In 2017, the damages caused by global ransomware was expected to exceed $5 billion. That is up from $325 million in 2015. Cybersecurity is critical for every business in the 21st century. Business owners need to understand how to protect themselves from this threat and ways to stay safe from hacks and ransomware.
First, let’s talk about ransomware. Ransomware is any type of malicious software that infects a computer and either prevents it from working as it should or prevents access to certain files until the user pays a ransom.
How Ransomware Can Spread
There are different ways that ransomware can spread, including the following:
- Visiting fake or unsafe websites
- Opening emails or email attachments from unknown sources
- Clicking on suspicious links in emails or on social media
What Ransomware Does to Your Computer
There are two main types of ransomware that can hold computer systems hostage:
- Lock-screen ransomware works by displaying a window on the computer’s lock screen that attempts to prevent access to the computer. The message on the lock screen may even claim to come from the federal government, accusing the user of violating a law and demanding a fine.
- Encryption ransomware works by keeping the computer available but encrypting certain types of files, thus making them unreadable. The files most commonly affected are those that include sensitive information and are assumed by the hacker to be of the most value. When people try to access the files, they then see a pop-up screen that instructs them to buy a private decryption key that can decrypt the scrambled files.
How to Respond
Some operating systems provide instructions for responding to lock-screen ransomware, although results aren’t guaranteed. In contrast, encryption ransomware has no quick fix without an encryption key, which only the hackers typically have access to.
Regardless of the type of ransomware, experts recommend against paying the ransom. After all, there is no guarantee that you will regain access to your computer, network or files after you pay. Furthermore, by paying the ransom, you could be encouraging future cyber crimes.
If your business is affected by ransomware, take the following steps:
- Report the event to your local FBI office.
- File a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- Restore file backups, if you have them.
- Check your insurance coverage to see if it covers the costs of ransom money paid and lost business.
How to Protect Your Business
Cyber extortion from ransomware is a legitimate threat to all businesses—no matter the size. The best method of prevention is to keep confidential information and important files securely backed up in a remote location that is not connected to your main network.
In addition to backing up your files, taking the following prevention measures can help keep your information secure and prevent you from becoming a victim of cyber attacks:
- Teach your employees about ransomware and the importance of preventing it.
- Show your employees how to detect suspicious emails and attachments. For example, watch for bad spelling or unusual symbols in email addresses.
- Develop a protocol for reporting incidents of ransomware and other suspicious cyber activity.
- Develop a schedule for regularly backing up sensitive business files.
- Update your company software as soon as new updates are released. In doing so, you can patch the security vulnerabilities that cybercriminals rely on, and avoid becoming an easy target.
- Purchase cyber liability insurance that not only helps you respond to threats but can also help cover the cost of the ransom and any other losses incurred as a result of cyber extortion.
10 Ways to Prevent Cyber Attacks
Even if you don’t currently have the resources to bring in an outside expert to test your computer systems and make security recommendations, there are simple, economical steps you can take to reduce your risk of falling victim to a costly cyber attack:
- Train employees in cybersecurity principles.
- Install, use and regularly update antivirus and antispyware software on every computer used in your business.
- Use a firewall for your internet connection.
- Download and install software updates for your operating systems and applications as they become available.
- Make backup copies of important business data and information.
- Control physical access to your computers and network components.
- Secure your Wi-Fi networks. If you have a Wi-Fi network for your workplace make sure it is secure and hidden.
- Require individual user accounts for each employee.
- Limit employee access to data and information, and limit authority to install the software.
- Regularly change passwords.
Don’t let ransomware—or any type of cyber exposure—threaten your business. Contact Pasadena Insurance Agency, Inc. to ensure you have the proper coverage and the tools necessary to protect against losses from cyber attacks.