We’ve seen cyber threats shift and morph in various forms and prevalence over the years. Cybercriminals are getting smarter. Cyberattacks are getting more sophisticated.
In recent years, ransomware has been a major problem for enterprises, with small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) being increasingly targeted. Ransomware attacks continue to increase — fact. Verizon’s 15th DBIR revealed that ransomware attacks doubled from 12% of all security breaches in 2020 to 25% in 2021. Cybercriminals use increasingly sophisticated and intelligent methods to find vulnerabilities in networks and security systems. Slipping in under the radar, they hold organisations up to ransom, often costing organisations for everything they have, forcing businesses to their knees.
As ransomware attacks continue to be a major threat to enterprises, we’ll discuss what exactly ransomware is, how it can wreak havoc on businesses and what you can do to prevent cybercriminals from inflicting damage and causing financial repercussions.
What is a ransomware attack?
Ransomware is just how it sounds. The chief aim of a ransomware attack is to hold an enterprise for ransom. Ransomware is a type of malware designed to deny a user or organisation access to their files.
Cybercriminals find vulnerabilities so that they can infiltrate an organisation’s network or device, encrypt their files and then demand payment to restore access. The kinds of files that these cybercriminals target are often the most valuable that they can find like confidential, private information and data vital to the integrity of an enterprise. By encrypting these files and demanding a ransom payment for the decryption key, cybercriminals can bring organisations of any size or scale to their knees. Cybercriminals conducting ransomware attacks will also often add data theft into the mix to further incentive for their victims to pay the ransom. The attackers usually communicate with their victims by posting messages on their screens with crude instructions, adding insult to injury.
With all that said, it’s easy to understand why ransomware has quickly become one of the most prominent and destructive types of malware today.
How do ransomware attacks happen?
Much like traditional malware, ransomware attacks often take the form of a phishing scheme. An employee receives an email that looks like a legitimate message, for example, which contains a seemingly benign request to click a URL link. Once one of these malicious links is clicked, however, the ransomware is downloaded and can take over the victim’s device — and it only takes hacking into one device to gain complete access.
This isn’t the only way, though. Other attack vectors for ransomware include remote desktop protocols (RDP) with weak security credentials or software vulnerabilities that leave the door open.
What are the consequences of a ransomware attack?
We’ve already seen the devastating consequences ransomware attacks can have — and it’s much more than just monetary. The list of ransomware victims and their stories continues to pile up as ransomware attacks continue to increase all over the world.
Recent ransomware attacks have included impacting a hospital’s ability to provide crucial services, crippled public services in major cities and significant damage caused to various large companies and organisations.
Only last year in 2021, Kaseya, an IT solutions company, was infiltrated by cybercriminals in an expensive ransomware attack. Unfortunately for Kaseya, having security vulnerabilities which allowed cybercriminals to infiltrate cost not only their business but affected approximately 1,500 of the organisations that they supply. The cyber criminals demanded ransoms that went into the multiple millions, including $70 million from Kaseya.
Money and liability are one thing, but for SMBs, the costs could be even direr. Unlike some of the large and multinational corporations that make the headlines for suffering ransomware attacks, many of them can bounce back. Many SMBs who suffer ransomware attacks, often due to small security flaws that could have been prevented, suffer irreparable damage. This is because ransomware attacks not only cost directly, but they cost in lost business time.
The fact is that ransomware attacks cause significant downtime. For any business, but for SMBs in particular, this can be devastating to their bottom line. The downtime results in lost revenue and a potential loss in custom from both new and existing clients and customers.
How you can mitigate and prevent ransomware attacks from crippling your enterprise.
With ransomware attacks continuing to increase, and with real-world examples of the major consequences, plugging security vulnerabilities and improving your security posture is paramount today. And the fact is that SMBs are being targeted more often and pay a heavier price. That’s why businesses must bolster their defences and prevent ransomware attacks in the first place.
While there’s a lot to cover for how you can mitigate and prevent ransomware attacks, there are some basics every business should cover.
First, it’s of prime necessity to make sure you have regular backups of all your key files in place. Having effective security monitoring tools in place is a must-have, too. And given how ransomware attacks tend to begin, training your employees on what ransomware is, how they work and how to recognise them can prove to be a highly effective investment.
Suffice it to say, with sophisticated ransomware attacks becoming evermore prevalent, it’s more important than ever to fix any underlying security vulnerabilities, bolster your defences and enhance your overall security posture. With the right fortification principles and practices in place, you can safeguard your data and information, and significantly reduce your chances of being targeted and attacked.
Start preventing ransomware attacks today.