Protecting your business in the era of ransomware

In 2017, the NHS suffered a huge cyber-attack which became known as the WannaCry ransomware attack. Overnight, ransomware went from being a little-known cyber security issue to major headline news. But it’s possible that ransomware is something that we should have been aware of a long time before the well-documented NHS problems.

Statistics from 2016 showed that more than half of UK businesses had been targeted with a ransomware attack in the past year. This shows the ransomware is hardly a small issue if a majority of British businesses have been affected by it. So it is now vital that businesses across the country should take steps to protect themselves against these forms of attack. To understand how you can defend yourself against these attacks, you first need to understand the nature of the problem.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a form of cyber-attack that takes control of a computer or device and then locks the user out of the data by encrypting it. The data can only be re-accessed if you know the password – the virus will then ask for a payment (or ‘ransom’) in order to get the data back. Many forms of ransomware also involve some sort of time limit before the data is wiped, meaning that businesses and individuals are forced to act quickly rather than being able to get a cyber security expert to sort out the problem.

It is very easy to be panicked by ransomware and then complying with the demand simply to get back crucial data.

Why is it dangerous for your business?

Ransomware presents two major concerns for your business. The first is the most obvious – facing a choice between losing all of your key data and paying an extortionate ransom, there is simply no good option. For many small businesses, having to do either of these things would cause serious problems that could potentially end the company. Even if your business is robust enough to withstand the issues that the data loss would cause, it can still set you back enormously.

But it’s also worth being aware that new European regulations called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be enforced from May 2018 and these are much stricter on businesses losing their customers’ personal data. Fines for companies suffering data loss are set to rise enormously. So, the ransomware is not just a problem from the perspective of the attack, but also the legal consequences of not having the correct security measures in place.

Managed detection and response

Unfortunately many businesses aren’t yet committing themselves to the kind of security measures to keep data secure. There is still a lingering belief that it is fine to set up defences like a firewall and just leave these to do their work. But as cyber-attacks like ransomware become more sophisticated, you need to have security system that evolves to overcome them.

Companies need to look into more proactive forms of cyber-attack prevention such as managed detection and response (MDR). MDR has the ability to detect attacks like ransomware before they happen, and can move more quickly that standard security defences if you system is compromised. With cyber-security experts overseeing your defences, you’ll be in a much better position than simply hoping that an attack won’t occur.  

Training for your staff

Of course, beefing up your defences is a vital step in the process, but additionally you need to provide more information and training to staff. While tools like MDR can do wonders in terms of protecting you from attacks, it can do little if a member of the team accidentally downloads the malware onto a computer themselves.

This is not just an issue that concerns the IT department – anyone in your business who uses a computer with access to your system needs to be provided with high levels of training so that they don’t make elementary mistakes. These kinds of cyber scams become more sophisticated every day, so it pays to be aware of the dangers.  

Long term benefits

It’s vital that your business should act now. Paying for MDR and staff training might seem costly, but they will be far cheaper than the ransom you will have to pay to get key data unlocked, or the fines that will be imposed if you lose the data. Investing in your cyber security will see excellent long term benefits.

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