How to Safeguard Your Business Against Ransomware

How to Safeguard Your Business Against 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. Typically, the hackers behind the ransomware demand bitcoin, a type of digital currency that is difficult for authorities to trace. Businesses of all sizes have become targets of ransomware, as it can infect not only personal computers, but also entire networks and servers. This article explains how ransomware works, how to respond to it and how businesses can better safeguard themselves against it.

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 a Computer

There are two main types of ransomware that can hold computer systems hostage. Here’s a breakdown of these forms of ransomware:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 the victim will regain access to their computer, network or files after making the payment. Furthermore, by paying the ransom, a victim could be encouraging future cybercrimes. If an employer is affected by ransomware, they should take these steps:

Paying the Ransom

Since business can come to a halt without access to essential data, an employer might be tempted to pay the ransom in order to quickly regain access. If an employer already paid the ransom, they should contact their bank and call the police as soon as possible. Credit card companies may be able to block the transaction and refund the employer if they contact them promptly.

The Federal Trade Commission’s OnGuard Online website is a good resource for more tips on what businesses can do if they are affected by ransomware or any other type of internet fraud.

Protection Measures

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 a main network.

In addition to backing important files, taking the following prevention measures can help businesses keep their information secure and prevent potential ransomware incidents:

  • Teach employees about ransomware and the importance of preventing it.
  • Show 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 activities.
  • Develop a schedule for regularly backing up sensitive business files.
  • Update company software as soon as new updates are released. Doing so can help patch the security vulnerabilities that cybercriminals rely on, minimizing the risk of an attack.
  • Consider purchasing cyber insurance to help respond to digital threats, cover the cost of ransom payments and reimburse other losses incurred as a result of cyber extortion.

Contact us today for additional cyber risk management resources and insurance solutions.

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