the deadline. This can buy you time to copy files or take other protective measures.
  • Alert authorities. The faster you begin collecting forensic evidence of the attack, the more likely it is that the attackers will be brought to justice.

Not sure if your business network security is up to the job of protecting your business from a ransomware attack? Download our FREE eBook “10 Cybersecurity Mistakes Your Team is Making.”

By Craig Badrick


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