“We do not negotiate with terrorists”. Except, most of us have, or would.
A relatively new breed of malware, dubbed “Ransomware”, is holding computer systems hostage and demanding payment for their safe release.
What’s surprising is that these underhanded tactics often see a payout for cybercriminals — according to one study, about 50% of ransomware victims paid their extortionists, and another 40% of people said that they would pay the ransom too if it happened to them.
It’s estimated that at least $5 million is extorted from ransomware victims each year.
Cybersecurity experts are encouraging ransomware victims not to pay the extortionists for two reasons: firstly, there’s no guarantee you’ll get your data back, and secondly, because it only further encourages cybercriminals to continue running ransomware attacks.
This, of course, includes re-runs on your environment they know is not only easy to get into, but one that is likely to cave to their demands.
It’s a non-issue as long as no ransomware makes its way onto your systems, but the odds of that actually happening are ever increasing.
As far as we know, there are currently more than 4 million samples of ransomware in existence, where there were only 1.5 million samples in 2013. Hackers can’t get enough of the stuff.
Hackers are also finding new ways to bring ransomware to a system near you. It has been reported that a disproportionately large number of websites that run on the WordPress CMS are being hacked to deliver ransomware to end users.
All you need to do to catch the bug is visit one of these booby-trapped websites with an out-of-date version of Adobe Flash Player, Adobe, Reader, Microsoft Silverlight, or Internet Explorer, and you may be looking at a ransom amount of $500 (or a few bitcoins) in exchange for your computer back.
There are basically two different types of defense strategies against ransomware attacks — making sure you don’t get infected in the first place, and staying safe post infection.
User and staff education is a key data security practice. Making sure that you and your staff are well aware of possible online hazards like phishing emails or insecure websites goes a long way into making sure ransomware never reaches your systems.
Patching your systems and making sure that all your applications are up-to-date is also textbook good practice. Ransomware can find its way into your systems through vulnerabilities, so make sure that your network has no holes for cyberattacks to slip through.
Additionally, running anti-spam software that can detect malicious links in emails will definitely go a long way to helping you ensure that no one in your business will be opening any “uh-oh” links.
Hit me. Whatever. I’m over it.
Perhaps you won’t be nearly that stoic, but the best way to beat ransomware is to take away their leverage. This means making sure that there is no data on your systems that would be of value to hackers.
This works for two reasons — one, hackers are a lot less likely to hold your network at a high ransom price if they search your systems and find little or nothing of value. Secondly, should they still try and hold your network hostage, starting over will be a significantly cheaper endeavor than paying the ransom amount (which doesn’t guarantee you will get anything back).
There are two basic ways to go around this. The first method is simple — backup your data. Using removable storage is a cheap and simple solution for small businesses, and a surefire way to make sure that all your eggs are not in the same basket.
The second way is simply removing sensitive data from your systems. Many companies store large amounts of sensitive data, like credit card numbers, healthcare information and personal information, without any real business justified reason to do so. Often, they are not even savvy to the fact that they are storing all that data that hackers are after.
Keeping your systems clean is a form of risk mitigation. It ensures that even if you do get hit by ransomware, you will be in a good position to recover from the attack as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Removing sensitive data from your systems is easier than you think, using Ground Labs’ line of data discovery software. Regardless of the number of systems on your network, Ground Labs has a solution tailored to help you find and lock down your sensitive data. Visit our website to find out more, and sign up for a free trial today!