Last updated on November 13th, 2023 at 02:07 am
Ransomware attacks have become one of the most common ways cyber criminals profit from stealing your data. According to the most recent Sophos State of Ransomware report, 66% of surveyed mid-sized organizations across 31 countries were hit by ransomware in the previous year, up from 37% in 2020. These attacks are likely to continue growing in popularity as long as cyber criminals believe they can cash in on stolen information.
If you own or operate an organization of any size, you need to take measures to protect yourself and your organization. To do that, you need to know what ransomware is.
What Is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a type of malicious software. It blocks users from accessing important files or data until they pay the attacker a ransom. It can be aimed at individuals or businesses.
There are two main forms of ransomware attack — file-encrypting and device-locking. File-encrypting ransomware prevents users from accessing files on their device(s). Device-locking ransomware typically prevents users from accessing any files on a hard drive by overwriting them with zero bytes.
The best way to understand ransomware is to compare it to more traditional attacks. Here’s how it works:
- Malicious software gets installed on your corporate computer(s). We will talk about how that happens below.
- Instead of ruining the computer or performing other devious attacks, ransomware encrypts your files (often in the background without you knowing) and then, after all the files are encrypted, prompts you to pay a ransom (usually in a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin) in order to get the key to restore (decrypt) your files.
Ransomware gets installed in many different ways. The most common methods are:
- Sending the malicious software via email and requesting that the recipient clicks on the attachment.
- Embedding the malicious software in a website advertisement that encourages your employee to click.
- Implanting the malicious software on a USB flash drive and encouraging the employee to insert and open the file on their computer.
Once installed on one corporate computer, ransomware often will spread, like a virus. It may spread to other corporate computers over wired or wireless networks, file servers, email systems, and via other routes.
How Do I Deal With a Ransomware Data Breach?
You have three options when dealing with ransomware.
- You can try your luck at getting your files back without paying (this almost never works).
- Pay up! Cyber criminals may demand payments via email or other means. It’s hard for experts to say whether making these payments will help you get access to much of your encrypted data. Cyber criminals often give some of the data back after receiving payment, but not all of it. This is usually only partially successful because the cyber criminals get what they are after…your money!
- Assuming you have good backups, erase everything on your computer(s) and restore. This is the only way to ensure the ransomware is fully expunged from your computers.
How Much Does it Cost to Recover From a Ransomware Data Breach?
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all cost estimate for recovering from a ransomware attack. There are many variables involved, including the type of data, who has access to it, and how it was compromised.
According to Sophos’ State of Ransomware report, the average ransom payment for mid-sized organizations was $812,360, excluding outliers. The ransom payment itself is just the start. With downtime, lost opportunities, ransomware removal, and recovery expenses, the average total cost of a ransomware attack was $1.4 million. It took these companies an average of a month to recover from their most significant attack.
Larger organizations often get larger demands. Smaller organizations may get smaller demands, but take longer to recover from an attack.
According to Nationwide claims data, cyber claims for small businesses are typically $15,000 to $25,000, and the average recovery time after an attack is 279 days. Again, this cost does not include the extra costs associated with restoration, reputational damage, and the potential legal fallout.
What You Can Do to Protect Your Business From a Ransomware Attack
Your business will probably experience some form of data breach at some point. You need to do everything in your power to protect your company from attacks and be able to detect them when they happen.
There are no industry-wide standards, or “silver bullets”, for protecting against ransomware. That’s largely because it’s an incredibly complex threat that requires a series of different solutions to mitigate the risks. Here are a few basic cybersecurity measures you can take to avoid threats from ransomware:
- Know what data you have so you can secure it properly.
- Use multi-factor authentication for all accounts with access to sensitive data.
- Don’t ever reuse passwords across multiple systems or accounts.
- Implement encryption where appropriate. This won’t prevent breaches from happening, but it may make them less damaging if they do occur.
- Have an incident response plan ready in case a breach does happen. Plan how you would react in advance so you can get your systems back up and running as quickly as possible.
- Educate your employees about how they can prevent cyber attacks. A security awareness program can teach people how to avoid common security risks.
All companies are at risk of a ransomware attack, regardless of industry or size. Make sure you have an incident response plan in place. Your plan should include contacting law enforcement and starting an insurance claim with your company’s cyber liability policy, if you have one.
You can also do regular backups and update them frequently to avoid losing files. For example, you can backup every file on every device used by employees as well as servers owned by your company. This practice can help you avoid data loss even if an attack does occur.
Get More Help With Cybersecurity and IT Services
Need help with protecting yourself from ransomware? Simple Helix is a Managed IT Services Provider (MSP) that helps businesses keep their IT systems connected, supported, and secure. We provide a variety of security-related IT services, including data center services, private backup services, and CMMC compliance services. We also partner with Managed Security Services Providers (MSSPs) to help customers get more in-depth cybersecurity solutions.