One-click on a suspicious email link or attachment could lead to your files being encrypted and a note from a cybercriminal demanding money to unlock them. With the right security strategy, you should never be in this predicament.

Cybersecurity attacks have taken on a whole new status within the past few years and companies and organizations one wouldn’t expect to be victimized (e.g., the Department of Defense, the IRS, Home Depot) have suffered significant data breaches.

Data security breaches occur in a variety of forms, but they typically transpire through one or more of the following attack surfaces:

Humans—Phishing emails trick 23% of recipients to open them and 11% of recipients to open attachments.


Devices
—In addition to the explosion in personal smartphone usage, this category includes billions of internet-enabled “things.”


Networks
—Whether it’s a local area network (LAN) or wireless LAN, the network is where intellectual property and other sensitive data resides making it a prime target.


Applications
—When applications move to the cloud, companies still have the burden to protect those apps, according to cloud providers’ “shared responsibility” model.

 

How Cybercriminals Turn Your Data into Money

Ransomware has become one of the largest threats that companies face.  A study by IBM Security found that ransomware accounted for around 40% of all spam messages in 2016, and last year we saw several high-profile attacks such as WannaCry and Petya which brought this issue into the public eye.

Ransomware has become a popular source of revenue for cybercriminals, netting attackers more than $1 billion a year. Once a successful attack occurs, the organization finds itself in a difficult situation. The data it needs to function is no longer available and the organization is left with a risk management decision: does it bow to the demands of the criminal, or try to recover itself, not knowing if it can or how long it will take? Although most would agree that paying a criminal is morally and ethically wrong, business leaders have to make a decision that’s in the best interest of their company.

An IBM survey showed that 70 percent of businesses infected with ransomware paid the ransom to regain access to their business data and systems. Half of these companies paid more than $10,000 and 20 percent paid more than $40,000. By heeding the following tips, companies will greatly reduce their chances of ever getting into this kind of predicament.

  1. Put strong technologies in place to prevent and detect threats. Email security, web security and endpoint security technologies help identify these threats and prevent them from penetrating the organization’s network.
  2. Educate your workforce. Ransomware is typically spread via infected email attachments or links. Staff need to understand threats of this type and resist the need to click links or attachments from unknown senders. Paying an IT security firm to conduct random simulated phishing attacks is a great way to identify employees most vulnerable to phishing messages and where to direct your training.
  3. Use a managed BDR (backup and disaster recovery). Although security solutions and training can prevent a lot of ransomware (and other malware) from getting on your network, inevitably something will get by your defenses. And when that happens, the last line of defense is your BDR system, which should include at least one copy that’s backed up offline to avoid the danger of your backup being encrypted during an attack.

 

In the age of ransomware, every organization needs to consider the cost of investing in cybersecurity, education and BDR as essential components to the cost of doing business. Just because you haven’t yet been victimized by an attack doesn’t mean it won’t happen tomorrow or in the near future. The last thing you want to do is play Russian Roulette with your company’s future and with your employees who are building their futures with you.

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