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Guide

What is Ransomware and How to Protect Your Data

Ransomware can be harmful for your company's sensitive data. Read on to find out how to protect your data from Ransomware.

What would you do if all of your company’s computers were frozen and you couldn’t access any of your business information unless you paid a ransom to a computer hacker? Unfortunately, many businesses are facing this exact dilemma due to an evolving type of cybersecurity attack referred to as ransomware.
 
Here’s how it works: Computer hackers infiltrate one or more of a company’s computers by sending phishing emails to employees containing attachments with malware. When employees open the attachments, the hackers can encrypt everything on the computer — essentially locking up the computer and telling the user it won’t be unlocked until the business pays a ransom. 
 

A Broader View

 
Guarding against ransomware viruses require business owners to take a different view on cybercrime, says Cadence Bank Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer Tom Clark. “IT security teams usually focus on protecting sensitive corporate or customer data, like customers’ payment card information, because this is what most hackers want to steal,” he says. 
 
“But ransomware is designed to freeze and potentially destroy all the information on your computers and servers,” Clark explains. “It’s a much bigger threat that requires you to view data protection from a much broader perspective. You have to build defenses not just around some of your data, but around all of your data.”
 
Most ransomware attacks today are originating from countries outside the U.S., such as China, Russia and the Ukraine. Therefore, it can be difficult for domestic law enforcement officials to combat the problem. Small and mid-sized businesses tend to be attractive ransomware targets for cyberthieves because such businesses often don’t protect their computers and IT systems as well as large corporations do. 
 
The different variations of ransomware viruses — such as CDT-Locker and CryptoWall — also make defending against this type of cybersecurity attack challenging. According to the Internet Crime Complaints Center, 250,000 computers in the U.S. were infected by the CryptoWall virus during one recent year, costing victims more than $18 million in paid ransoms.
 

Freezing Your Data

 
In a typical ransomware attack, a pop-up window will appear on an infected computer’s screen telling the user that a fine must be paid in order for the computer to be unfrozen and the data released. Cyberthieves usually require that these “fines” or ransoms — which typically range from several hundred to several thousand dollars — be paid in Bitcoin to make the payment harder to trace. The cyberthieves then threaten to destroy all the data on the computer or network if the ransom isn’t paid.
 
“Many businesses are victims of ransomware attacks because it’s so easy for cyberthieves to initiate them,” says Clark. “The best defense against ransomware is to conduct daily backups of all the data on your computers and servers to an off-site storage device that isn’t connected to your network.” Clark explains that once a virus gets into one networked computer, it can infect all the computers on the network. “So if you’re backing up to the network this won’t help you in a ransomware attack,” he says.
 
Employee education is also critical to defending against ransomware attacks, since malicious viruses are usually downloaded onto company computers via phishing emails targeted to employees. “Business owners and IT security personnel should continually and consistently remind employees to never download attachments or click on links within suspicious emails,” says Clark. “If ever in doubt, employees should ask a supervisor or IT specialist about such emails.”
 
Also be sure to keep all of your office software systems up to date, since outdated versions of software programs tend to be more vulnerable to ransomware viruses. And, of course, you should make sure that all computers have the latest versions of anti-virus software installed and keep this software up to date at all times.
 

A Difficult Dilemma

If your business is the victim of a ransomware attack and you haven’t properly backed up your data, you face a difficult dilemma: Pay the ransom or risk losing all of your corporate data. 
 
However, there’s no guarantee your data will be released even if you pay the ransom. That’s why it’s critical to be proactive in taking steps like these now to prevent a ransomware attack — before you suffer irreparable damage.
 
Contact a Cadence Bank Treasury Management officer to discuss ways to protect your business from fraud. 
 
For more information on fraud and effective ways to reduce the risks, read our e-book “How to Minimize the Risks of Fraud.”
 
You may also be interested in visiting our Business Fraud Center.
 
 

 


This article is provided as a free service to you and is for general informational purposes only. Cadence Bank makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of the content in the article. The article is not intended to provide legal, accounting or tax advice and should not be relied upon for such purposes.


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