How to Protect Your Business From Ransomware
Is your business at risk of a Ransomware attack? Considering that a ransomware attack occurs every 40 seconds, the chances of your company getting hit are pretty high.
According to the Chubb Cyber Infocus Data Report for the third quarter of 2019, ransomware attacks are becoming more targeted. The businesses most at risk are manufacturing and professional service businesses. Researchers found that attacks in these industries accounted for 53% of all ransomware attacks.
The data also shows that attackers are increasingly demanding higher ransoms to restore access to systems. No business is safe from attack.
That’s why, in this post, we’re going to look at ways that you can protect your business from these attackers.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a form of malware that encrypts all the files on the target’s computer. Without the correct password, the target cannot access their system. The hacker will demand a ransom in exchange for the password.
Why is Ransomware so Dangerous?
Ransomware becomes dangerous when affected computers control vital functions in a business operation. For example, LockerGoga is a particularly nasty ransomware that has been doing the rounds. This malware is typically launched at manufacturers cutting off their access to key systems.
Last year, Norsk, a Norwegian aluminum manufacturer, was infected with LockerGoga. This caused serious safety concerns for the company and they had to switch over to manual controls as a result.
The company wouldn’t comment on whether or not it paid the demanded ransom, but it is very likely that they did. It would make sense for them to do so considering the cost in terms of operational efficiency.
How to Protect Your Business from Ransomware
Ransomware is one of the scourges of the modern age. Fortunately, though, we’re not defenceless. There’s a lot that you can do to ward off one of these attacks.
Never Assume You’re Safe
Where do you think you’re safest – online or offline? If you’re like most people, you probably assume that the big bad web is the place that you’re least safe. You’re probably careful about the sites that you visit, and you’d never download anything offline. And, naturally, you use a strong password.
That’s a good start. Unfortunately, it won’t protect you from a ransomware attack. According to Statista, 67% of ransomware attacks are a direct result of phishing emails or spam. Only 16% of attacks happen as a result of visiting a malicious site. As for that strong password, only 30% of attacks are a result of using a weak password.
The first thing you should do in your data protection plan, therefore, is to protect your business against phishing emails and spam.
How to Protect Your Business Against Phishing Emails and Spam
Here again, common wisdom regarding cybersecurity might work against you. You understand, for example, that you should never click on a link in a strange email. A common ploy that hackers use to gain sensitive passwords is to create a fake site and then try to trick you into visiting it.
The email and site will look legitimate – phishers will ensure that. If you do click through to the site, you’ll be fooled into entering your username and password so that the hacker can steal these. Another tactic is for them to direct you to a site loaded with malicious code.
As we mentioned earlier, you probably know better than to click on a link in an email. Hackers have planned for this eventuality too. They might, therefore, mimic an email from a trusted client, supplier, or even your superior in the company.
You, no doubt, think that you would never be fooled. Think again. If you receive an order from one of your regular clients, are you concerned about cybersecurity or customer service? If you’re like most business people, you’ll want to process the order immediately.
The danger here is that the phisher might attach the malware along with his “order” form.
Now let’s go through defence mechanisms.
Start with the Right Software
Start off by installing a good email cloud-based email scanning program. These programs use artificial intelligence to check incoming emails for patterns that indicate that the email is suspicious. They’ll flag and quarantine emails that they identify as spam or malicious.
You’ll have the opportunity to review the quarantined items. You can delete items that you agree are suspicious. As the service runs in the cloud, they’ll never even make it to your server.
These programs offer good protection because they reduce the chances of someone clicking on a phishing email by accident. They improve operational efficiency by dealing with spam for you.
Conduct Security Awareness Training with Employees
Phishers have a reputation for using odd language and making spelling mistakes. It’s true, there is a subsection of phishers who bash out emails as fast as possible. Make no mistake, though, a good phisher spends more time creating the perfect email.
They’ll make sure that everything, down to the address and company logos look perfect. The only difference you’ll pick up with these guys is that the email address is a little off. They can’t use a legitimate email address for obvious reasons, but they’ll get as close as they can.
If you’re swamped at work, would you notice that an “I” in an email has been changed to an “L”? Most of us wouldn’t. Security awareness training will teach you and your employees how to detect these more sophisticated attacks.
Confirm with the Real Deal
If you’re in doubt as to the legitimacy of an email, contact the sender or visit the company’s legitimate site. Use the details that you have on record rather than those provided. It’s better to be overcautious than to risk your systems being infected.
It’s essential to perform this training, because even the most anti-virus program in the world won’t help if an employee downloads an infected file.
Protect Your Systems with a Good Antivirus Program
Start with a highly effective anti-virus program and keep it up to date. It’s best to set it to update automatically every day. It’s also essential to keep all your other software up to date. Older versions of software might have bugs in them that hackers can exploit. By updating the programs regularly, you get the necessary security patches.
About That Password
What’s your definition of a strong password? Ten years ago, a mix of letters and numbers was a great password. Now there are new rules to consider. Your passwords should be:
- 16 or more digits long
- A combination of letters, both upper- and lower-case, special characters, and numbers
- A completely random mix – don’t use common words because they’re easier to crack
- Changed on a fairly regular basis in case your password has been compromised
One final thing with passwords. Do you use the same password for all or most sites? It’s time to stop doing so. Not all sites offer the same high levels of protection. Hackers will often hack weaker sites and steal the usernames, emails, and passwords of users.
These are most commonly used for what’s known as a credential stuffing attack. That’s where the hacker programs a bot to test the usernames and passwords against many other sites to try to gain access. When the bot finds a match, the hacker is informed.
An enterprising hacker targeting your company specifically may opt for a more direct approach. They might use your stolen credentials to access your business systems, encrypted files, and so on. They can then plant ransomware from there.
In order to better secure your information, use a unique password for applications like internet banking and your business login. If you’re concerned about forgetting the passwords, invest in a password keeper program to hold them for you.
Where possible, enable two factor authentication. That way, the hacker has an additional barrier to overcome if they want to hack you. You’ll also find out immediately if someone tries to access your system.
Put a Recovery Plan in Place
Finally, assume that you will be hacked at some stage. Create a recovery plan now to help you deal with it. Keep backups of all sensitive data and consider having a backup system in reserve. The backup system should be completely separate from your normal network.
The value of having a Plan B is that it limits the amount of damage the ransomware can do. You’ll lose access to your main system, but you won’t lose the data. With the backup system, you’ll still be able to operate.
Protecting your business against ransomware is about adopting a multi-layered approach. Learn from the hackers themselves and use several forms of defence. Make yourself a hard target and most hackers will move on looking for an easier mark.