Do the news headlines make you feel as though there is no stopping a hacker if they want to get to you? Are you left wondering what makes ransomware so effective against small business, and what you can possibly do to stay safe?
The truth is, if a high level, highly paid hacker wants to get into your business, they likely could, but they are too highly paid to come after your business. For the endless automated and lower-level small business ransomware attackers, there is plenty you can do to protect your business from ransomware.
Prevention is key with ransomware. The ongoing rise of these threats means better cyber security solutions are needed by most small business. If it has been a year since your last IT security review, book one today with a local small business IT consultant for personalized ransomware prevention strategies. Now, let’s talk about how it got started, what makes ransomware so effective, and how protect yourself.
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When ransomware first arose in 2013, there were only two ransomware families: Cryptolocker and Cryptowall.
In the first half of 2015, nine new ransomware families emerged, including CoinVault, TeslaCrypt, Cryptofortress, PClock, AlphaCrypt, El-Polocker, CoinVault 2.0, Locker and TOX.
In 2016 it continued to evolve with new variants with more sophisticated encryption and file destruction methods circulating.
Today there are countless ransomware variants.
2016 trends pointed to a possible new direction hackers would be moving towards - the data intensive business. This includes medical practices, hospitals, financial services and legal services industries. And in fact, they did.
Trends showed a growing number of attacks against hospitals and financial services firms over the last few years. Security analysts speculated on ransomware targets and suggest that these industries will be heavily targeted moving forward - but with automation, everyone is a target.
By targeting data intensive industries, digital criminals can maximize their ROI. The reasoning is that the data of a sensitive industries is worth more than say, the data of a creative design agency, or a window cleaning company. Thus, higher ransom fees would likely be paid for decryption keys.
Ransomware continues to rise and remains highly lucrative for hackers. These viruses continue to evolve and have been refined to the point where they are now completely automated and carried out through the dark web. Digital criminals collecting ransoms via cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin can't be tracked by law enforcement.
In the chart to the right, you can see how ransomware fees in Canada have increased in recent years.
Why is small business targeted by ransomware?
No one is too big or too small to be hacked. New hackers and new exploit kits are often tested randomly.
That said, small businesses are in fact being targeted because they are known to not invest in IT security and this makes them easier to breach. It is also well known that small business organizations generally do not have an in-house IT department or a full-time IT employee on staff, and so they tend to fall behind with server security updates and lack proper disaster recovery plans, so may be more likely to pay ransoms to get back to business.
Small business also tend not to invest in user security awareness and training. So not only are their overall network defenses weaker, their users may be more likely to click or enable viruses that come through email attachments and web pages.
Putting all the above factors together, it makes sense for a cyber criminal to create exploit kits that can automatically target small business servers, email accounts and domains. There is a high chance of a successful ransomware infection and ransom payment, and for the criminal, this equates to return on investment.
Why is ransomware so successful?
Ransomware remains a favourite among cyber criminals. There are many reasons it is so successful as an attack method.
Firstly, ransomware can run discreetly on your systems, without being noticed, locking and encrypting file and after, and promoting security permissions to the malware itself. This means attackers can bide their time and only demand ransom after most or all files are locked. Without a disaster recovery solution, a business may be motivated to pay the ransom to regain access to their files.
Secondly, the ransom is demanded in digital, difficult to trace currency such as BitCoin. Law enforcement can't track or prosecute offenders.
To promote faster payment of ransoms, some new ransomware strains have more advanced file destruction features built in.
For many business owners, it is not just the ransom fees that hurt them financially – it is the hours and days of downtime which also impact them financially. Wanting to avoid this pain, they often pay, which in turn bolsters the rewards for attackers, and the cycle continues.
Ultimately, ransomware is so successful because it is an effective means of extortion that can't be traced. You can learn about more about small business cyber crime security measures here.
How to protect small business from ransomware.
Business owners can prevent a large variety of automated cyber attacks with basic preventative measures. Learn more in our ransomware protection and prevention for small business post here.
No one expects a cyber attack -but they happen every day. More than ever, small business need comprehensive IT security and support services to protect data and keep their businesses running smoothly. If you don't already have an IT department or Managed IT Services Provider, now is the time to make some changes.
Toronto Cyber Security Consultants: TUCU in Toronto is a leading IT services company offering cyber security solutions for small and medium business. Our team at TUCU can set up data security, network perimeter security, zero trust security, robust backup and disaster recovery solutions to better protect your business. Please contact us to schedule your free consultation. We'd love to speak with you about your needs.