A person is using a laptop that has a cybersecurity icon superimposed over the image.

Getting Ahead in Business: Stopping Ransomware Before It Stops You

Even for small businesses, ransomware presents a genuine threat. According to an IBM study cited in Advisor Magazine, ransomware has impacted an alarming 30 percent of small businesses.

Preventing your data from being encrypted until a ransom is paid is critical to protecting your business from setbacks. These include financial loss, reputation damage, and long-term harm to your brand.

We look at how you can keep your enterprise safe and how to handle a ransomware attack when it already appears too late.

Why Do Ransomware Attacks Happen?

Ransomware is tailor-made for a business world that relies on network connectivity and email. It could be the perfect crime for the 21st century in many regards.

Here's why:

• Unlike traditional theft, there are no locked doors or security cameras to deter attackers.

 • The only tools an attacker needs are a computer and an internet connection.

 • Locating potential targets is as easy as Googling a business and finding contact information.

 • Businesses that do fall for ransomware attacks often become repeat targets.

What's more, many businesses have no alternative but to pay up to the cybercriminals' demands. According to Cloudwards, over 30 percent of those targeted pay the ransom, further emboldening attackers.

Ransomware attacks aren't going away. But that doesn't mean you can't defend yourself. So, how can you go about it?

Preventing An Attack Is The Best Solution

If you can stop a ransomware attack from happening in the first place, you can save yourself a significant amount of heartache, time, and money. The same Cloudwards report shows that ransomware cost the world a record $20 billion in 2021, a number that's only expected to rise.

What can you do to stop ransomware attacks from bringing your business to a standstill?

• Make phishing awareness a priority for your business. Nearly all ransomware attacks begin with phishing emails.

 • Your employees are your first line of defense; train them how to identify and report phishing emails. A simple web search for phishing awareness training provides many resources, including KnowBe4Ninjio, and Mimecast.

• Consider firms that allow you to run phishing simulations to determine which employees are susceptible to clicking and enabling a ransomware attack.

• If you can't devote time to implementing an information security program yourself, assign the role to IT or someone capable.

It pays to remember that you're only as strong as your weakest link with ransomware. But even with thorough training, ransomware attacks still can happen. So, what if someone does click on a phishing email and a ransomware attack ensues?

The Attack Was Successful – What Now?

A savvy, well-trained workforce can still fall prey to ransomware. Attackers are becoming increasingly creative in creating convincing phishing emails, even baiting high-level employees with bogus online profiles and offers that appeal to the ego.

Here's what to do if your business succumbs to a successful ransomware attack:

• Remain calm, but remember that urgency is critical.

 • Alert your IT team immediately so they can act quickly to prevent network-wide paralysis.

 • Don't give up or assume the problem will go away on its own.

 • If your data is safely backed up on another system, you can deny the ransom.

 • Notify customers and vendors if any of their account information was compromised.

 • If you must pay the ransom to reacquire your data, try to negotiate for a smaller amount.

If a ransomware attack does happen to you, don't let it pass without learning from it. Indeed, it can feel like an absolute business-breaker, but companies of all sizes have recovered and become stronger from the experience. Yours can, too.

A Two-Pronged Defense

Successfully defending your enterprise from ransomware requires a mix of both human and technological elements.

Training your employees to recognize phishing attempts is key to bolstering your first line of defense against attackers. Sometimes, this awareness alone can save you from the costs and disruption of ransomware.

But it shouldn't be your only line of defense. Keep your security software and systems updated and regularly back up your data. If someone does click, you'll be in a better position to deny the ransom and continue about your business.

And if you can prevent an attack or refrain from paying a ransom, attackers will leave your business alone and move on to easier targets.