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Understanding and Preventing Business Ransomware Attacks

Within the realm of cybersecurity, the broad category of malware is one that businesses need to be aware of. One of the most significant threats within this area, especially over the last few years, is what's known as ransomware.

At Onward Technology, we're here to provide high-quality cybersecurity and related IT support services to numerous business clients, and ransomware is just one of many threat types we help protect you against. What is ransomware, how does it work, and what are some of the steps we'll help you take to ensure it doesn't become a risk for your company? Here's a basic primer.

Basics on Ransomware

For those new to this realm, ransomware refers to a type of malware that either encrypts or erases critical data on a system and then demands payment from the user in order to restore access. Ransomware attacks can target both individuals and organizations, but businesses are increasingly being targeted by this type of attack.

There are two common types of ransomware: locker ransomware and crypto ransomware. Locker ransomware essentially "locks" users out of their systems until a ransom is paid, while crypto ransomware uses encryption to make data inaccessible until a ransom is paid. There are also different types of methods used to distribute ransomware, including phishing emails (which trick users into clicking on malicious links or attachments), drive-by downloads (which automatically download malware when users visit certain websites), and even USB devices that have been infected with malware.

How Ransomware Infects Devices

In the majority of cases, ransomware is spread through what are known as user-initiated actions. These refer to the types of activities where users inadvertently download or install malware on their devices. This can happen in a number of ways, but some of the most common include:

  • Clicking on malicious email attachments
  • Visiting websites that have been infected with malware
  • Downloading files from untrustworthy sources
  • Installing pirated software or applicationsUsing unsecured WiFi networks

In some cases, ransomware can also be spread through "system-initiated" actions. This generally happens when devices are connected to a network that has already been infected with malware. Once the malware is on a network, it can quickly spread to other connected devices.

Why Is Ransomware So Dangerous?

There are a few key reasons why ransomware is such a dangerous threat, especially for businesses. First of all, ransomware can be very difficult (and sometimes even impossible) to remove once it's infected a system. Second, paying the ransom doesn't guarantee that you'll get your data back – in fact, there's no guarantee that the attacker will even provide you with the decryption key after receiving payment.

And finally, ransomware can have a significant financial impact on businesses, as not only do companies have to pay the ransom but they also face the cost of downtime and lost productivity. For many businesses, the costs associated with a ransomware attack can be devastating.

Expanding Ransomware Capabilities

Unfortunately, ransomware variants have begun to spring up that are even more dangerous than those that have come before. In particular, there are now ransomware variants that not only encrypt data but also threaten to publicly release it unless a ransom is paid. This type of attack is known as "ransomware as a service" or RaaS.

With RaaS attacks, businesses face the risk of not only losing access to their data but also having that data leaked publicly. This can be extremely damaging to a business, both in terms of the financial impact and the reputational damage.

Preventing Ransomware Attacks

The best way to protect your business against ransomware is to prevent attacks from happening in the first place. There are several themes that should likely be considered here (themes our team will be happy to assist you with):

  • Ensure quality backups: This is perhaps the most important step you can take to protect your business against ransomware. By maintaining quality backups, you'll be able to recover your data even if it's encrypted by ransomware. Backups are important for numerous reasons, but they're especially critical when it comes to ransomware.
  • Educate your employees: Another key step is to educate your employees about the dangers of ransomware and how to avoid falling victim to an attack. This includes things like being careful about the email attachments they open and the websites they visit. It's also important to make sure that your employees know not to download files from untrustworthy sources.
  • Use security software: Security software can help to protect your business against ransomware by blocking malicious emails and website, and by scanning files for malware before they're downloaded. This is an important layer of protection that can make a big difference.
  • Restrict access to certain websites: In some cases, it may make sense to restrict access to certain websites (especially those that are known to be untrustworthy or that are known to host malware). This can help to prevent employees from accidentally infecting their devices with ransomware.
  • Vet and monitor third party services: If your business uses any third-party services, it's important to vet those services carefully and to monitor them for any signs of suspicious activity. In some cases, ransomware can be spread through third-party services that have been compromised by attackers.
  • Have a response plan: In the event that your business is hit with a ransomware attack, it's important to have a response plan in place. This should include steps for isolating infected systems, contacting law enforcement, and restoring data from backups.

For more on what ransomware is and how to steer clear of it within your business's operations, or to learn about any of our cybersecurity or other managed IT services, speak to our team at Onward Technology today.

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