As with any infection or intrusion, ransomware gains access to your systems by disguising itself as something innocuous, like an email attachment or embedded link. Or it can be directly introduced to your network using something like a USB stick. Knowing what cybercriminal tactics look like, and how to avoid falling into their traps is the first step in protecting your business. A little education and diligence on the part of your staff can go a long way towards preventing issues. Many cybercriminals rely heavily on human error to get around security measures.
Once it finds a way around those measures, a ransomware infection follows a specific set of steps. First, the virus encrypts all of your business’ important and sensitive data. Once you’ve been effectively locked out of your systems, the hacker responsible will contact you with what amounts to a ransom demand. If your data backups aren’t in good shape, the only way to get your data back is to pay the demanded fee in exchange for the decryption key. Backups are your last line of ransomware defense, and as such they have to be tested regularly.
There are a few different common methods of payment, and there is usually a deadline you’ll need to respond by before the hacker simply deletes your data. This fee can be wildly expensive, and even if you choose to pay it, there is absolutely no guarantee that your data will be returned to you. As of right now, there is no way of working around the system ransomware hackers have in place. Once they’ve got you, it’s game over.
If your files are in fact returned to you, this is still just the beginning of your problems. Your network and systems are still compromised. The infection is still present, and the only way to remove it is to reformat your entire network. If you don’t, there is nothing stopping the hacker from re-encrypting your data. The reformatting process can take days, or even weeks depending on the disaster recovery protocols your business has in place. And without data backups to restore from, you may as well have not gotten your files back at all.
End-to-end network security that is thoroughly monitored and maintained can prevent cybercriminals from finding and exploiting weaknesses in your firm’s IT infrastructure. But as most of the tactics used to execute a ransomware attack are designed to sneak past these precautions, training your staff to act as your first line of defense is critical.
Knowing how to spot and avoid spear phishing and social engineering scams can close that gap in your business’ security. Cybercriminals using email to pose as a financial institution, or even a member of your upper management can trick employees into opening infected attachments or links, or providing passwords or other sensitive information that allow the hacker to infiltrate your network.
Taking the time to educate your staff can make it significantly more difficult for ransomware to successfully target your business. Talk to your IT provider today to find out more about the resources available to help you protect your business.
Want to learn more about the steps you can take right now to keep your business safe from cybercrime? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (403) 274-7848. We’re the IT professionals local businesses trust.