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Understanding Ransomware

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Understanding Ransomware

Ransomware tends to rear its ugly head and make the news all too often. Countless individuals and large corporations alike fall prey on a daily basis. While they may have heard the term before,  many of them aren’t aware of the difference between computer viruses, malware, and ransomware until it was too late.

And that can be costly.

It doesn’t matter what industry your business is in, anyone can be a target.

School districts have been tossed into chaos. Hospitals have had operations slowed to a crawl. Large financial institutions deal with attempts on a seemingly endless basis. Small businesses lose control of the network.

Unfortunately, even when you think that you’re completely protected and know all you need to know, disaster can happen.

Ransomware can not only cause loss of access to data and normal business operations, but it can also cost you millions of dollars to recover from. Protecting your business starts with understanding what ransomware is in the first place. That way you can take preventative measures and give your organization a fighting chance against this emerging cybersecurity threat.

Ransomware can lock you out of your entire network without a moment’s notice.

What is Ransomware?

At its core, ransomware is a type of malicious software that blocks access to your data or threatens to publish or delete it unless a ransom is paid. This demand for payment is usually done in the form of cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin) so as to make tracking and tracing difficult. When ransomware first came onto the scene, it was mainly a type of virus or Trojan that would spread through malicious emails, downloads, and other similar means.

Nowadays, ransomware is often distributed as ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) via the dark web. This allows practically anyone to purchase ransomware and launch an attack with no prior technical knowledge.

Once ransomware has been successfully deployed, the user is usually presented with a ransom note that informs them of the ransomware attack and provides directions on how to make payment.

The ransomware note can also contain details on how long they have to make the payment before their data is destroyed or made public.

It’s important to remember that paying the ransom does not guarantee that you will regain access to your data, and there’s no way to verify that the ransomware author won’t take your payment and never provide a decryption key.

Examples of Ransomware

Unfortunately, ransomware attacks are only increasing in frequency and sophistication. Here are some examples of ransomware attacks that occurred in the past year:

– In March 2022, a ransomware attack on the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) forced staff to shut down hospitals and clinics to prevent further damage. The attacker demanded a ransom of $20 million in cryptocurrency to decrypt their systems.

– In April 2022, ransomware was used to target the University of California, San Francisco’s computer network, demanding a payment of $1.14 million in Bitcoin.

– In May 2022, ransomware was used to disable the computer networks at several hospitals and clinics in the United States. The ransomware attack demanded a payment of $1 million in Bitcoin.

– In July 2022, ransomware was used to target a major bank in Australia, demanding a ransom of $3 million in cryptocurrency.

The takeaway is that ransomware attacks can and will happen at any time to anyone. It’s important to ensure that you have the necessary security measures in place to detect ransomware and prevent it from spreading.

The Impact of Ransomware

Becoming the victim of ransomware can have far-reaching consequences. In addition to the prospect of paying millions of dollars in ransom, there are several key areas that could be impacted.

Business interruption

Ransomware attacks can cause a business to shut down operations for days, weeks, or even months.  This can mean lost revenue and a decrease in customer satisfaction. In some ransomware attacks, the attacker may choose to delete or modify data rather than just encrypt it. This can lead to irreparable damage and cause long-term ramifications for businesses that are highly dependent on their data.

Loss of data and intellectual property

Ransomware can also result in the loss of important data and intellectual property. This could include customer data, financial records, and other sensitive information. Depending on the type of ransomware attack and laws in your jurisdiction, there may be legal ramifications for failing to protect customer data or paying ransom money.

Loss of customer trust and brand reputation

When ransomware attacks occur, businesses may find themselves in the spotlight. This can cause customers to lose trust in the business and tarnish its brand reputation. If ransomware is used to target a company’s customer base, it could also lead to bad publicity and further damage the company’s image.

Possible permanent loss of critical business system

Finally, ransomware can lead to the permanent loss of critical business systems. This could include servers, storage solutions, and other core components of a company’s IT infrastructure. While some ransomware attacks can be reversed with the help of backups or security tools, others may not have such an easy fix.

Protecting your Business from a Ransomware Attack

It’s important for businesses to take proactive steps to ensure they are well-prepared for ransomware attacks and have the necessary security measures in place. These days, that includes having a ransomware response plan, educating staff on threats, backing up data regularly, and ensuring that your data is protected as well as possible.

A ransomware response plan is an actionable document that outlines the steps to take in the event of a ransomware attack. It should include details on how to identify ransomware, prevent it from spreading, and mitigate any damage if ransomware does manage to infiltrate your system.

The ransomware response plan should cover key topics such as how to detect signs of ransomware, who to contact when ransomware is suspected or identified, and what steps should be taken to contain the ransomware.

Businesses should also educate their staff on ransomware threats and ensure they are aware of the risks ransomware poses and how to spot signs of ransomware.

Finally, businesses must ensure that all data is backed up regularly so that there is always an up-to-date version of the data available in case ransomware does invade your system. This should include both onsite and offsite backups, such as cloud storage solutions, to ensure all data is secure and easily accessible in the event of a ransomware attack.

By taking proactive steps to protect your business from ransomware, you can minimize the potential impact of ransomware on your business operations and bottom line.

To better understand how to protect your technology investments and your business, contact the team at Silver Tree today.  The threat of ransomware or security breach doesn’t have to keep you up at night. With Silver Tree securing your environment, your organization, employees, and customers can have the peace of mind they deserve.

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