Chapter 3: What is ransomware and how does it affect your business?

A ransomware attack can have severe effects on your business. The WannaCry incident that happened in 2017, for instance, disrupted organizations in over 150 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, and Russia, and caused financial losses exceeding $4 billion. To effectively protect your company from ransomware, you need to understand what it is and its impact on your organization.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malware designed to extort money from its victims. Like viruses and other types of malware, it is usually downloaded from malicious websites or email attachments. Once activated, the ransomware blocks users’ access to their computer or smartphone, or encrypts specific files stored in their device.

A message informs the victims that they can only regain access to their device or data after they pay a specific ransom, usually in cryptocurrency. Some hackers even threaten to release or downright erase the encrypted data if the victims do not pay up.

How can ransomware affect your business?

A ransomware attack can have a devastating and long-term impact on your business. Financial losses are an almost inevitable outcome, as well as other effects:

#1. Loss of proprietary data

Proprietary information gives you an edge over the competition, so it must be stored in such a way that only you have ready access to it. Ransomware can encrypt your business data and render them unreadable and useless. If you have no existing backups of this information, its loss could end up crippling your business.

#2. Expensive losses

Multinational law firm DLA Piper was hit by the NotPetya ransomware attack in 2017. The company ended up losing $370 million, an amount they are still fighting to recoup through insurance to this day. Similarly, you could lose a lot of money just trying to decrypt your data or replace your compromised systems.

#3. Downtime

Ransomware can put your entire operation on hold, preventing you from serving your customers. The adage “Time is gold” cannot be truer in business — every minute you’re unable to deliver the service or product your customers expect from you might as well be considered money lost.

#4. Legal penalties

If you belong to any highly regulated industry, falling victim to a ransomware attack could entail serious penalties on your business. Authorities impose stringent regulations regarding the handling and security of your customers’ data. An attack signifies the possibility of neglect, which could result in a breach in your customers’ privacy.

#5. Damage to your reputation

Customers want to do business with companies they can trust to keep their information secure. A ransomware attack casts doubt on your reliability.

How do you protect your business from ransomware?

Should you do what the hackers tell you to do and just pay up? According to the FBI, you shouldn’t. Payment not only encourages hackers to victimize more companies, but it also does not guarantee that you will regain your data. The GermanWiper ransomware campaign in August 2019, for example, asked for a ransom but deleted the victims’ data anyway.

Prevention is the best way to address the threat of ransomware. Discourage your employees from visiting suspicious websites or downloading file attachments from suspect emails. Ensure that your system is protected by firewalls and anti-malware software. Keeping several cloud-based and offline backups of your files also ensures that you never lose access to them even during an attack.

Moreover, make sure you are partnered with IT experts who can help you identify the cybersecurity tools and vendors that are ideal for your business’s needs. Managed IT services providers (MSPs), for instance, can manage your IT system remotely 24/7/365, watching out for any irregularity or attack and prevent them before they make any significant and lasting impact on your operations.

It’s a pretty scary thing to boot up your computer one morning only to find a ransom message claiming that you’ve been locked out of all your files until you pay a fee to a cybercriminal.

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Zeta Sky

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