Once upon a time, criminals actually had to walk out their doors and grab someone off the street in order to demand a ransom. Now, a cyber terrorist can effectively hold your entire business hostage with a few lines of computer code and demand a handsome payoff just to turn your computer system’s controls back over to you. Hospitals, whose inability to access patient records creates an immediate crisis, have become one favorite target of hackers and their ransom demands, but any business is potentially at risk. Here’s what you should know.
What is ransomware and how is it used?
Ransomware is a type of computer program that infects your system with coded commands that encrypt all of your files, preventing you from accessing them. It can infect your computer simply because you happen across a site that has the ransomware already on it and download a small file, a song, or an image, without realizing that the ransomware is attached. It’s so common that one antivirus firm reports that around 18 million people visit ransomware-infected sites in a single six-week period! It’s also something that can be downloaded via an email or inserted into your computer system after a hacker breaks through your online security system and defeats your password.
One the hacker has control of your system, you’re given a message that simply tells you that you have a limited amount of time to send a specific ransom to an overseas account. In some cases, victims have been able to rely on backup systems. In other cases, like that of Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Centre in L.A., the victims just paid up.
What can you do to prevent it and protect your company?
It doesn’t particularly matter if your business is big or small, the steps you need to take to protect yourself are essentially the same:
- Make sure that your data is backed up nightly. That way, you never stand to lose more than a day’s worth of data if you fall victim.
- Use up-to-date security software that performs “real time” threat assessments on your system.
- Invest in a cyber-security system that prevents keylogging malware from making copies of your corporate credentials.
- Keep your employees conscious of the risks of visiting file-sharing sites, which can be used to help spread various types of computer viruses and malware.
You also need to consider updating your insurance policies. Large companies often take out casualty insurance that includes ransom payments for their senior executives, but it’s time to update that way of thinking. It’s safer for someone to take your computer hostage from the safety of their own home than it is to take a live human hostage—so if your company hasn’t given a thought to insurance that covers such things, it’s time to talk to your agent. Visit http://www.dki-ins.com for more information.