What Is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a type of malware which is used by cybercriminals as a means of not only jeopardizing data but money as well. This particular form of malware infiltrates a computer or system and encrypts the existing data on those networks. This encrypted data is then held by the hackers for ransom from the business which has been attacked. If the business does not want to lose their employee, customer, and other crucial data to their operations, the idea behind ransomware is that they will hand over a ransom so that the bad actors will decode the information and return it to the company.
Unfortunately, this is a type of attack which does not discriminate — from Fortune 500 companies to start up businesses, every company that uses computers for its operations (so, every company that exists) is at risk of being attacked.
In the event a company is hit by a data breach, the company then has a decision to make — to pay or not to pay. Many cybercriminals will return the data once paid — they understand that if data was never returned to the paying victim, word would spread and no one would give money in exchange for their data. However, this does not mean that you should fork over the money if hit by a ransomware cyber attack. Not all cybercriminals uphold this philosophy and will take your payment in good faith and just keep your data as well, or worse sell that information online for even more profit. Even in the event that the malicious actors return your information upon your paying the ransom, the data may not always be unencrypted, or at least not fully. You then have the additional cost of working with a legitimate cybersecurity professional to help you recover what is salvageable. It is safe to say ransomware is one of the most costly and daunting attacks in the online realm.
How to Stay Protected
- Be wary of phishing scams — Phishing scams are often the cybercriminals’ point of entry for attacking a business. Phishing scams are suspicious emails that people receive that appear to be legitimate and from a certain sender, but are actually from a bad actor. Phishing scams are identifiable by poor grammar, urgent requests, links which you are heavily encouraged to click on, and an incorrect sender email address. Educate employees on how to spot these threats and they will know what to look for to keep your company safe.
- Keep software up-to-date — While phishing scams are a common entry point for ransomware attacks, there can also be vulnerabilities in the company software which, when not secured, act as back doors for people to enter in through. Be sure to keep all software updated regularly in order to avoid entry in this manner.
- Monitor systems for legitimate users — Yet another vulnerability that is commonly seen in the world of cybersecurity incidents is when there are dormant devices, not in use but that are connected to the network. These are more risky to have on your systems than active laptops or computers because there are users who should be monitoring these devices while they use them. Be sure to check all connections to your company’s network to ensure they are active and legitimate — any which do not fit this criteria are putting your business at risk.