Ashville NC IT Support Company | Blue Ridge Technology, Inc.

The Threat of Ransomware Is Real, for Businesses Large and Small

a pyramid with the words be prepared soon or later your business will be attacked
Ransomware Resilience
No matter the size of your business, you could be the target of a ransomware attack. These attacks are more complex to pull off than simple credential theft, and early attacks tended to target high-profile organizations and government agencies. But now, ransomware attacks are becoming more and more common. You might not think of your business as a likely target. But the danger is real regardless. Here’s what you need to know about ransomware attacks — and how to protect yourself and your business.

What Is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malicious code-based lockout attack. In a ransomware attack, hackers break into a target system and lock out all users (typically encrypting data on that system as well). The perpetrators demand a payment (or ransom) to return or unlock the affected systems and files, often in cryptocurrency or other means that are difficult to trace.

What Are Some Recent Ransomware Attacks?

Ransomware attacks have been on the rise, including some very prominent ones of late. You may remember a fuel shortage back in May 2021, primarily throughout the US southeast. The shortage was caused by a ransomware attack against the Colonial Pipeline. But the attacks aren’t always on high-profile or strategic targets. In fact, the ransomware attacks from 2021 chronicled by BlackFog are varied both in size and industry: country clubs, small municipalities, universities, industrial firms, retail companies, and a health system all made their list — and that’s only January (and the ones we know about)!

What Can Hackers Do During a Ransomware Attack?

Quite a lot, depending on how they access a target’s systems and how much access they get. Basic ransomware attacks typically lock out access to files (or to entire systems) until payment is made. More devious attacks may couple a lockout with a threat of disclosing confidential information the hackers have stolen. Customer data, patient data, trade secrets and other content could create significant damage (not to mention embarrassment and even regulatory trouble) if leaked. So companies pay up, typically. Even scarier attacks threaten to take control of critical systems, like in the Colonial Pipeline hack. Hypothetically, a nefarious bad actor (or state actor) could cause or threaten to cause significant public harm if demands aren’t met.

Why Are Ransomware Attacks on the Rise?

This is a complicated question, of course, but several factors are clear. First, the pandemic. Business frantically adopted new digital systems and sent large swathes of their workforces home. These changes were necessary, but security was often an afterthought (at best). Cybercriminals had all sorts of new attack vectors, from insecure home networks to already-compromised personal devices to new and unproven digital tools. Second, hackers have started using automated tools, not just to probe systems with stolen credentials, but to actually execute small ransomware attacks if they gain access. What used to be a complex, manual attack can be done much more easily now.

We Can Help Prepare You for Ransomware Attacks

So, what should your business do to prepare for a ransomware attack? There are many steps you can take, but the two most important are to ensure employees practice good password hygiene and to conduct regular phishing training. Most cyberattacks (and ransomware attacks) occur via compromised credentials or via phishing schemes, so these are the best places to start. Of course, there’s far more to a comprehensive ransomware resilience strategy, and we can help you work through this crucial process. Reach out today to schedule a consultation for this or any other managed IT service. Want to know more about how to protect your business from ransomware? We’ve prepared an in-depth newsletter that answers more of your questions and gives you five steps to maximize your ransomware resilience. Get the newsletter here!