What is Ransomware and How Can My Business Stay Protected?

Did you know your business could be held up for ransom?

It may not be the Wild West era anymore, but the digital age comes with a new kind of outlaw: hackers who target businesses for sensitive data and profit. Cybersecurity has become a serious concern for companies large and small, especially now that ransomware has become a popular tactic.

But what is ransomware? Find out what this dangerous security breach is and how it puts your business at risk.

What is Ransomware?

Implemented through various Trojan horse techniques, ransomware is a form of malware used to hold your data hostage.

Like a virus, it infects your hardware, but ransomware has a specific tactic. It takes control of your data, locking you out of sensitive and imperative files and media until you pay your ransom.

That ransom is specified through the malware, as well as the method of payment. Hackers emphasize the use of anonymous monetary transfer processes in order to protect their identity while getting what they want.

Refusing to comply leads to severe consequences such as destroying your data and files. These threats are rarely ever empty, making them a serious risk to you and your business.

Although ransomware may be a method on the rise, it isn’t new. In fact, the first known “digital ransom” was executed in 1989. Dubbed the “AIDS Trojan“, the sum of the demand was a whopping $189.

However, these days the price tags are much higher. Many companies have found their data held ransom for anywhere between hundreds to thousands of dollars, or more.

In fact, a company in South Korea called Nayana had to pay 1 million dollars in 2017 after falling victim to Erebus ransomware.

So why is this malicious malware so effective? Read on to discover how it works.

How Does Ransomware Work?

Ransomware is an effective method of extortion, yet the code behind it is often surprisingly simple. It utilizes a combination of digital infiltration, threatening demands, and a high sense of urgency to reap a quick profit.

The attack starts with getting the ransomware onto your computer. This can be done through various means, but typically a user at the company is duped into downloading it directly onto their hardware device.

The Initial Download

The most common method of delivery is through email. Attackers will send out a mass email blast to a designated mailing list in order to increase their odds of download.

The email list can consist of multiple businesses, multiple individuals within your business, or both. The goal is to get their malware onto a device with access to sensitive data.

These emails are meticulously crafted to appear as if they were sent from a trusted source. This includes:

  • Crafting an email address and name to look like a company or individual you know and trust
  • Designing an email layout to replicate or represent a trusted brand
  • Creating a highly convincing call-to-action to make the recipient click the provided link

Once you click the link, you unwittingly initiate the download of this dangerous and devious malware. Sometimes you know it when you download it, but often the installation goes undetected.

Malware can calculate its execution to occur within a cycle of days or bootups in order to cover up how it was downloaded. However, once the ransomware is initiated, you–the victim–are on the clock.

The Ransomware Countdown

The key to a successful ransom is forcing the victim to act quickly, which is why you find yourself under a ticking clock every time ransomware is initiated. The entity behind the ransomware makes his or her demand, along with a mandatory timeframe for delivery.

Ransomware is successful enough that many hackers treat it like a business. The average ransom is around $300, which users often have to pay through an anonymous currency like bitcoin.

Once the ransom is paid, the entity will then release its hold on your data, granting you access to your files once more. However, the danger may not stop there.

Companies and individuals who become victims of ransomware should always assume their data has been compromised, even if you pay the full sum of money requested.

This is because the entity who implemented the ransomware had access to that data while it was held hostage. In that span of time, he or she could have made copies of it which may be utilized later down the road for additional profit, or victims.

This includes sensitive files, login credentials, contact lists, and more.

How to Remove Ransomware from Your Device

The key to protecting your business against ransomware downloads starts with an effective security strategy. This includes having an effective anti-virus software installed on your computer.

While ransomware is constantly evolving, a proper anti-virus comes with various means of defense, including active monitoring and a ransomware removal tool. This line of defense will frequently scan your device for malware and automatically work to remove them, if possible.

Another security essential is frequent backups of your system’s data. Even if your system is infected with malware, you can retrieve data up to the last recorded backup in order to regain access to it.

While this doesn’t defend against the potential compromise of your data, it does ensure you don’t lose everything in a ransomware situation. Backups also provide you peace of mind should your hardware become corrupted or fail.

There are various malware removal tools available, some of which are free.

However, it’s important to invest in a cohesive security strategy. This is especially true for businesses who handle highly sensitive data, such as hospitals and legal firms.

The more proactive you are about your security, the safer your data and business will be.

Learn How to Improve Your Cybersecurity

Now that you have the answer to “What is ransomware?”, it’s time to start putting together an action plan to protect yourself and your business. Contact our experts at EWT to discuss cybersecurity strategies.

We will be happy to discuss the unique needs of your business, as well as a tailored service package to suit those needs.

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