How to Strengthen Your Cyber Security & Ransomware Defences
There is no escaping the fact that ransomware attacks and cybercrime are rapidly on the rise, especially due to the wordlwide spread of the pandemic. Below you will find some quick answers to some common questions around this subject.
So…What Is Ransomware?
It is a form of malicious malware that encrypts data on a device or network, deeming it unusable as the access is restricted. Cybercriminals hack your network, encrypt your files so that you can no longer access them, and then demand a large ransom fee to unlock it and release it back to you. A ransomware attack is an extremely costly and disruptive form of cyber attack, and moreover, it can be very difficult to recover from.
If you’re looking for a new business IT support partner that you can trust and depend on – look no further than IT Leaders! Offering a wide range of comprehensive managed IT support services, business IT solutions and cyber security solutions, IT Leaders can assist businesses of any size.
Is cyber security really a big deal?
Due to the pandemic, ransomware attacks have increased drastically. The rapid changes businesses experienced last year created a perfect storm that let cybercriminals take advantage of new opportunities.
How vulnerable is my business to ransomware attacks?
Hackers are constantly targeting businesses worldwide, via the usage of a wide array of automation tools. Unlike larger companies, small businesses tend to invest less time and money into preventative security measures, and in turn, making them an attractive target for cyber-criminals.
Ransomware is estimated to infect a business every 14 seconds, and although you may be asked for a large sum of money to unlock your data…there is no guarantee that they will actually comply once you have paid the ransom.
Could my business be targeted by ransomware?
Malware that is spread via phishing emails is the most common, constituting approximately 42% of all ransomware. This occurs when you receive a legitimate-looking email asking you to perform a certain action. A malicious link only needs to be clicked once for an attack to start.
An unauthorised user can easily gain access to your system within seconds and it could be you who clicks it or any of your fellow colleagues. This is why regular cyber-security training is so important to carry out. Malicious websites make up 23% of ransomware attacks, followed by compromised passwords equating to 21%.
What makes it so difficult to undo?
Ransomware attacks generally take hackers several weeks to prepare. Once they have gained access to your network, they remain undetected, making gradual changes in order to remain inconspicuous whilst creating maximum damage.
They’re essentially making it nearly impossible for an IT security company like ours to reverse the damage they’ve caused and remove them after the attack has begun.
You are much more likely to heed the extensive costs of a ransomware attack if you have not thoroughly prepared for such an event before it happens.
What is the average cost of a ransomware attack?
Cybercriminals aren’t foolish. All their actions are heavily pre-meditated and calculated to the finest detail so they are fully aware that attempting to obtain a large amount of money, say upwards of $100,000, from a small business merely isn’t possible. The worst case scenario would be that you’d have to shell out $10,000 just to end the nightmare of a ransomware attack. Based on the amount of money they believe a business has, hackers will adjust their ransom demands accordingly.
Surprisingly, nearly half of all businesses are so under-prepared that they end up having to pay a ransom to recover their data and gain access to their information once again. There are many other indirect costs associated with an attack besides the ransom. The problems you can experience following on from a ransomware attack include being unable to access your data or systems for days, an entire week or even several weeks. Can you imagine if you and your colleagues couldn’t use their computer for an extended amount of time? And also more importantly – what will your customers think?
Following an attack, staff morale and productivity is usually heavily affected as staff are forced to get used to new workflows, systems, the introduction of revised policies, procedures and protocols, as well as strengthened security measures.
How can I protect my business now?
It is extremely crucial to ask this question. Ransomware attacks are almost impossible to prevent, but nevertheless, you can still prepare extensively, so in the unfortunate event of a real ransomware attack, it will be an inconvenience rather than a disaster.
For optimum ransomware resilience, here are 5 key steps you can follow;
1. Act as if you are not protected by any software
Cyber security software is essential for keeping your business safe. This software has a downside however – it can make you and your team complacent and unaware of real security threats.
You and your colleagues are the first line of defense against cyber-attacks. By avoiding clicking on bad links in phishing emails in the first instance, you’re not relying on software to diagnose and block malware or ransomware attacks.
The company should provide regular, basic cyber security training for every employee, as well as keep them up-to-date on the latest threats. However, keeping employees entertained in regards to this topic is imperative! The last thing anyone wants to do is boring, jargon-filled, technical training (not even us and this is our passion!).
2. Ensure your IT Support Partner has robust systems in place
A strong data security protocol, along with specialist software that only permits approved applications to be used on your network, is crucial to establish and maintain protection.
You require just the right combination of reactive and proactive support from your trusted IT partner that suits your specific business size and needs.
In the event of a ransomware attack, reactive support is vital. Your business is back up and running as quickly as possible with experts on hand immediately to minimize any impact.
In saying this, a long-term, proactive approach is vital and means that a dedicated expert or team is keeping a close eye on your systems in the background and ensures that they remain safe, backed up and fully updated. A watchful eye is looking for potential problems ahead of time and spotting anything out of the ordinary. The majority of issues will also be resolved before they impact you or the team, so you won’t be affected by them.
A proactive IT partner will already have an extensive data protection and recovery strategy that can be activated immediately in the case of a suspected or legitimate ransomware attack.
3. Backup and Data Recovery is essential
Backup of data off-site is an absolute business necessity, no matter your size or location. With a backup in place, it may be tempting to overlook it, however, it’s important to remember that cyber criminals will often employ any means necessary to extort money from you. Targeting backup files is no exception, and this also includes data storage on cloud-based servers.
For your business data, credentials and sensitive information, it’s crucial that you create and implement a backup and recovery strategy. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, cyber security includes such best practices as:
- A constant backup: Offsite and ideally in the cloud
- Once created, backups are immutable, meaning they cannot be altered
- Restricting access to and from data with firewalls
4. Develop a comprehensive strategy and counter cyber-attack plan
Every second counts when a cyber-attack occurs. Taking action as soon as possible reduces the damage.
It is imperative to develop a detailed action plan that all your staff understands and knows what’s in it, where it can be found and how to execute it properly in the event of a cyber attack.
Testing your plan regularly ensures its effectiveness, and maintaining three copies in different locations removes any risk of failure. One of these should be printed out and kept at home… just in case you are not able to access your data storage remotely.
Determine which data and systems are vital to the operation of the business and which can be sacrificed temporarily. In case of an attack, you will then be able to easily identify what applications, software, and data needs to be prioritised for effective business operations moving forward.
5. Preparation, preparation, preparation!
You are able to reduce the damage caused by ransomware attacks by creating a layered data security protection strategy and implementing an effective recovery approach. You will lose much less money and suffer less damage if you can get your business back up and running as soon as possible. This will also help you avoid losing your customer base in the short term.
As a result of this guide, it’s clear that protecting your business from cyber-attacks is not 100% guaranteed. It is possible to create an extremely secure system around you with the help of your trusted IT partner, but it will never be 100% secure. Planning ahead for what may happen in the event of an attack or attempted attack will definitely make your business far more resilient to ransomware in the short-term and well into the future.
We understand that there is alot to take in here but it is important to know that we do as much of the hard work for our valued clients as we possibly can to ensure their data protection, safety and cyber-security remains up to date.
ARE YOU READY TO CHOOSE A NEW PROACTIVE IT SUPPORT PARTNER TO IMPROVE YOUR CYBER-SECURITY?
If so, speak to one of our friendly experts at IT Leaders today! Our highly experienced team can help with all your IT needs, with an array of suitable IT support packages to choose from. Let us provide you with a FREE Cyber Security health check for your business and learn how we can strengthen your ransomware defences, improve your current cyber-security and help protect your business’s data!