While cyberattacks of all varieties have been on a meteoric rise in the past several years, ransomware attacks stand out as some of the most prevalent and costliest types of attacks across all industries and sectors.
According to a 2021 report by the Harvard Business Review, with the mass migration to remote work during the Coronavirus pandemic, ransomware attacks were up more than 150% year over year. In addition, the amount of ransom paid by victims of these attacks increased dramatically to more than 300% in 2020.
Ransomware attacks show no signs of slowing down, either. Just recently, in mid-May 2023, ransomware made international headlines once again as federal authorities announced a $10 million reward for information that led to the arrest of a Russian hacker accused of receiving $200 million in ransom from more than 2,800 victims.
It’s also easy to see why bad actors are drawn to ransomware attacks. They can be incredibly profitable and easy to launch, provided a hacker finds a small but key weak spot in a company’s operations.
As such, it’s more important than ever that businesses in all sectors protect their company and their information from the ongoing wave of ransomware attacks. An experienced resource like Emeritus can put the practices and tools in place to safeguard your organization from the inside out. However, it’s imperative to first understand how ransomware attacks work and how your company may be vulnerable.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware, or ransom malware, is malicious software that prevents users from accessing their system, personal files, and data until they pay a ransom to the hacker or cybercriminal. According to the IBM Security X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2023, ransomware attacks represented 17% of all cyberattacks in 2022, and this number is steadily growing across all industries.
The earliest roots of ransomware were first noted in the late 1980s, with payments demanded through old-fashioned mail. However, in our modern era, attackers can demand untraceable payments through cryptocurrency or other online means, making these criminals impossible to identify and catch.
How Does a Ransomware Attack Occur?
The first step is for a bad actor or hacker to gain access to your company. Then cybercriminals can accomplish this through an ever-evolving variety of ways.
Spear phishing is a very targeted form of ransomware attack, and it involves connecting with one employee in order to gain their login information or access. For example, an attacker may call or email an employee pretending to be a representative from HR or IT and requesting that the employee send along their information or click on a malicious link that collects their login data. Spear phishing can be very effective, as hackers pick up personal or company details online and use this information to target employees in a convincing and effective manner.
Malspam, as the name suggests, entails sending a spam email with a malicious attachment to as many people within a company as possible, hoping that at least one employee takes the bait.
Malvertising is one of the sneakier forms of ransomware attacks and entails using online advertisements to distribute malware to a system with little or even no interaction involved. While browsing online, employees can be directed to criminal servers without clicking on outside links. Additionally, these servers collect information about the victims’ locations and computers, which may be enough to gain broader access.
Any attacks above can entail a bit of social engineering, where a cybercriminal collects information and data from employees and executives via their large and personalized online footprint. Social media profiles can be a hotbed of information for attackers, who can use this data to gain entry to a company via personal information, targeted calls or emails, suspicious but relevant-appearing links, and much more.
How Can a Ransomware Attack Impact Your Company?
In the simplest terms, a ransomware attack can be devastating.
While all your data and information are locked, your business will likely be unable to function as all your programs, software, devices, and online communications are halted until the ransom is paid or the cyberattack is resolved.
In the long term, ransomware attacks can be costly in more ways than one. The long-term factors include:
- losing customer trust and brand loyalty
- operations may cease for an indeterminate amount of time
- the cost to pay the ransom and/or restore systems
Effective Solutions to Protect Your Company from Cyberthreats and Cybercriminals
There are procedures that companies can put in place that can prevent a ransomware attack, or at the very least, make a ransomware attack less damaging.
- Train Your Employees – Employee training is key to creating a safer environment. Make sure your employees know the best cybersecurity practices, from identifying spear phishing attempts to regularly changing impossible-to-guess passwords.
- Back Up Your Data – Even if you pay the ransom, hackers may still delete or damage all the files and information stored within your company. Make sure you back up your data regularly to ensure you always have a Plan B in hand if a ransomware attack becomes detrimental.
- Update Your Software, Apps, and Operating Systems – All of your software should be running the latest version released to prevent new and ongoing attacks. For example, The WannaCry ransomware outbreak in 2017 took advantage of a detected vulnerability in Microsoft software. While the company released a patch for the security loophole, many users didn’t install the update, which left them exposed long after the fix was released.
Partner with a Cybersecurity Expert to Prevent Ransomware Attacks
You don’t have to do it alone when protecting yourself and your employees from ransomware attacks and other malicious cyberattacks.
Emeritus offers a suite of streamlined solutions designed to protect every aspect of your data, and we can also ensure that all your pertinent company information is safely stored and out of reach from cybercriminals.
Don’t risk your business in the Dallas or DFW area by being a victim of a ransomware attack that will devastate your operations, business, income, and reputation.
Ensure peace of mind no matter what new and inventive cyberattacks are aimed at your industry and your business.