To pay or not to pay, that is the question. What’s more, it’s a dilemma that is becoming increasingly common as more businesses fall victim to a particularly nasty and destructive type of malicious cyber-attack in the form of ransomware.
What is it? Well, ransomware locks and encrypts files and only restores access once a sum of money has been paid to the hacker – typically in Bitcoin. It can infect entire systems, paralysing operations and bringing day-to-day processes to a complete standstill.
If companies cannot continue to function, it should come as no surprise that many organisations feel they have no choice but to pay up.
Despite warnings from the authorities not to negotiate with cyber-criminals, and that to do so only opens the doors to future attacks, they make the decision that’s it’s better to accept the hit.
Because a financial and reputational hit it certainly is.
Take the example of Riviera Beach, in Florida. It paid $600,000 (nearly £480,000) after a ransomware attack in June 2019.
Then, after computer systems were crippled for two weeks, this time it was the turn of Lake City, also in Florida. The town paid $500,000 (£394,000) to hackers because it was desperate to regain control of its infrastructure.
In the case of Eurofins, the UK’s largest provider of forensic services, although a ransom was paid, the final amount handed over has not yet been disclosed.
Limiting the threat of ransomware
Using antivirus software and firewalls can provide some level of protection… but it isn’t the whole picture.
Educating staff so that they are aware of the dangers of opening suspicious emails and how to browse the web safely is another important strategy.
Employees may unwittingly introduce viruses so it’s essential that they are onboard with keeping the organisation safe from cyber-crime. After all, it’s a team effort.
Meanwhile, making sure that your data is regularly backed up is often likened to a last line of defence.
Backups aren’t just useful in the event of a ransomware attack, either. Being able to restore your data safeguards against the potential for accidental deletion of files and physical incidents such as fire or server disruption.
How to cope with a ransomware attack
Having a plan in place so you know exactly what to do if you fall victim to a ransomware attack will help you to cope and survive if the worst was to happen.
There may be certain authorities that you will need to notify, and you’ll need to consider the impact on stakeholders and customers.
Access to a virus-free copy of your information through a backup – and the ability to rewind to a point in time of your choosing - is a way to wipe the slate clean and beat the criminals.
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