The Cost of Ransomware on Small Businesses
In today’s tech-driven world, cybersecurity threats have become an inevitable reality. While cybercriminals have plenty of malware weapons in their arsenal, ransomware attacks are their favorite tools, and small businesses are often the prime target for ransomware attacks. This does not mean that established organizations are immune to ransomware. In fact, cybercriminals are constantly developing complicated ransomware tactics that can penetrate through the systems of even the most established businesses. However, small businesses often overlook the importance of strengthening their cybersecurity, which is why they often fall victim to these attacks.
What exactly is a ransomware attack?
Essentially, ransomware is a type of malware that gains access to a victim’s files and encrypts them, consequently locking out users out of their systems. Once ransomware has infected your system, cybercriminals will prompt you to pay a ransom to regain access to your systems. In the worst-case scenario, the attacker may even blackmail you that they’ll disclose your data if you fail to pay them.
Usually, ransomware finds its way into your system through a phishing email link. Once you open the link or download the email attachment, the malware is activated, and it takes over your entire business’s systems. It can also find its way into your system unpatched software or devices.
The ransomware can manifest itself in two main forms; crypto-ransomware or locker ransomware. As the name suggests, crypto-ransomware encrypts your data or files that can only be decrypted by paying for a decryption key. On the other hand, Locker ransomware doesn’t encrypt files but locks out victims out of their own devices or network. Once you pay the attackers, they’ll unlock your device.
Impacts of ransomware on small businesses
The cost of ransomware attacks on small businesses goes well beyond monetary losses. If left undetected, ransomware can lead to:
The first thing that happens once you’re attacked by ransomware is that your business operations will be disrupted as the malware prevents you from accessing your business’s systems and data, meaning you’ll experience system downtime. Think of your business’s vital process that immediately comes to a halt—the resultant inconvenience not just to you but also to your customers. Eventually, you make more losses in terms of money as your operations are shut down, and your customers may even lose confidence in your business.
Downtime due to ransomware attacks can also result in decreased productivity as your staff cannot work when the systems are locked.
The financial cost to restore the network
Besides making losses from system downtime, your business will also incur more losses as you try to recover your system. The recovery strategy can be time-consuming and often expensive for small businesses operating on a budget. The worst thing is that it’s not guaranteed that you’ll recover all your data or complete access to your systems. In some cases, you’ll have to consider the acceptable amount of data that can be lost and how widely the malware has spread into your systems. If it’s too severe, you’ll have to lose a certain amount of data and even invest in a new system altogether.
In highly regulated industries such as finance and healthcare, consumers are protected by law from personal data loss. This means in the event of a ransomware attack resulting in loss of data; an organization could face hefty fines for non-compliance. Even if your business isn’t based in any of these industries, clients can take a class action suit if a ransomware attack causes a data breach.
Building a brand and establishing your authority as a business leader in your field of work takes time. However, all your efforts can go down the drain if your business falls victim to a ransomware attack. Unfortunately, even if you successfully recover your data and regain access to your systems, your brand’s image will be already tainted. Customers will shy away from doing business with you as they fear their data is not safe in your hands.
Protecting your business from ransomware attacks
Fortunately, it’s easy to safeguard your business from ransomware by adopting the following preventive measures:
Train your employees
Employees’ negligence is the leading cause of cyber-attacks in businesses. As such, your first line of defense against ransomware is to train and educate your employees on safe practices. You can start by teaching them about phishing emails, which is the most common way criminals deploy ransomware attacks. Caution your employees against opening unsecured websites and emails that they suspect the sender. Moreover, encourage your employees to use strong passwords on their devices. Weak passwords are a gateway for cybercriminals to launch ransomware attacks.
Invest in the right cybersecurity solutions
Investing in reputable cybersecurity solutions not only protects your business from attacks but also alerts you in time before an attack causes damage. Therefore, be sure to consult a professional cybersecurity expert to help you choose the right solution for your business.
Create a data backup and recovery strategy
It’s impossible to anticipate a ransomware attack. As such, you ought to regularly backup your data to avoid losses in case of an attack. Ideally, you should back up your data to the cloud to ensure you still have access even during an attack. It is also advisable to create offline data backups away from your in-house systems.
Keep your systems up-to-date
Cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities in network systems to launch ransomware attacks. However, updating your system closes these security gaps before criminals can exploit them. Moreover, updated systems often come with improved security that improves your defense. In most cases, software vendors offer automated updates, so it’s best that you turn-on auto-updates on your systems to have the latest security patches once they’re released.
Outsource your cybersecurity operations
Outsourcing your cybersecurity operations to a reputable security expert ensures that your systems are regularly monitored to detect any threats before the damage is done. Even though you may have an in-house IT team, a third-party cybersecurity expert helps relieve your in-house team of system security responsibilities, freeing them to concentrate on other essential IT roles. Outsourcing your cybersecurity operations to an expert allows you to leverage their vast experience and knowledge.
Don’t become a victim
You aren’t immune to ransomware attacks. Therefore, you should adopt preventive measures to safeguard your business and avoid losses. Contact us today to work with cybersecurity experts.