Cyberattacks for nefarious purposes is nothing new. Stealing data, disrupting business, and just causing general mayhem has been going on for as long as there has been a digital world to attack. Ransomware, however, seems to stand out as a particularly unique and especially troublesome form of cybercrime. For one thing, once an attack happens, retrieval of your data from the criminals is ill advised. The FBI advises against paying ransom, and even if you do, you’re dealing with criminals. Who’s to say that they give it all back or that some other malware hasn’t been planted. Your best means of recovery is reliable backups, but more on that later.
As a small business owner, trusting your data to off-the shelf virus protection as your organization’s only line of defense is an unwise choice. You should instead rely on an IT professional to look at every aspect of your IT infrastructure to ensure that everything possible is being done to protect your data. Proper protection is layered and will include managed antivirus/antimalware endpoint protection, but there will be other layers too: firewalls, advanced threat detection and response, proper application of security updates, user training, and backups just to name a few. Years ago, it was viruses and worms that caused system crashes and data destruction, but now threats are blended and ransomware attacks are particularly troublesome and require special attention. Some of the routine tools used to protect data may still be vulnerable to ransomware. Here we will talk about specific ways that an MSP is best positioned to help protect you and your business from a ransomware attack.
Let’s define ransomware
Ransomware is an especially nasty type of software whose modus operandi is an old criminal tactic: kidnapping, or in this case, datanapping. Ransomware does this by infiltrating your computer systems through phishing emails, compromised websites, or exploiting vulnerabilities in software and then encrypting your files, making them unreadable to you. The process is typically very fast and immediately searches for other devices on the same network, encrypting everything possible unless it is stopped. Then like any kidnapper, cybercriminals post a ransom and hold your data hostage or begin selling it on the dark web until they get paid.
So what happens once your data is encrypted? Your choices are either paying the ransom (an ill-advised choice) or restoring the data from an uncorrupted backup. Ransomware can corrupt backups in several scenarios. An MSP offers data backup solutions which are better protected from ransomware.
The impact of this type of crime is pretty obvious. The loss of your data–and your customer’s data-will disrupt daily business activity and damage customer trust. A successful ransomware attack can lead to brand damage, regulatory penalties for data breaches, and potential legal consequences. Overall it can be devastating, making it especially important for you to take proactive measures to prevent such attacks. Even if you are able to recover your data from backup, repercussions could go on and on. It is important that if you ever are breached by ransomware that it is reported to the proper authorities because law enforcement takes these threats seriously.
The basic preventative measures. Are they enough?
In general, there are some basic textbook best practices you can follow:
- Educate employees about cybersecurity best practices, including identifying phishing emails and suspicious links.
- Regularly back up data and ensure offline or offsite storage to prevent data loss in case of an attack.
- Keep software and systems up to date with the latest security patches.
- Implement robust endpoint protection solutions, including firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion detection systems.
- Segment networks to limit the spread of ransomware and restrict access to critical systems.
- Develop and test a disaster recovery plan to ensure an effective response to an attack.
However, as straightforward as these tips appear, they aren’t as simple to implement as they sound and you likely do not have the time or expertise to devote to designing, implementing, and maintaining these processes. As a business owner, your focus is necessarily on operations, revenues, and sales. A Managed Service Provider has the resources and the skills to handle your network security and ransomware defense planning so you focus on running your business.