Ransomware is on the rise everywhere, not just in St. Louis. Ransomware can cost a small business tens of thousands of dollars—or even more! Let’s take a look at the proliferation of ransomware, and how your business can protect itself.
A small business’s data is one of its most valuable assets. When criminals launch a ransomware attack, they use malicious software to hold your data hostage. They claim they will give you access to your data in return for a “ransom” payment (although criminals aren’t exactly known for being true to their word).
One of the most common ways in which cyber criminals launch ransomware attacks is by sending phishing or spear-phishing emails. Employees download attachments or click links that look innocuous enough, but they end up inadvertently installing ransomware on their computers as a result. The ransomware then searches for user data to encrypt on the computer or on the network or cloud-based storage system. Once data is encrypted, you won’t be able to use it, and the bad guys send a message with instructions on how to render your files usable again—by paying a “ransom,” often in the form of bitcoins. Often sending money to the criminals provides no guarantee they will release your data.
According to the United States Department of Justice, more than 4,000 reported ransomware attacks occurred daily since January 2016. That is a 300 percent increase in just one year.1 At Anderson Technologies, we frequently hear about St. Louis ransomware attacks—both from local small businesses and reports in the media. Earlier this year, ransomware impacted all 17 branches of the public library in St. Louis. Ransomware rendered their computers unusable. Library management refused to pay the $35,000 ransom and worked with its IT staff to remove the virus and restore service.
Ransomware Makes the Bad Guys Big Money
The reason ransomware is on the rise comes down to economics. In 2015, the FBI reported approximately 327,000 robberies in the U.S., which accounted for an estimated $390 million in losses.
That same year, there were approximately 127,000 cyber attacks reported in the U.S., accounting for over $1 billion in losses. It’s no wonder criminals are turning to cyber crime. That’s a whole lot fewer attacks for a whole lot more money. Plus, currency like bitcoin makes it easier for criminals to carry out crimes since they can anonymously collect the ransom.
If you factor in downtime and the cost of recovering files, cyber crime actually costs companies approximately $75 billion each year.
Is Your Business Protected from Ransomware?
Ransomware is also on the rise because the bad guys are getting better at designing believable phishing and spear-phishing emails. Gone are the days of scams that are easily identifiable, ridden with typos and strange verbiage. Today, cyber criminals have gotten better at mimicking the language and graphical design of reputable companies, which improves their chances of someone clicking a harmful link or attachment.
For small businesses in St. Louis, cyber security protection is an intricate process. You need a multi-tiered approach that includes a firewall, intrusion protection system, internet content filtering, anti-virus and anti-malware software that runs in real-time and is updated regularly, and a thorough and tested approach to backing up your system files. You also need to educate your employees. Even if you are working together with a managed IT services provider to do “everything right,” it takes just one click from an unsuspecting employee to introduce an issue your prevention efforts will have to deal with.
Although your managed IT services partner can reduce the likelihood of an email containing ransomware hitting your employees’ inbox in the first place, malicious messages can still get through. Email providers like Google and Microsoft scan your messages and try to filter out ones that look suspicious, but criminals are working just as hard to update their tactics. The final layer of protection between a St. Louis business (or any business for that matter) and ransomware is employee education.
Just last month, a St. Louis small business called Anderson Technologies in distress. It had just fallen victim to a ransomware attack. Its previous IT services provider wasn’t able to restore its files, but Anderson Technologies experts managed to eradicate the malware and recover the compromised data!
Ransomware stories don’t always have such a happy ending. Indisputably, your best bet is to reduce your chances of coming into contact with ransomware in the first place. Anderson Technologies has a team of St. Louis cyber security and ransomware experts who can help protect your business. For more information on our St. Louis cyber security services, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 314.394.3001.
1 “How to Protect Your Networks from Ransomware” U.S. Justice Department. Retrieved on April 20, 2017 from https://www.justice.gov/criminal-ccips/file/872771/download