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How Does Ransomware Work and Spread?

How Does Ransomware Work and Spread?

This entry was posted on by Michael Benadiba.
Laptop screen with lock on it

One of the greatest threats that businesses face today is cyber extortion, otherwise known as Ransomware. Having grown into a billion dollar industry, in 2017, Ransomware was responsible for infecting over 4,000 businesses worldwide – every single day.

Because Ransomware is so effective, it continues to grow at a rapid pace. It is important to understand how Ransomware works and spreads so that you can take the appropriate steps to protect your business. Below, you will learn the critical facts you need to know regarding Ransomware.

Ransomware 101

Ransomware is a malware that is used to infect a computer and lock and encrypt the files. The criminals running the Ransomware scam will demand that their victims pay a ‘ransom’ in order for their files to be decrypted. If the ransom isn’t paid, files will remain locked.

Ransomware is often spread via social engineering or email attacks, where the end user has been fooled into clicking on an infected link or opening an attachment containing malware. Once it has accessed the end user’s device, it will encrypt all files stored on the computer.

Another major concern for businesses is that once a single computer is infected, it can quickly spread to other devices connected to the same network. These can lead to mass infections, multiple workstations rendered useless and a significant amount of essential data comprised.

The Financial Impact

Ransomware attacks are devastating for businesses as critical data can be blocked. Typically, ransom amounts can start at $500 and will drastically increase if not paid by the deadline.

In some circumstances, Ransomware criminals may threaten to publicly expose victims’ files and data or give a deadline to pay the ransom before the data is deleted permanently. To avoid a payment trail, the ransom amount is often demanded to be paid in an untraceable crypto currency like Bitcoin. Once the victim has paid the ransom amount, the hackers sent a decryption key for the victim to restore access to their files.

The cost of Ransomware is staggering. Criminals are well-aware that the larger the disruption a business faces, the more likely that they will receive their ransom payment.

If a business is caught off guard and does not have an up to date and adequately managed backup or security system in place, they have little choice other than to pay the fine. Once multiple devices are infected and a business has been brought to stand still, fines can easily reach $10,000 and more. In fact, in 2017, the largest ransom paid in Canada was a whopping $425,000.

Protecting Your Business

As Ransomware often is able to penetrate anti-virus software, it is essential to understand how to prevent and protect your business as well as know how to recover from an attack.

To help prevent Ransomware attacks:

  • Train staff on how to detect suspicious links and not to click on emails or links from unknown or untrusted sources.
  • Stop using any older operating systems that are no longer supported by Microsoft, such as Windows XP.
  • In addition to having current systems, ensure that all new security updates are in place. Sign up for Microsoft security patch notifications and take action immediately.

To help protect against Ransomware attacks:

In addition to having a firewall, run an enterprise and next-generation antivirus software. Enterprise solutions can help isolate and block Ransomware from spreading through a network and infecting multiple computers should it get past your antivirus or firewall defense.

If your business is attacked by Ransomware, having an effective backup solution in place is your strongest chance of quickly being able to recover. Choose a solution that runs high-frequency back-ups and that will be able to restore your system to the closest point before infection as possible. Losing a few minutes or an hour of data, while painful, your business will be able to resume operations almost immediately. On the other hand, if your latest back-up is weeks or months old, you may be faced with a lengthy downtime.

Now that you know how Ransomware works and spreads, make sure that you take the necessary steps to ensure that your business isn’t vulnerable. To get started, schedule a free cyber security assessment with us today.

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Michael Benadiba
Michael Benadiba
CTO & Cloud Expert
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