Steps to protect your business from ransomware and cybersecurity threats

March 2022

Remote work, new digital apps, and cloud services have progressively changed how we live and work. These digital improvements improve our day-to-day workflow, but they also bring new cybersecurity challenges. No, we’re not just talking computer viruses, but about a new threat that is getting bigger and bigger as we progressively improve small business digital operations: Ransomware. 

According to Atlas VPN, 31% of US companies close down after falling victims to ransomware. So, protecting your small business from ransomware has never been more critical. Keep reading to get more insight on the five top cybersecurity practices you can incorporate today! 

Ransomware defined

What exactly is ransomware? It’s a type of malware designed to deny users or organizations access to their computers or networks files. The ransomware encrypts this data, and the only way that users can get it back is by paying a large sum of cash! In simpler terms, these malware systems kidnap your data and make you pay a hefty bribe to get it back. No, this isn’t a detective movie. This is real life. Well, digital life!

Ransomware doesn’t just impact large corporations. According to the Department of Homeland Security, these types of digital predators are increasingly targeting smaller merchants. Not only have these attacks gone up almost 300% over the last year, but approximately 50% to 75% of ransomware victims are small businesses. 

Through phishing or social engineering tactics, small businesses can accidentally allow ransomware into their digital devices. An example of phishing is when you or other company members receive an email from an acquaintance or provider with an infected attached file (such as a PDF or external link). Once somebody opens this email or clicks on the link, the ransomware starts to encrypt files located in the network or hard drive and paralyze company operations, no matter how big or small they are. 

The best protection from ransomware

Yes. Losing access to your files is a nightmare. It means losing vital information like financial records, monthly Cash Flow Statements, or accounting balances, the pillars that can keep a business running and financially healthy.

Sadly, many small businesses have already had to go through this digital nightmare on their way to success. According to The Global State of Industrial Cybersecurity report, overall, 80% of companies worldwide were attacked by ransomware during 2011.

Don’t sweat it. We have good news. There are plenty of new defense cybersecurity practices you can use to protect yourself. So read on and learn how to invest and prevent! 

Five steps to fight ransomware and protect your business

1. Prevent ransomware from accessing your business devices

There are many preventive measures to avoid allowing ransomware into your small business devices. A suitable defense mechanism is using whitelisting software to only allow specific programs on your company’s computers. For example, you could get in contact with an IT professional and set admin privileges only for a few members of your staff. To do this, your IT staff could compile a list of applications with certified access, limiting users only to get access to a limited set of functionalities. This process can prevent users from installing malware into the company’s devices by mistake. 

Also, most ransomware attacks are delivered through phishing. A big phishing tactic is gathering information through social media. To prevent social media phishing attacks, consolidate a social media policy that limits the information that employees can publish about your business. Finally, another essential prevention tactic against malware is not opening emails from the spam folder or emails with unknown recipients. 

2. Educate yourself and your employees on safe cybersecurity practices

As a business owner, you can establish many rules and company policies, but your staff must be prepared to follow them correctly. Therefore, training your team to improve their digital security is the most crucial defense mechanism you can incorporate within your organization.

Establish cyber security awareness campaigns that stress the importance of not clicking on suspicious links and unknown email attachments. Educate your employees about what ransomware is, how it can infect their computers, and what prevention measures they can take to care of their devices.

3. Back up your business data on all your devices

Always backup all your information! This is the only way to recover files if a ransomware attack finds a breach and infects your systems. Remember that once your files are encrypted, there is no going back. This means paying an unfair price or losing all your data. When you back up your data, the only thing you have to do if you get attacked by malware is delete the infected files and recover the good ones.

When it comes to backing up your data, there is a big catch. Some ransomware can infect other drives too. So after your backup, don’t forget to remove the drive (if it’s an external physical drive). Also, look for a plan B like a cloud service to give you double the chances to recover your files after this type of cyberattack. 

Yes. This might sound exhausting, backing up all of those gigabytes in two different formats (physical and online), but if your business is at stake, then you should take every possible precaution. First, talk to your data backup provider to find out the best options for you and your business. 

4. Invest in cybersecurity software for your business

Some antivirus tools and security suites foil ransomware attacks by denying unauthorized access to shared locations or folders, like “Documents” or “Desktop.” The software acts as an alarm; whenever they detect an unknown program trying to access these folders, you’ll receive an alert or notification. Ensure that antivirus and anti-ransomware programs are installed and updated on all of your business devices. 

Many software options in the market can get the job done. Here are some of the most renowned free and paid versions:

•  Avast

•  Total AV

•  Kaspersky

•  MalwareBytes

•  Panda

5. Hire or contract a security professional to audit your devices

An IT risk assessment, a vulnerability scan, and penetration testing all provide essential checks on your current cybersecurity posture and point to critical remediations you need to make.

Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent or stop ransomware attacks completely, and some of them may find a way through your defenses if you left a preventive measure unattended. At this point and as the last shot, some companies may offer you a chance to recover some of the files. But don’t expect that this will get the job done. Once a file is encrypted, the only way you have a chance to get your data back is by paying the ransomware bribe. This is also tricky because nobody will guarantee you access to the files- even after you’ve paid. 

So, before it’s too late, improve your malware security mechanisms! Do you need funds to get the job done? One Park Financial works to help owners of small and mid-sized businesses access the funding that meets their needs. If you’re looking to access small business funding faster, this might be an option for you.

Get pre-qualified in only minutes and access a funding expert to discuss your business needs and options to determine what funding types best meet your needs. Remember, when you invest in digital security, you invest in your business growth.