Ransomware: What Is It and How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts the victim’s system files. As a result, the attacker demands a ransom from the victim to help restore their access to the files. The payment demand may include thousands of dollars or even bitcoin payable to cybercriminals. Unlike other forms of malware, ransomware affects all the connected systems within a network and result in greater damages.

Although the core idea of ransomware has been around for the past thirty years, the level of sophistication of these attacks keeps on increasing every year. This is why ransomware has now become an everyday component of our headlines. As per a Forbes study, ransomware has even resulted in a woman’s death. The woman needed urgent medical care and the hospital’s systems were under a cyberattack!

According to Forbes, the total economic damage caused by ransomware is expected to reach around $20 billion by the end of 2021.

In this post, we will discuss how ransomware has evolved over the past few years and few ways you can save your business data from ransomware:

The latest ransomware trends

As mentioned above, ransomware is no longer what it was in the past. The average payout for the victims reached nearly $2.5 million this year. Ransomware attackers are no longer attacking machines. They’re now heading for the networks. In fact, the primary aim is now to lock up an entire network and target the complete corporate backup.

A modern-day hacker’s go-to tool is spear-phishing. These attacks are exercised through carefully crafted emails that often use a domain spoofing technique. As stated by the FBI, spear-phishing attacks have increased by 67% ever since the pandemic began.

The most unfortunate part is that ransomware has now started increasingly targeting the government healthcare sector. Right after the pandemic started, the impact of ransomware on the government sectors have increased by 21%, and the same on the healthcare sectors have gone up by 123%.

Over 246 ransomware attacks targeted government sectors of America in the year 2020. This not only affected over 173 million people but also caused $53 billion in downtime and recovery time. As sad as it can get, the ransomware attackers have even attacked COVID vaccine manufacturers!

However, as the pandemic progressed and employees started working from home, it became easier for businesses to minimize the security risk. They tried to reduce the access to corporate data and switched it to home devices with greater authentication standards.

A malware case

Timely backups

Make it a habit to create and protect your organizational backups on the go. Your business always needs to have an effective data backup strategy and disaster recovery plan in action.

This will also help you acquire clean copies of data whenever you need them and minimizes the data losses. Most ransomware aims for external backup drives and tries to encrypt them. This is why you need to keep your backup drives offline. It is a better idea to back up to the cloud and save it on off-site servers.

Block malware

You can block malware by using a concrete antivirus system. It also helps to install an ad blocker to avoid any malicious advertising messages from popping on your browsers. At times, malware can make its way to your systems via emails too. Try and configure the business’s email service.

This will block any malicious emails that carry executable files. It’s also recommended to install operating system patches throughout the office systems. You need to ensure that your antivirus system is regularly updated and provides maximum protection against the latest known viruses.

A malware case

Have a disaster recovery plan in place

Even the biggest organizations end up going through situations where their finest technical defenses fail. This could happen as a result of employee negligence or unintentional thwarts by the users. Your business data security could be threatened if one of the employees unintendedly respond to phishing messages or click on malicious links. The key is to train your employees. They should be aware of the dangers of clicking on phishing emails.

In case these defenses fail and your systems get infected, you and your team should know how to react and recover. Take your time to figure out and document your recovery plan. Some easy steps may include turning off the Wi-Fi, network connections, and Bluetooth. Other measures include retrieving the most updated backup, restoring the files, and restarting the system applications.

Efficient employee training

User education is one of the most powerful and most effective defenses against ransomware. As a business enterprise that values its data, you need to train your users and help them recognize the common social engineering techniques. The users should be aware of the damages caused by clicking on clickbait. Please make sure that your staff never open an attachment from someone they don’t know. Any attachments coming in from an external sender need to be verified and opened with caution.

Try and think of how you can modify user behavior within the organization to protect your business. Help your staff understand the main avenues that the risk comes from. Inform them that email attachments, malicious links, and drive-by downloads are the biggest triggers. However, training the users is a lot easier than you think. You could use any traditional form of in-house seminars and interactive discussions to get the message across. Hire an external security consultant and give out some free lunches to incentivize the process.

Are you looking for a business task management tool that will help you stay on top of your business security, look no further than TaskRuler. The company is also hosting its first webinar in July, which will be all about online business security.