In 2020, the University of California San Francisco paid over $1.14 million to access its own academic and research data. The reason they had to pay millions of dollars to access their data? The University of San Francisco experienced a ransomware attack.
Ransomware is one common cybercrime that attackers use to steal data and money from victims.
The worst part is that ransomware is on the rise, and this costly cyberthreat costs organizations over $4 million on average.
What exactly is ransomware, and how can you protect your organization from it? Read on for the ransomware protection checklist.
What is Ransomware
Ransomware is one type of cyberattack. Ransomware software downloads onto the device when a user clicks an infected email or website. The software takes infects the device in a way that blocks access to some of all files.
The ransomware files encrypt the data, and the user cannot access it. The "ransom" note requires the user to pay the ransom to unlock the data.
Keep in mind that ransomware is not a new cybercrime. The first ransomware attack hit the healthcare industry in 1989. Then, the attack was known as the "AIDS Trojan" because an AIDS researcher hit other AIDS researchers with ransomware to disrupt their projects.
Over time, ransomware has only evolved. Modern cyber criminals attack companies of all sizes and in all industries. However, financial organizations are at high risk and must take special care to prevent ransomware.
How Does Ransomware Work?
Ransomware attacks follow a fairly predictable pattern. By looking at the patterns, we gain insight into how ransomware works and how it gets on your device.
Typically, the ransomware attacker researches the target. They may gain relevant employee email addresses, for example. Based on the information they find, they create a phishing campaign to send ransomware via email. They would use an email address that appears reputable at first glance, especially if someone is not looking closely.
An employee who is untrained in cybersecurity is likely to open the email and click on the attachment or link. Again, the attachment looks credible at first glance, but it is concealing something dangerous.
Clicking the link or attachment launches the ransomware download. Some ransomware may hide on the computer before engaging, but eventually, the ransomware will encrypt sensitive files. The attacker is the only one with the encryption key, and he will demand a ransom to release the key.
The Dangers of Ransomware
Ransomware is incredibly dangerous for organizations. Data encryption from an unauthorized source can have serious long-term consequences.
For one, there is no guarantee that you will receive the key to the encryption upon paying the ransom. Cybercriminals may take the money and never provide you with access. Furthermore, they may continue demanding more and more ransom; without any certainty, you'll get access to your data back. Paying the ransom does not ensure you receive your data access back. In the end, you could end up paying a lot of money in ransom and still not have your data back.
Ransomware prevents users from accessing critical data. This disrupts your operations. It can cost you not only ransom and repairs but also lost business. Worse yet, the disruption from ransomware can last even after the virus is clear. Ultimately, a ransomware attack results in serious downtime.
Data loss is another major danger of ransomware. As mentioned, there's no guarantee you can get the original data back by paying the ransom. Even if you can scrub the virus or get the encryption key, you may suffer data loss. The lost data can affect an organization in several ways, depending on what type and how much data is lost.
Furthermore, a ransomware attack decreases consumers' trust in your organization. Ransomware can affect sensitive data about your organization which includes your customers. Customers fear how ransomware can impact their personal data, so they will lose confidence in a business that suffers a ransomware attack.
What the Difference Between a Data Breach and Ransomware?
Chances are you've heard both terms: data breach and ransomware. So what's the difference between these two cybersecurity threats? Understanding the difference between a data breach and a ransomware attack will help you best mitigate the risk for each.
A data breach occurs when hackers extract data from an organization's network. On the other hand, ransomware restricts access to data on the machines infected with the ransomware. The critical distinction is that data breach data held for ransom is not the same as a ransomware attack.
During a data break, the attacker copies the confidential data. Once the attacker has a stolen copy of the data, they can leverage it to make money in several ways.
Conventional ransomware attacks do not necessarily involve breaching the data. Instead, the ransomware restricts the organization's access to the data, requiring it to pay a ransom to obtain access.
While conventional file-based ransomware attacks still pose a threat, they also have advanced. Modern Endpoint Detection and Response technologies can often handle conventional ransomware. However, to respond to increasing security, ransomware attackers evolved. In general, cybercriminals use more sophisticated hacking techniques.
How to Prevent Ransomware
Ransomware gets on a device from a user clicking it, so there are a few essential steps to prevent ransomware. Here's what your organization can do to prevent ransomware:
Every employee in your organization is a potential ransomware target. Train all employees on cybersecurity best practices, especially to present ransomware.
- Train employees to spot phishing
- Provide steps for what to do if an employee suspects phishing
- Teach employees how to protect themselves and their devices from phishing
Rather than leave your critical data open for ransomware encryption, encrypt your data to protect it. Some helpful data encryption strategies include:
- Application safe listing (only allow employees to download certain apps)
- Access control. Limit which users have access to which folders and files, especially for sensitive data.
- Data encryption, especially of critical data. Protect your data with a secure encryption key.
Address Remote Workforces
It's critical to consider the additional risks posed by remote work and bring your own device policies to the modern workplace. Address BYOD policies and remote cybersecurity risks to prevent vulnerabilities.
Mitigate Ransomware Costs
Part of prevention should include mitigation strategies. Examine the cost of mitigation and the strategies your organization needs to ensure smooth mitigation. Then, create a robust recovery plan to minimize damage and reduce downtime.
Every organization must create a detailed cybersecurity checklist for addressing ransomware and other risks. The plan should include roles and responsibilities for each employee, types of cybersecurity risks, device encryption details, required secure passwords, and BYOD. Factor in additional considerations for securing a home office.
For IT support and services you can trust, choose BLM Technology. We provide flexible, secure IT support options to help organizations with ransomware prevention and remedy. Learn more about how we can help your organization with cybersecurity today by contacting one of our experts.