If you’ve ever seen the movie Die Hard (or really any of the hundreds of hostage movies that have been made), then you already understand a little bit about ransomware. Ransomware is a type of malware that can attack your computer or your network by encrypting all of your data, locking you out from accessing any of it, and then demanding you pay the hacker a ransom to regain access.
Unfortunately, the prevalence of ransomware is growing even faster than the number of hostage movies being made, and the reason it’s growing is the same reason Hollywood keeps churning out different movies with the same old concept: money.
A hostage situation is always dire, because the bad guys have something you want, and they know you’ll pay to get it back. And when they have all your data, they want you to pay dearly. In 2016, ransomware was on pace to cost victims over $1 billion, an explosive increase from the estimated $24 million lost in 2015. And with the continued escalation of this problem, it could cost businesses and consumers even more in 2017. Take note that a larger portion of these ransoms are only for a few hundred dollars each to make it easy for consumers to pay, so the hackers can quickly move on to their next mark.
So how can you prevent ransomware hackers from hijacking your business? Here are a few steps to help you get started:
You can’t stop ransomware if you don’t know how it works or where it’s coming from. The most common way for it to get into your systems is through phishing emails, which trick users into downloading an attachment that contains the ransomware. Educate yourself and your staff about these kinds of attacks, and you’ll be in a much better position to prevent them. This book on ransomware defense would be a good place to start.
Basic firewalls and antivirus software usually aren’t enough to prevent ransomware from getting in. Vendors like Cisco, Gigamon and Barracuda offer advanced software platforms that can detect these kinds of attacks and prevent them from reaching your users. (Side note: if implementing this kind of advanced software sounds out of your league, we can help.)
Backup Your Data
If you’re not already doing this (which you should be), then you need to start. Hackers can’t lock you out of your data if you have it all backed up in a separate, secure location. Consider following the 3-2-1 rule of data backup, which means keeping 3 copies of your data in at least 2 storage types, with at least 1 of those copies being held offsite. This may sound like overkill, but with the right backup solutions in place, it’s actually simpler than it seems, and you won’t regret it in the case of a security breach or a fried server. (We can help here too.)
Whether you’re prepared for it or not, the threat of ransomware is out there, and it may only be a matter of time before it affects you and your business. Will you be ready?