Ransomware attacks

Ransomware attacks

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Contributors:

Michael Murphy, Project Co-ordinator, GBS Technologies

Are local businesses safe from cyberattacks?

Canadian businesses experience as many as 1,600 ransomware attacks per day and estimates indicate that total incidents for 2018 will exceed all previous years (CCIRC, 2018). With the ability to leak, encrypt and lock all business assets from employees, ransomware attacks are becoming a serious problem for businesses. Breaches have become so frequent that banks now ask new businesses to validate their network security prior to providing loans.

Who is most at risk? Larger businesses and corporations often have a whole team dedicated to monitoring security. Small businesses typically don’t have that type of luxury. Unfortunately, without the proper security measures and experience, no business of any size is truly safe against hackers.

WannaCry, an early 2017 ransomware virus, took control of more than 250,000 businesses in 116 countries (CSO, 2017). Similarly, TeslaCrypt, which accounted for 48 per cent of ransomware attacks in 2016, made files effectively impossible to restore without help from the malware creators (CSO, 2017). In the period since then, ransom costs to free data rose 230 per cent and in some cases experienced attackers can charge millions (IDG News Service, 2017). The question now becomes, how do these hackers gain access into private business records? Ransomware can be spread through simple email attachments, software apps and compromised websites. For example, hackers can use fake domains, similar to a business’s email addresses and send companywide emails pretending to be an executive. Typically, these emails will have an attachment and the content of the email will ask each employee to open the file. Once clicked, the employee’s computer will begin to infect the network and access will be denied — all from an outside assailant. Once the hacker has penetrated the network, personal information about clients, emails, balance sheets and income statements can be stolen, lost or made public if ransom is not paid before a certain date. The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration states 93 per cent of all companies that lose access to their data for 10 days or more go bankrupt within a year (TechTarget, 2014).

When considering the threats that businesses face, it’s critical to ensure that proper measures are put in place to make certain confidential data is not breached. Presently, the importance of data backup and network security cannot be overstated. Redundant backups are a vital security measure every company should invest in, large or small, to ensure that if an attack were to happen, data can be restored from a secured source. This ensures that not all data is lost and ransom would be avoided. Network security audits are a recommended first step to assess an organization’s level of exposure and employees should have a foundational understanding of cybersecurity in the workplace. With the digital black market selling ransomware kits for little as $10, it is not a matter if your business will be targeted but a matter of when. Make sure your business is secure.

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