As the world readjusts to working remotely, it is more important than ever to understand the cybersecurity risks facing your business. Ransomware is a growing threat that threatens every device in your network, and it can infect a network in minutes.
So, what exactly is ransomware and how does it work?
As the name suggests, ransomware is malicious software that is downloaded onto a device and holds it hostage by restricting user access until a ransom is paid to the attacker.
The software itself is often installed by visiting an unsafe website – a process called drive-by downloading. Attackers send emails or post adverts with links to these sites, or attach the software itself to emails that install the ransomware when the attachment is opened.
Once the software is on the system, it encrypts your data, converting it so that your computer can no longer read it.
To unlock your machine and decrypt your files, you need a special code – which the attackers sell back to you at an extortionate price. Fail to pay and your data will be sold, damaged beyond repair or permanently deleted.
Sadly, it is a highly effective crime. Unsuspecting victims suddenly see a flashing message on their screen warning them to pay up or lose everything, and in their panic, agree to transfer the ransom.
Unfortunately there is no honour among thieves. In many cases, the initial payment only serves to provide attackers with access to banking details and because the software is not actually removed, they can simply exploit the device and extort the user again and again.
While this is awful for the individual victims, the risk is far greater for businesses as any device – including servers – within a network can be infected, and spread the malicious software – meaning an entire organisation can be shut down and held to ransom.
Ransomware can infect a network in seconds: all it takes is a user to click a link from an unknown email address and the software is downloaded and installed on the device, and then passed along to all connected devices, including servers.
Once that happens, the business is forced to make some costly decisions, whether choosing to pay the ransom or not.
The immediate cost is operational downtime, as users are shut out across networked devices and unable to work, often for days at a time.
There is also the reputational damage to consider, as consumers are unlikely to entrust their data to companies who have proven vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
And of course, should you manage to regain access, there is the lengthy, expensive process of trying to rescue and restore any damaged files or systems; which may not remove the ransomware software itself, meaning your business remains vulnerable.
Avoiding the devastating cost of ransomware calls for a preventative approach that ensures your team, their devices and your broader network are protected.
The first step is to ensure that your employees all understand the risks associated with unusual emails, downloads and attachments: they should be trained to be able to spot phishing emails and suspicious communications carrying ransomware software.
However, some of these emails are incredibly sophisticated, so it is worthwhile to restrict download permissions so that no unauthorised software can be downloaded.
Next, ensure your device protection is up to date. Ransomware is constantly evolving, so your operating system, anti-virus and end-point protection all need to be up to date at all times. Lastly, prepare for the worst with an off-site data backup and recovery solution, ideally one that is cloud-based, so that any successful attack cannot encrypt or destroy your back-up when it infiltrates and infects your network.
Ransomware is a real threat, particularly as more people work remotely beyond the safety of your secure office network. Rather than run the risk a serious attack, reach out to us today to build a truly secure network – before a single click costs you everything