From large corporate organizations to small businesses, ransomware attacks happen everywhere. However, in recent years, hackers have been targeting businesses, particularly mid-sized businesses which may not have the resources, experience, or tools to protect themselves effectively. So, what is ransomware? and how does it threaten your business? In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about ransomware, how you can regain access to your business data and how to prevent these attacks in the future.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a type of malware that hackers use to block access to a device, system, or file until the affected party pays a ransom. Attackers can successfully do this by encrypting files at the endpoint, blocking access, and threatening to erase files. Ransomware is particularly dangerous when it affects hospitals, government institutions, call centers, and other infrastructure.
Should You Pay a Ransom?
Regardless of how frustrating the situation is, never pay ransom. The law enforcement does not endorse nor condone the payment of ransom because they believe:
- You’re paying or supporting criminals.
- There is no guarantee that you will get access to your system or device after paying.
- Your computer will still be infected.
- You’re inviting the possibility of being targeted in the future.
Steps To Take in the Event of a Ransomware
Defending your company against ransomware requires a holistic, hands-on approach. Exercise high-level caution when approaching the issue and involve the authorities and IT Professionals to regain control of your device and data.
Most people tend to panic and start negotiating with the attackers, making them vulnerable to extortion. Others begin making frantic calls contacting people to help them counter the attack, which can further compromise the situation. When faced with a ransomware attack, you first want to calm down, check which systems have been compromised, and isolate them immediately.
Disconnect All Devices
Unplug all affected devices from the network or remove them from WIFI to prevent the infection. It takes time for the software to encrypt all your files, so disconnecting from the network can help stop the attackers from gaining control of all your data. The sooner you disconnect, the better your chances of containing the attack.
If it’s one or two computers that have been infected, just disconnect those two and deal with them individually. If the infection has distributed itself, you may need to take significant actions to prevent the ransomware from spreading further. After the attack, your attackers will monitor your activities to know whether their actions have been detected. Isolate systems carefully in a coordinated manner and use phone calls or other means of communications to avoid tipping off hackers that you’ve begun mitigating the attack.
Maintain Backups Thoughtfully
One of the best ways to recover from a ransomware infection is backing up important information. You can do this using unaffected devices. Note that backup files should be adequately protected and stored offline so attackers don’t target them. You can use cloud services as they often retain previous versions of the files, allowing you to roll back to an encrypted version. Test backups for efficiency and verify that they aren’t infected before rolling back.
Start your investigation by taking photos of the key details such as the ransom note, emails, web links, or bitcoin addresses. Be sure to use an unaffected phone or camera to do this. If all the devices are infected, use a pen to note important information. If you have employees, begin your investigation from the first computer that got hacked and ask if they visited any new sites, clicked links on strange emails, or saw anything suspicious.
You can give this information to the authorities and hire a security consultant to determine what happened. It’s important to know how hackers gained control of your devices, their targeted data, devices, and files. You also want to know what was stolen and if there are partners, clients or employees affected. This will help you determine the legal steps to take, including educating employees to ensure the incident never happens again.
Remove Infection and Restore Data
Once the virus is detected and you have full information about its location and how it got in, the next step is to clean up the infected computers, data, files, passwords, websites, and any other systems to ensure the virus is gone. If you have a data backup in place, you can simply restore data and start working. Data backup gives you the confidence to handle the attack without worrying about data loss or paying the ransom.
Part of making sure that a ransomware incident never happens in your company means implementing new strategies to protect critical files and data. You can start by using simple regulations such as mandatory password reset and 2-factor authentication. You can also invest in software that blocks employees from opening suspicious links before you check them. Have a detailed data backup plan and test it regularly to ensure that it’s working as required.