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What Startups Need To Know About Ransomware

  • The primary thing that startups should know about ransomware is that it will be present forever, and any organization can fall prey to it.
  • It is injected by two main pathways – emails and system vulnerability.
  • The apparent reason behind a ransomware attack is the extortion of money.

Did the IRS ever send an email asking you to click on a link or open an attached file? In this digital era, it is advised to be cautious of every step you take on the internet, and startups should be doubly cautious when they encounter such emails.

This is because they do not have a high-end security system, and ransomware attacks result in massive losses. According to a study, 22% of small businesses fail to recover from a ransomware attack.

Here is some vital information about ransomware that startups and small businesses should be aware of.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is malicious software that enters your computer/network and encrypts your files, preventing you from accessing the data you own. It is done to demand a ransom (usually money) from the victim to return the access. The ransom usually varies from a few hundred dollars to thousands and is paid in cryptocurrency (mostly bitcoin).

Two main entry points:

  1. Email – You or any of your employees may receive an email that asks to download an attachment or click on a link. The sender usually imitates a trusted or reputed organization (like the IRS) so that the receiver is quickly convinced and performs the desired action.
  2. System Vulnerability – Attackers identify a vulnerable system/network and send a malicious packet by entering the local network or through the internet.

What Happens When a Ransomware Attack Occurs?

Imagine this scenario- you enter your office one day and find that all the computers are locked. Your data backup is also not accessible. A message displays to pay a certain amount of money to unlock the systems and the data. You have two options here – pay the ransom or do not. Even if you pay the ransom, there is no guarantee that the hackers will release your data.

The Motive

The main motive behind any ransomware attack is money. Startups do not have the resources to crack the encryption code and end up paying the ransom in most cases. However, it is seen that some ransomware attacks have a personal motive behind them.

There have been scenarios where companies have been unjust to individuals or groups of individuals and then become a target of a ransomware attack.

Sometimes, your competitors can also attack your startup to slow down your growth.

How To Prevent Ransomware Attacks?

There is no fool-proof method to protect your business from a ransomware attack. However, there are specific steps you can take.

  1. Educate your employees – Your employees are the first and best line of defense to counter a ransomware attack. If they are aware of the common ways malware can enter your system, it can considerably reduce the chances of your business getting hit. Educate your employees about the best practices, warning signs, and actions when encountering a suspicious situation. You can deploy a robust security system paired with employee education to create a strong wall of defense against such attacks.
  2. Migrate to the cloud – If you decide to host your business applications and data on the cloud, it gives you an edge to counter ransomware attacks. Reputed hosting providers offer multiple security layers like data encryption, use of the latest firewalls, and have a team of experienced cybersecurity experts to monitor any suspicious activity. Besides offering security features, hosting providers also create multiple regular backups of your data so that your access to it is never restricted.
  3. Be cautious of email links – If an email contains attachments or has links, it is best not to click on them. It is advised to click on them only if you’re sure they’re from a legitimate source. For instance, try hovering over a link (do not click on it) in the email, and it will display the actual URL; if it differs from the original link, it is a suspicious activity.
  4. Ensure that your antivirus is updated – Antivirus should always be updated, but this is where startups and small businesses neglect cybersecurity. They are either too casual about it or forget to update the antivirus. The latest antivirus software offers malware protection as well and tries to spot suspicious activity in your data (if any).
  5. Understand from where your network can be accessed – Your PCs and servers are not the only devices connected to your network. Thanks to IoT (internet of things) and smartphones, there can be hundreds of devices connected to your office network. The more the devices, the greater is the risk – try limiting the access to your office network and deploy every possible security measure to the connected devices.

Conclusion

Any startup can fall victim to a ransomware attack because as long as there is the internet, such attacks will keep on happening. All we can do is be prepared to fight this ‘epidemic.’

Bonus tip – do not plug in any USB drive you found in the street in any device. It’s obvious, but still, we thought of mentioning it.

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Written by Bhavleen Kaur

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