Updated: Jul 21, 2020
Let’s play a game of What If? What if you lost all of your important business files on your computer right now? There’s no chance to save anything or make copies, all of your files are just gone. Would you be able to continue functioning as if nothing happened? How long would it take to rebuild all those important business files? Do you have essential back-ups of everything, hosted offsite, or on a secured server? As crazy as this might sound, this is exactly what can happen if you, or one of your employees, are hit with Ransomware.
Ransomware is not new, but it is growing in popularity among those nefarious creatures we call hackers. Your data might not be valuable for sale on the Dark Web per se, but that data is valuable to you and your business. Hackers know this. And that is why Ransomware is growing in popularity and is becoming easier and easier to pick up. Can your small business survive if this happened? Do you have access to multiple thousands of dollars to pay the ransom to get your files restored, if they even restore them at all?
What is Ransomware? Ransomware works on the premise of encrypting a user’s files and then “ransoming” decryption to the user for a price, generally in Bitcoins or other untraceable currency . Ransomware acts as a file encryptor, using sophisticated RSA 2048 encryption. Using a normal desktop computers’ processing power, it would take over 1.5 million years  to crack this type of encryption. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Once you become infected, the power is in the hacker’s hands, unless you are prepared.
How does this happen? Ransomware can be picked up from a variety of sources, but primarily from clicking links in phishing emails or going to a compromised website. With phishing schemes getting more sophisticated each day, hackers have raised the bar. Everyone needs to be more alert to these tactics. After compromising one person, a hacker can craft an email to everyone in their contact list and send out another phishing attack, masquerading as an email from the person you know. This significantly raises the click-rate on these emails, thus infecting more people and allowing them to harvest more contact lists to do the same thing to more unsuspecting people. Sounds pretty tricky, doesn’t it? Familiarity lowers our defenses and can lead us to click that link, putting our computer and its resources up for ransom.
Should I be worried? With 90% of cyber attacks being the result of human error or behavior , being on alert to these schemes is a priority. Do you know if your employees have the wherewithal to identify the phishing scheme in their email, and properly identify it as a potential ransomware attack? Have they received the proper training to understand these risks? If you have any trepidation to the answers, then you should be worried. Hackers aren’t getting any dumber, they’re getting more sophisticated and craftier in their exploits by the day. And we need to keep on pace with them, and even one step ahead if we can. Being worried won’t save us from a Ransomware attack, only preparation will.
What can be done? Ransomware can be mitigated in a few different ways. Obviously having proper training in place for your employees is the Best Defense. With proper training, they can identify the tactics of Ransomware hackers and ward off the danger before it makes a negative impact on your business. This will help lower that 90% number mentioned earlier. The “human factor” will never be totally eliminated, but we can bring the percentage down through proper training. Second, having proper back-ups of all critical files, stored securely, will help you restore what was lost and avoid having to pay a ransom. Daily back-ups of user’s critical files, and daily or even hourly back-ups of databases and other mission-critical files is highly recommended.
Of course, having a secure environment is also a must. Ransomware is just one avenue used to separate you from your businesses money, hackers can also come in through weak perimeter defenses and wreak havoc in other ways, even mimicking the Ransomware methodology and encrypting your network files from the outside. This is why a sound strategy is an overall security posture that includes shoring up the technology side and the human side. A comprehensive strategy to protect you and your business is a must.
Don’t let Ransomware bring your business operations to a halt. Put the RAN in ransomware. Send the hackers packing! Put in place the Best Defense you can through training and technology. Hackers are opportunistic. They go after the low hanging fruit. Raise the bar on your business’s security profile and stop a Ransomware attack dead in its tracks. They will look elsewhere to perpetrate their exploits if you are not the low hanging fruit. This can be done through comprehensive security training for your employees, complete and proper back-ups of critical files, and a sound perimeter defense strategy.
References:  https://www.digicert.com/TimeTravel/math.htm  https://aboutssl.org/can-ransomware-spread-over-a-network/  https://chiefexecutive.net/almost-90-cyber-attacks-caused-human-error-behavior/