Dealing with Ransomware: A Massive Challenge for Businesses in 2023

When you own a business, you know how important it is to protect assets that represent value to the company.

The menace of ransomware is growing every day. In fact, the professional services sector experienced a significant rise in targeting, with a 57% increase during the first quarter of 2023 compared to the end of 2022.

In this article, we’ll explore what ransomware is, how to spot it, and, most importantly, what to do if you’ve been attacked.

Plus, we’ll talk about how to educate your employees on proper cybersecurity hygiene.

The Ransomware Basics

Ransomware is malicious software that encrypts your files, and in order for you to get them back, cybercriminals demand a ransom.

For this scam to succeed, hackers use different tactics: sending phishing emails, leading you to suspicious or compromised websites, installing infected software, etc.

Once your equipment is infected, you simply can’t access your data. If you have a business, this translates into losing your clients’ sensitive information, risking your business operations and your professional reputation.

The first step in tackling the ransomware danger is to know exactly what it is.

What Are the Signs of A Malware Infection?

If you can recognise the warning signs of a ransomware infection, you can stop it before it does significant damage.

Pay attention if you notice the following things:

  • The system is slow without reason: if your laptop has always worked and you’re suddenly waiting a long time for it to start or process something, it’s a sign of ransomware activity.
  • You find files with weird extensions: when ransomware encrypts a file, it does so by using a weird extension, such as “.encrypted” or “.locked”.
  • Hackers leave a ransom note: in some cases, a ransomware infection displays a note on your screen, threatening you with something and demanding payment in exchange for giving you your files back. The note can be something like this: “ATTENTION! We have encrypted all your files. Pay a ransom of $10.000 if you want them back. If we don’t see the payment within 72 hours, your files will be permanently deleted.”

As soon as you notice unusual behaviour, you need to act to prevent further damage.

Preventing ransomware attacks goes a long way: implement strong cybersecurity measures, update your software regularly, and try to minimise any vulnerability to detect the attack earlier.

How to Respond to A Ransomware Attack

If, unfortunately, you fall victim to a ransomware attack, make sure to have a protocol of action in place. Here’s a step-by-step guide that can help you manage the crisis:

  • Immediately isolate the infected systems: do not ever leave a contaminated system connected to the network. If you disconnect the equipment, you can deal with the infection without it spreading to other devices.
  • Assess the damage: determine what was attacked and what is still safe. Identify which files are being encrypted. When you recover all your data, this information will be essential.
  • Report the incident: send a message to your IT team or an employee that works on cybersecurity. They should investigate the attack and inform you about the impact on your business.
  • Contact the authorities: low-enforcement agencies can receive your report and provide assistance and guidance in the following investigation.
  • Decide if you pay the ransom: generally, what experts advise is to never pay the hackers. It does nothing to guarantee the recovery of your files, and it might encourage them to ask for more money or attack other businesses. Instead, you can try to restore the files from backups or wait for the cybersecurity professionals to help.
  • Restore the data from your backups: if you’ve kept backups updated, you can restore them after cleaning the systems, ensuring that the malware infection has been deleted.
  • Implement strong security measures: cybersecurity measures have to be updated often. Keep yourself informed on the latest attacks, and also communicate with your employees about detecting phishing scams and suspicious websites. Protect yourself online with a VPN service that encrypts your connection and keeps it private from online spies.

Empower Your Team by Educating Them About Cybersecurity

The first line of defence against any kind of cyberattack is your employees.

Educating them about the best practices and online safety is essential to prevent incidents that could have severe consequences. Here are some tips on where you can start:

  • Phishing scam detection: inform your employees on how to identify and eliminate suspicious emails or websites. Tell them about the tactics that cybercriminals use to get others to reveal sensitive information.
  • Strong passwords: let them know how important it is to use unique passwords and even add two-factor authentication to prevent the attack in the first place.
  • Updating software: encourage them to keep their electronic devices updated to avoid cybersecurity vulnerabilities. These updates should include antivirus programs, web browsers, and operating systems.
  • Safety on the internet: remind the teams to stay aware of suspicious things while browsing the internet, and tell them to avoid downloading files they’re not entirely sure about.

If you encourage a culture of good cybersecurity practices and provide training from time to time, your employees will know exactly how to protect the company from cyberattacks.

To Sum Up

Ransomware attacks are on the rise, and they are also a significant threat, especially for businesses. If you understand how it works, how to spot the signs, and how to respond to a cybersecurity crisis, you’ll be ahead of the game.

Stay informed and proactive when it comes to cybersecurity, update your systems, foster a culture of awareness around online attacks, and keep backups of all your information.

A strong defence is, after all, the best offense when it comes to cybercriminals.