Cyberattacks pose a considerable threat to every business worldwide. No matter the size of your business, there are plenty of hackers who want to cause disruption and defraud you of your hard-earned income.

While these attacks can take many forms, ransomware has become one of the most common (and devastating) attack methods in recent years. Not only can these attacks cost billions of dollars worldwide, but they can also cripple entire industries in one fell swoop.

Unfortunately, because the cybersecurity world is always so fast-paced, many businesses are unaware of how to avoid becoming victims of these ransomware attacks.

This article will explore ransomware and tell you everything you need to know to defend yourself. You’ll learn how big a problem it has become and discover simple ways to protect yourself against threats.


What is ransomware—and why is it a significant threat?

Ransomware is any malicious software designed to block access or encrypt data, files, software, or entire systems until a fee is paid. Hackers may threaten to delete or leak files to the public to pressure businesses into paying them.

It is fast becoming one of the most costly types of cyberattacks worldwide. A record-breaking $1.1 billion in ransomware payments were made in 2023 alone. Couple this with the fact that cryptocurrency payments are difficult to monitor, and this figure could be even higher.

Worst of all, even if a business pays the ransom, the hackers are not guaranteed to back off. Successfully extorting you for money could incentivize them to keep a watchful eye on you. A survey of over 1,000 IT professionals dealing with data breaches found that 78% were attacked again despite paying the initial ransom.

And even when paid, the trauma is not over yet, as reputational damage can be equally as threatening. Once a breach becomes public knowledge, customers may lose confidence in your ability to handle their data and take their business elsewhere.

How do you protect your business against ransomware?

As scary as ransomware can be, a company can defend itself in many ways. Below are four practical tips and tools for businesses of all sizes:

  • Review user permissions

Hackers only need a single entry point to launch a ransomware attack. This usually occurs when an employee clicks on or downloads a malicious file. To mitigate this risk, it is paramount that you restrict employee access and permissions to only the work they need.

Businesses should limit the ability to access and download files, as well as the ability to install software. Once an employee finishes working on a project or piece of data, revoking their access is a surefire way of protecting the integrity of the work.

Rigid access levels mean that if a hacker compromises an account, they cannot travel throughout your business and spread ransomware as quickly.

  • Use cybersecurity tools to protect your online activity

As elaborate as ransomware may seem, there are many different cybersecurity tools that businesses can use to cover all the bases. One of the most effective is a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

A VPN establishes a secure and encrypted connection between your device and a server. Data sent and received by work devices is scrambled. This prevents an outside person from being able to monitor your activity and spy on your screens.

Even when working remotely, a VPN ensures an employee can access sensitive business files and systems without compromising cybersecurity. Your service provider can assign you different types of IP addresses that, like user permissions, can be used to grant access to work files.

Moreover, many VPNs have built-in security tools, like ad and malware blockers, that can help bolster your overall cybersecurity and prevent common entry routes for ransomware.

  • Provide regular staff training around ransomware

In the cybersecurity world, knowledge is power. Ensuring all employees are up to speed on the latest ransomware threats is critical to avoiding attacks and minimizing the extent of any infection.

Training employees will give them the confidence to do their everyday work with total peace of mind. Important learning topics to focus on include how to:

  • Set unique passwords on work and personal accounts
  • Turn on multi-factor authentication on accounts
  • Verify official, trusted websites and vendors for software
  • Avoid using personal devices, such as USB sticks, at work
  • Perform regular scans on all devices for viruses
  • Avoid clicking on URLs or suspicious attachments from unknown senders
  • Protect physical security, including never leaving devices unattended

Additionally, businesses should create an incident response plan that employees are well informed about and understand. This plan should define everyone’s role during a suspected ransomware attack.

You might also consider running simulated cyberattacks (also known as penetration tests) so employees can practice their skills and identify gaps in their learning.

  • Create regular backups of your business data

Ransomware thrives on disruption, locking you out of your business indefinitely. In many instances, companies are unaware of the extent of the breach until they eventually regain control of their systems.

One way to mitigate damage and be able to diagnose the extent of a leak is by creating regular backups of all your data. This means you can still access critical information during a ransomware attack and evaluate what information could be leaked.

Depending on how recent your backup is, you may be able to recover your files relatively quickly. That said, isolating backups from the rest of your IT systems is essential, as hackers will try to target these during a cyberattack.


Some final tips

There’s no mistaking ransomware as one of the most dangerous threats facing businesses worldwide. Recovering your work can cost a small fortune, and the reputational damage you suffer can be permanent.

Despite the threat, it’s important to remember there are many ways you can defend yourself. As this article has shown, you can avoid future attacks by improving security awareness, using cybersecurity tools like a VPN, and creating regular backups of your sensitive business files.

Ultimately, preparation and prevention are key to safeguarding your business against this ever-evolving threat.

By adnan

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