The True Cost of Ransomware.

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Big cans of iced tea and cybersecurity don’t seem to have much in common but in March, Arizona Beverage Company employees were greeted with messages on over 200 servers and workstations that read, “Your network was hacked and encrypted.” A telltale sign of a security breach called ransomware. This leading purveyor of beverages worth $3 billion USD immediately shifted its day to day operations from producing refreshing drinks to rebuilding networks, analyzing the compromised devices, and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in recovery costs in order to get their business up and running again on new hardware. Ransomware is a type of cyber attack that renders the devices it takes over useless; the parties hacking into a particular system essentially encrypt all of the data, removing access from the victims until certain terms, often financial, have been reached. They are quite literally holding the data ransom. 

While we do sympathize for Arizona Beverage Company, this type of devastating breach is increasingly common and leaves companies with hacked and encrypted systems of operation.  Ransomware has long been an issue, but over the last few months, this gambit has increased and left many businesses forking over money to regain control of their networks. The list of companies harmed by ransomware continues to grow as the popularity and success of this hacker tactic snowballs out of control.  According to the findings from SentinelOne’s 2018 global ransomware study, roughly 56% of the businesses surveyed experienced a ransomware attack in the last 12 months and only 31% of those businesses reported that hackers were unsuccessful in encrypting files or accessing data. Simply put: the businesses were not prepared with cybersecurity protocols that could have prevented or mitigated the attack.

Ransomware attacks can be considered particularly vicious because they can come from multiple angles. Phishing emails (emails that look harmless but upon clicking on them, give the sender access to your email and computer network), using out of date software with unpatched security vulnerabilities, utilizing the drive-by-download tactic, or using a form of malware called a worm that clones itself to spread laterally across the network are all ways ransomware attacks can begin. While the U.S. government does not condone paying a ransom to these criminals, many companies do. To many victims there is no other way to continue business without the sensitive data or information that was ransomed. This allows hackers to not only succeed with ransomware tactics but it also creates a blueprint for success that other hackers can achieve as well. It’s no wonder that ransomware attacks are on the rise!

As it would seem with the Arizona Beverage Company, many businesses dismiss the need for cybersecurity until events like a ransomware attack compromises their systems and data. With the potential of hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in damage repairs, it is crucial to deploy a cyber security bulwark to avoid being attacked. As part of a comprehensive cybersecurity plan created and monitored by professionals, here are a few education pieces to get you familiar with how to protect your business.

Heed the warnings:  Two weeks before the attack on Arizona Beverage Company, the FBI reached out to warn of a specific infection that was likely to impact the company. They did not take the FBI’s advice and in the end, it was a costly mistake. However, it is incredibly rare to be warned about an attack before they happen and businesses shouldn’t expect an invitation to the ransomware party delivered with a bow. Know the risk exists and take steps to prepare yourself before it’s at your proverbial front door. You don’t put on your seatbelt as the car is crashing, you put it on in advance to prevent harm in case there is a crash. Learning how to identify the camouflaged threats heightens the chance of stopping the hackers before they are in your systems. 

Educate yourself: You can’t protect yourself until you understand how ransomware might interfere with your systems. As we explained earlier, ransomware is a type of malware deployed by cybercriminals that prey on technical and human flaws in an attempt to deny access to system controls and important data. Educating yourself helps you identify areas of concern, implement safeguards for those areas, and establish a disaster recovery plan in the event of a ransomware ambush.

Educate employees: Did you know that 69% of ransomware attacks occur when employees unwittingly engaged in a Phishing scheme via email or social media? Source: sentinelone The importance of educating employees is of paramount importance as it could literally prevent ransomware attack…and all of the stress and cost that comes with it. Prepare your employees to spot suspicious emails and other key signs so they will know how to respond quickly and correctly. Look for a cyber security company that includes employee training in their services- it’s the best way to ensure your people are prepared.

Invest in cyber security: Hackers are sneaky and will hack systems even if basic security skills are applied- they are sophisticated and stop at nothing to achieve their goal. It’s often said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and this rings true in all applications of cyber security. Opening your wallet now could save you millions later. It’s common for companies to seek help once an attack is upon them, hoping to recover all of the comprised data. The reality is that once hackers have stolen data and comprised software, the ability to recover is limited. Working with SOC2 certified cyber security professionals to create a security program is significantly less invasive and costly than the consequences of and subsequent recovery from ransomware attacks. 

Interested in learning how to limit your company’s risk of a ransomware event? Reach out to Cingo Solutions for a complimentary cyber evaluation and to take the crucial first steps to a comprehensive security solution.