Cyber Security

Be Inspired | Cyber Security | What Is Ransomware and How Should I Protect My Business?

What Is Ransomware and How Should I Protect My Business?

With more and more business transactions taking place online, it’s vital that you have the correct and preventative measures in place to protect your business from cyber-attacks. One form of cyber-attack that has been on the rise in recent year is ransomware. But what exactly is it?

Ransomware is malware that demands some form of payment from an individual or business in order to recover control of their computer or data. Most commonly, when it comes to personal attacks, the attacker will encrypt personal files on the victim’s computer in a way that means they cannot be opened unless the victim has access to the decryption key. Thus, access to the decryption key is what the attacker wants the victim to pay for. In other cases, such as in a business setting, the attacker may threaten to publicise or leak sensitive information that could be detrimental to business.

A Spike in Ransomware

Based on data from a report by California-based cybersecurity firm, SonicWall, findings revealed that in the first 6 months of 2019, ransomware was on the up. Here are some key findings:

  • Ransomware volume was up 15% globally
  • Encrypted threats spiked 76%
  • IoT malware attacks were up 55%
  • Malware attacks across non-standard ports dipped 13%
  • With bitcoin value spiking, crypto-jacking volumes were up 9%

What’s more worrying is that the firm reported; “The UK has been the biggest target for ransomware attacks for the first half of 2019 with the number rising 195%, as compared to the 59% reduction in attacks of the same kind in 2018, it has been claimed.”

They went on to say that “Almost half of all infected businesses in the UK now opt for paying the ransom.” This is the main reason that ransomware has spiked. In addition, with more businesses taking out cyber insurance, there is a higher chance that a business will just fall back on their cyber insurance policy and let their insurance provider pay-out, making ransomware a lucrative business for attackers.

High-Profile Attack

In recent cases of ransomware, Travelex is among one of the more high-profile cases. On New Year’s Eve 2019, hackers launched their attack on the Travelex network. As a result, the company took action by taking down its websites across 30 countries to, in their words, contain “the virus and protect data”. The way in which Travelex handled this attack really highlights the importance and need for a good business continuity plan (BCP) should the worst happen.

But despite ransomware being a lucrative venture for hackers, it’s not just large companies like Travelex that are being hit. In relation to this, Simon Bond, CEO of Cyan, says; “Unfortunately, it has become more common for cyber criminals to develop and use sophisticated tools to target the vulnerabilities of smaller businesses.”

“These vulnerabilities are caused due a range of system issues such as technical glitches, unpatched software, or by hardware that hasn’t been configured properly. However, the most common of the vulnerabilities tend to involve employees who use weak or compromised passwords, or inadvertently click on something that opens the business up to an array of issues.”

Glyn Cheesman, IT Security Manager at Cyan, believes many cyber criminals know that SME leaders may not truly understand the impact and importance of cyber security. He goes on to say, “We live in an age where cyberattacks continue to evolve, and of course there is a threat to businesses of all sizes, but it’s particularly more challenging for small to mid-size businesses. It’s therefore critical for companies to understand the risks and work on developing strong risk-mitigation strategies to lessen the devastating impact of cyber threats and attacks.”

How Do I Protect My Business?

The best thing you can do to protect your business and colleagues is to cyber insure your business. Insuring against cybercrime and data risks means you’re protected against new and existing threats, but with cyber insurance, your business will you will also receive help with the practicalities of getting experts to restore systems, recreate data and deal with any demands being made where data is stolen.

Additionally, you can carry out some good business practice to prevent cyber-attacks, which include but are not limited to:

  • Ensuring access control is in place. Restricting user access can limit the extent of the encryption to just the data owned by the affected user. Often, employees can have access to data that’s not relevant to their role. Therefore, it’s crucial to re-evaluate the permissions placed on shared network drives regularly in order to prevent the spreading of ransomware. System administrators with high levels of access should always strive to avoid using their admin accounts for email and web browsing.
  • Backing up your data. Organisations should ensure that they have thoroughly tested backup solutions in place whether controlled in house or externally. But remember that backed up files should not be accessible by machines that are at risk of encountering ransomware. Remember that backups should not be the only protection you have in place against ransomware; the implementation of adequate security practices will mean not getting ransomware in the first place.

To Pay or Not to Pay: What to Do If You Are Held to Ransom?

The general advice is not to pay if you or your business are held to ransom. However, it is likely that in some cases, insurers will pay out on your behalf depending on the specific circumstances. The reason businesses are advised not to pay out is because there is no guarantee that the attacker will provide the decryption key and/or not sell or publish any company sensitive information.

Almost half of all infected businesses in the UK now opt for paying the ransom, but if you do find yourself in that situation, immediately report the incident to your IT helpdesk. In addition, report the attack to the authorities and your cyber insurance policy provider.

Top Tips to Protect Your Business Against Ransomware

It may not happen, but it’s always better to have preventative measures in place should your business encounter ransomware. There are a few ways to do this, including:

  • Implement an incident response plan to help identify, respond and recover from an attack. This will include the steps you plan to take should your business encounter an attack.
  • Ensuring there are strong technical and administrative controls in place with security control frameworks.
    • A secure and robust Internet connection
    • Secure/password-protected devices and software
    • Robust access control measures in place
    • Updated virus protection software
    • Keep your devices and software up to date

For further advice and to discuss implementing robust and secure security measures, get in touch.

Categories: Cyber Security, IT Security, News