What is Ransomware and How Can it Affect Your Business?

What is Ransomware and How Can it Affect Your Business? 

Just like the guy wondering what's plugged into port 42 on that network switch, I'll bet most people don't have a clue what's actually connected or running on their network. Now, if he had a Datto networking switch, he wouldn't be there pointing at it, hoping his colleague has committed every port to memory. He'd just log into the network management console, and grab the MAC. But I digress.. 

Most business owners/managers haven't a clue what's running on their network, and unfortunatly, that includes Ransomware. You've probably heard about the big ones, WannaCry, CryptoLocker, etc; but did you know that Ransomware has been around for ~30 years? Hopefully the recent WannaCry will be a wake up call to the non-techies, that their nightly backup, or god forbid, tape backup, is no longer sufficient.

This cyberattack scheme hasn't garnered nearly as much attention as the usual "break-in-and-steal-data-to-sell-on-the-Internet version," but it can be even more debilitating. Ransomware attacks have begun a sharp increase in frequency in 2017, jumping by nearly 250%. Some perpetrators are so polished that in few cases they even have mini­ call centers to handle your payments and questions.

So what is ransomware? In a nut shell, it's a security principle turned against you. Ransomware encrypts your files, and forces you to pay to decrypt them. The business model is as old as the earliest kidnapping. They hold your data, software, or entire PC hostage until you pay them a ransom to get it back. The malware infects a node on your network, and silently spreads if it can. When a certain percentage of your system is encrypted, or a timer hits zero, suddenly you have no access to a program or file and a screen appears announcing your files are encrypted and that you need to pay (usually in bitcoins) to regain access. There may even be a Doomsday-style clock counting down the time you have to pay or lose everything.

Interestingly, one of the more common "market segments" being targeted in the US has been public safety. Police department data is held hostage, and in many cases, they have given up and paid the ransom. They had little choice, and they aren't the only ones. A hospital in Southern California also fell prey, as did one in Texas. 

Ransomware can be especially insidious because backups may not offer complete protection against these criminals. When was the last time you took a full system backup? Last night? Last week? What if your business had to revert to that backup, how much time would it take, and how much data would you lose? Such new schemes illustrate why you need to have a professional security service that can keep up to date on the latest criminal activities in the cyber world, deploy a business backup and continuity solution, and immediately respond to an attack. 

If you'd like to learn more about how to protect your business from ransomware, fill out the form below to schedule a free IT assessment. 

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