What C-Level Executives Need to Know about Ransomware

With warnings about ransomware appearing more frequently in the news, what do you need to know to protect your company?


What Is Ransomware?


Ransomware is a kind of software that makes it possible for hackers to block access to your files and data, often by encrypting them. You are then required to pay a ransom, often in the form of Bitcoin, in order to regain access to your information.


What Kinds of Computers and Devices Are At Risk from Ransomware Attacks?


According to a PCWorld article on ransomware from this year, while computers running Windows are a major target, there are also applications targeting Android and attacks on Linux servers have recently been on the increase. Mobile devices such as smartphones can also be especially vulnerable, as users often download applications to them without carefully considering security risks.


What Methods Do Cyber Criminals Use to Infect Your Systems with Ransomware?


There are several methods, and these are not always technological in nature. One method is phishing, which involves tricking users into giving away information such as passwords, credit card details, and more. You may also have heard of spear phishing, which is a particular type of phishing. In spear phishing, hackers present users with apparently trustworthy requests for information.


Can You Rely on Law Enforcement to Get Your Data Back After a Ransomware Attack?


No. Most of the time, law enforcement can do very little to help you recover your data. Your best bet is to focus on prevention, keeping your security patches and updates current, having effective data backups, and having a well-tested recovery plan.


It’s important to remember that your backups should not be connected to your main system. If your backup is connected, the ransomware can block access to it too, leaving you with nothing. Many security experts recommend the 3-2-1 rule. This means you should have at least three copies of your data, have it stored in two different formats, and have at least one copy stored offline or off site.


If All Else Fails, Should You Pay a Ransom to Recover Your Data?


There are differing opinions on this, even among law enforcement officials. In some cases, such as hospitals who face the risk of harm or even death to their patients if they can’t quickly recover data, it might seem advisable to pay a ransom.


However, there is never a guarantee that cyber criminals will actually return access. And worse, knowing that a business has paid a ransom may make that business or others in the same industry tempting targets for future attacks.


Can You Count on Security Updates to Always Protect Your Company from Ransomware Attacks?


Unfortunately, no. Your company’s information will still be at risk from zeroday vulnerabilities. A zero-day vulnerability refers to a hole in security that is at first unknown to a software vendor. There is a period of time between the creation of an attack exploiting that hole in security, and the release of security updates by the software’s developers. During that period of time, your information can be attacked.


Promptly uploading security updates helps to minimize this risk, but ultimately your company will need to be prepared to recover from data backups if you have to bad luck to be attacked during the period of vulnerability.


Ransomware is constantly evolving, making it a difficult challenge for companies to protect against. This makes it especially important to do all that you can to minimize your company’s risk from attack.