What is ransomware?
Ransomware is a malicious software that locks you out of your computer system or files until money is paid to the attacker. This software often gains entry to a system through phishing emails, unsafe attachments, or compromised websites. Once inside, it encrypts important files – making them inaccessible to the users. A ransom note is then sent, often accompanied by a deadline to add urgency.
Turning risks into opportunities
Ransomware can pose huge risks for businesses. But, it also provides huge opportunities for teams to learn, adapt, and build in bullet-proof solutions to make a business’ security even stronger. Let’s take a look at some of the most pressing risks, and how you can use them to your advantage.
Falling victim to a ransomware attack can lead to serious financial losses. Businesses are asked to pay hefty ransoms to regain access to critical data. And, even if the ransom is paid, there’s no guarantee that it won’t happen again or that the attacker doesn’t still have access to your system. Plus – and this is a big one – the money from these attacks often goes toward organised crime, which is why ransoms shouldn’t be paid.
The key is to be proactive rather than reactive. Allocate resources to cybersecurity measures that prevent ransomware attacks in the first place. And, if an attack does occur, invest in finding and mitigating the root cause to decrease the chances that it’ll happen again.
When ransomware strikes, your business operations can come to a standstill. This not only affects productivity but can also lead to, again, substantial revenue loss.
Use this as a catalyst for bigger operational changes within your business. Review your current systems and identify any areas where you can make improvements. One example would be to explore processes that could be migrated to SaaS solutions, rather than on-prem solutions. With on-prem, you have to make sure everything is secure. With SaaS products, the vendor is responsible for back-end security and, therefore, can focus on making it good.
Beyond the financial impact, businesses also risk exposing or losing sensitive data. This can have far-reaching consequences, such as legal issues, damage to customer trust, and regulatory fines for failing to protect confidential information.
Take this as a wake-up call to review and strengthen your data protection policies. Make data protection a core part of your brand promise, and ensure you have the infrastructure in place to keep that promise. One way to do that is by adding audits and pentests to verify or detect vulnerabilities. Another is to add additional encryption to make it harder (or even impossible) for attackers to read stolen data without the encryption key.
A successful ransomware attack can tarnish your company’s reputation and cause customers to question your reliability. Clients and customers may lose trust in your organisation’s ability to safeguard their data, which can lead to a decline in customer loyalty and new business opportunities.
Transparency is key. If an attack happens, communicate openly with your stakeholders. Then, take visible steps to improve security. This can turn a crisis into an opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to your customers.
How you can protect your business against ransomware
As with all security issues, ransomware is best stopped before it infiltrates your system. Security awareness programs, robust infrastructure, 2FA and other early-prevention mechanisms can go a long way in preventing attacks. Here are a few other things to consider:
- Educate your employees about the dangers of phishing emails and the importance of not clicking on suspicious links or downloading unknown attachments.
- Regularly and properly back up critical data to an external, secure location. This ensures that even if an attack occurs, the organisation can restore its systems without paying a ransom. The 3-2-1 backup rule is a good strategy to implement, if it’s not already.
- Invest in robust antivirus and anti-malware solutions. Keep them updated to defend against the latest ransomware threats. In addition, implement strong network security measures, including firewalls and intrusion detection systems to prevent unauthorised access.
- Develop and regularly update an incident response plan that details every step to take if a ransom attack occurs. This includes communication strategies, legal considerations, and steps for a swift recovery.
There’s no doubt that ransomware poses a serious and growing threat to businesses. Our position is that businesses should never pay the ransom because the money often ends up in organised crime. Fixing the root cause is much more effective long-term. By understanding the risks and implementing proactive cybersecurity measures, organisations can strengthen their defences and make the entire digital landscape more resilient.
If you want to learn more about Visma’s security work, check out our Trust Centre.