In this Post-Covid reality, Ransomware attacks are on the rise, and it is critical for organizations to learn necessary security measures to protect against it.

Ransomware has become one of the most prominent threats to organizational security – making the cyber security landscape more complex and hostile. A ransomware attack on your business can result in business interruption, data breaches, blackmailing, and reputational damage.

Since ransomware attacks impact almost all businesses without distinction of industry or size, knowing and implementing the best practices to prevent your business from ransomware is critical. This article will share security tips to protect your business from ransomware attacks.

What is Ransomware? How Does it Work?

The ransomware attack prevents or limits users from accessing their system by either locking the system’s screen, the user’s files or even deleting the user’s data until a ransom is paid. The ransomware is a type of software (called “malware”) that works by infiltrating the systems and networks of an organization and encrypting all of the data present in the target, making it extremely hard for victims to recover the compromised data.

Cybercriminals demand a ransom in exchange for a unique key to decrypt or unlock the files. The most common tactic hackers use to carry out ransomware attacks is distributing malicious links and attachments. Email, web browsing and social media are the most utilized platforms for attackers.

Through these platforms, attackers can reach a large number of people by distributing malicious links and attachments. With a few accidental mouse-clicks or a user mistakenly opening an attachment from a strange email, anyone could inadvertently install malicious software on their computer and all files could be locked, or even worse, be deleted forever.

The consequences of Ransomware attacks can include:

  • Data loss/corruption/theft
  • Hardware damage
  • Blackmailing
  • Revenue loss
  • Indefinite business interruptions
  • Cybercriminals misusing the compromised data
  • Legal complications
  • Reputational damage

Evolution of ransomware attacks in the past decade

During the last decade, we have witnessed an exponential increase in ransomware attacks disrupting the operations of private businesses and public/ governmental institutions on a large scale.

On 14th May 2021, for example, the Health Service Executive (HSE) was the target of a substantial ransomware attack. The attack resulted in a forced shutdown of most of the healthcare IT systems of Ireland – leading to delays and cancelled appointments of patients along with other severe complications.

Cybercriminals demanded a ransom of $20 million in Bitcoin in exchange for agreeing not to sell or disclose the sensitive information of patients. An enormous amount (700 gigabytes) of the HSE’s data was allegedly exfiltrated by the cybercriminals.

The attack was caused by security vulnerabilities present in the networks of the HSE departments that enabled the attackers to infect the critical IT infrastructure with Ransomware. However, a decryption tool provided by the same cybercriminals allowed HSE to initiate the slow recovery of the impacted systems.

Similarly, the renowned University of Utah paid a ransomware gang $500k to prevent the dissemination of sensitive information of students. Attackers used ransomware to target the data stored on the servers of the university. Luckily, the security parameters of the university were only partially breached – allowing hackers to encrypt only 0.02% of the data stored on its servers.

However, the stolen data had enough sensitive information pertaining to the students that would have caused severe consequences if disclosed or misused by the attackers. The university updated its server-side vulnerabilities to prevent such cases in the future.

There is a rapidly growing list of ransomware attacks targeting different types of public/private organizations and businesses. Experts anticipate that the total costs of ransomware attacks will exceed $20 billion by the end of 2022.

Protecting your business from ransomware

Experts estimate that a ransomware attack occurred every 11 seconds in 2022. According to the FBI, there are on average more than 4000 ransomware attempts every single day.

Experts have also reported an estimated €20 billion global impact due to ransomware attacks. These are figures that indicate the gravity of the dangers that ransomware malware presents.

Luckily, like many other cybersecurity threats, ransomware is also preventable.

Here are the top 4 security tips to help you prevent your business from ransomware attacks.

1. Select the appropriate technical and operational security strategy

Designing and implementing solutions including an antivirus software, data backup and disaster recovery plans (DRP) can help you safeguard your organizational data from both internal and external security threats. Data backups and disaster recovery plans help in recovering valuable data.

Additionally, where appropriate, the implementation of encryption solutions provides additional defences against security intrusions and unauthorized access to sensitive data, blocking the unauthorized entities to access or misuse the data – providing your critical data/information with the highest immunity against cyber threats.

2. Invest in training your staff first, then in technology

Employees play a vital role in exposing or defending a business from security threats. Reportedly, as high as 95% of cybersecurity breaches are caused by human mistakes.

Employees that lack the required cybersecurity education and training are more prone to the security threats and scams of cybercriminals, compared to the employees who think from a security perspective and follow proper security policies and protocols.

As a business, you must provide your employees essential cybersecurity education and training. It will help your employees to make securityconscious decisions and identify potential threats while dealing with personal or organizational data/information.

3. Use next-generation cybersecurity solutions

Traditional security solutions are becoming increasingly inefficient and incapable of coping with modern cybersecurity threats.

As a business owner, of any size business, it is important that you invest in next-generation cybersecurity solutions that include next-gen antivirus, firewalls, ransomware malware detection tools, and intrusion detection systems equipped with artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Such next-gen security solutions leverage cloud and AI technologies to offer realtime threat and anomaly detection capabilities – providing reliable protection against traditional and modern security risks.

4. Be tactically effective without sacrificing the strategic view

It is easy to become so focused on day-to-day operations that you fail to observe the bigger picture. Having a good understanding of the project-level health of your security program ensures that you avoid process breakdowns that often lead to security controls failures.

You should plan a regular review of your security program governance processes and checkpoints. Ransomware malware is undoubtedly one of the most prominent security threats to businesses today. However, there are also a host of other cybersecurity threats facing businesses that are equally, if not more dangerous when compared to ransomware.

The key to building an effective and efficient cybersecurity strategy is to regularly test and update the implemented security capabilities while investing in people awareness and new security solutions.