Many IT executives perceive ransomware as the top threat among all other organizational risks. So, what is the state of ransomware and is it worthy of the headlines and buzz?

What is ransomware and why is it increasingly problematic?

Ransomware is malicious software that encrypts documents on a single machine or across an entire network, making targeted information inaccessible. Rather than silently breaking into systems to avoid detection, ransomware hackers openly take credit for their attacks and hold company — and oftentimes client — data hostage until they receive specified payments. Even after business executives pay, there are no guarantees hackers will release the data.

Attackers employ one of several methods to exploit security weakness and gain access to a computer or network. The most common tactic is phishing spam; hackers send infected file attachments or links. Hackers can also trick employees with social engineering tools, getting them to unknowingly provide administrative access to malicious outsiders. Once an employee downloads the ransomware, hackers gain control of targeted data and files then follow up with payment instructions. When paying the ransom, victims are essentially paying for a decryption key so they can regain their cryptographically locked data.

What is the current state of ransomware?

Ransomware has been around since the late 1980s. However, it’s seems to be the recent attack method of choice. With an abundance of data and IoT devices storing most of it, hackers are taking advantage of an interconnected world. Global annual cybercrime costs could reach $6 trillion by 2021 — with ransomware payments nearing $1 billion every year. No wonder there’s cause for concern. Highly targeted industries include health care, finance, manufacturing, as well as the public sector. Health care executives alone will likely spend a cumulative total of more than $65 billion on cybersecurity between last year and 2021. How can executives better protect their businesses?

How can business executives mitigate ransomware vulnerabilities?

Executives must first understand the risks and then take proactive measures to mitigate vulnerabilities. The human factor remains a huge point of weakness. Organizations “are nearly three times more likely to get breached by social attacks than via actual vulnerabilities, emphasizing the need for ongoing employee cybersecurity education.”

While prioritizing employee education is key, executives should also consider additional safeguards:

  • Use a multi-layered security approach for better end-to-end data protection and access control. It’s best to reduce the odds these malicious emails ever make it to your employees’ inboxes.
  • Employ a sophisticated backup solution: It could be the difference between simply restoring ransomware-infected files and paying off attackers in hopes to regain data access.
  • Assess your risks: Work to identify vulnerabilities and address weaknesses on an ongoing basis. Implementing security measures is not a set-it-and-forget-it endeavor.

Leveraging technology is imperative to conducting smart business today. However, the same connectivity that can streamline business operations can also plague them. Implementing strategic security measures and providing continuous education are the best defenses in the fight against ransomware.

Business executives who invest in cybersecurity have better chances to prevent cyberattacks from occurring or reduce damage when they do. If you’re looking for a cybersecurity partner to help reduce risks in your organization, contact the professionals at Synoptek at 888-796-6783.

About the Author

Synoptek is an established firm that provides information systems consulting and IT management services. Synoptek and its predecessors have been providing these services for 23 years.