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Security

The Growing Threat of Ransomware in 2016 and What You Can Do About It

By July 6, 2016 No Comments

Ransomware is not a new threat, but it’s getting a lot of attention lately. This is because of the increase in the amount and severity of attacks. More and more, hackers are targeting businesses, both small and large, government agencies, financial institutions, and the healthcare industry. This leaves corporations, agencies, and small businesses scrambling to find the best means of protection. Left vulnerable, victims of ransomware find themselves with few options. This is why prevention and protection is essential.

What is Ransomware?

Put simply, ransomware is extortion.

  • Hackers use email attachments and malicious links to infect computers and networks.
  • They encrypt files that block user access.
  • Following infection, the hackers demand a ransom in exchange for the restoration of file and system access.

Growing Trend

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cyber Division, rasnsomware attacks rose significantly in 2015. They predict the number of incidents will continue to increase throughout this year. The beginning of 2016 saw some heavy attacks, putting this cyber crime in headlines across the world.

The 2016 Data Breach Investigation Report puts Ransomware at the very top of the crimeware growth list.

Cyber thieves use third-party email services to send viruses in attachments that appear to be legitimate and from trusted senders. And while the majority of the infections still come from email attachments, clever hackers continue to expand their means of infection. They are consistently evolving and learning to circumvent their potential obstacles. More and more, they are implanting malware into websites and relying on end users' lack of updates, software vulnerabilities, and thin security to infect computers and networks.

The recent targeting of large corporations, hospitals, and even law enforcement agencies is proving lucrative for hackers. The reason is that these victims rely heavily on their files and operating systems to run their businesses, keep information secure, and keep people safe. When attacked, they can fight, but they are often unprepared. The risk of data leakage and operational failure increases with each day. Often, they are left with two choices: lose everything and start from scratch, or pay up.

One example of this is the high-profile attack of a Los Angeles hospital in February of this year. Hackers held their files and operating system hostage. This put patient health and safety at stake as well as risked a breach of patient privacy. The infected hospital ended up paying $17,000 after a three-week standoff.

Around the same time, hackers attacked two German hospitals. Fortunately, the preventative measures in place at these facilities resulted in a less satisfying outcome for the cyber criminals.

Prevention

The key to preventing and defending against attacks is a combination of education, attention, and security.

  • Staff education is essential in every business and organization. Inform employees of the seriousness of threats and the potential repercussions, including data loss, privacy breach, decrease in production and operation, and financial distress.
  • Inform employees of where to look for threats. They should be careful of email attachments and avoid untrustworthy sites. Consider blocking access to certain websites.
  • Having an up to date, quality antivirus installed is also important. Near constant monitoring is essential in prevention of attacks.
  • File and system backups are absolute musts. Off-site backups ensure your critical files are safe and accessible. This essentially eliminates the leverage hackers have on a business or organization.

Ransomware is a serious, ever-evolving threat. Cyber thieves are becoming braver than ever and setting their sights less on individuals and more on businesses and organizations. The known risk to businesses and their clients, along with few available options once attacked, often means the hackers win. Because of this, it has never been more important to take all possible measures to defend against and prevent ransomware attacks.

For more information about the threat of ransomware, and what you can do to protect your business, please contact us.


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