Let’s order takeout — Hold the ransomware

12 best practices for businesses to prevent cyberattacks

After a demanding week, on Friday you order lunch to thank your employees for their hard work. Everyone decides on a restaurant, and you search online for the menu, download it, call, and place the order.

Sadly, more and more often, downloaded files can serve up malicious software (malware) to your network, which can wreak havoc. Criminals can take control of your data and demand a ransom to return control back to you. Businesses are often desperate to get their data back and sometimes pay quietly and quickly, so they are major targets. Sadly, no organization is safe.

Victims most often download the malware by:

  • Clicking on a misleading or malicious link in an email or on a webpage
  • Opening a file attached to an email that executes harmful code
  • Visiting a look-alike website that appears to be one you know
  • Downloading a file or application that isn’t what it purports to be

A ransomware attack involves malware that encrypts your data unknowingly, and you don’t get the key required to decrypt it without paying a ransom. Ransom demands often range from between $200 to $10,000 in cryptocurrency like bitcoin or even gift cards, but even if you pay it, ransomware victims don’t always receive the decryption key as promised. Some criminals extort them for more money after paying the initial demand.

Not only that, you could be in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if you fail to secure computer assets from ransomware and don’t provide ongoing employee training. The FTC says if companies don’t update systems and remediate software vulnerabilities on a timely basis, they could be found in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act, which protects consumers. Since 2002, the FTC has brought more than 60 cases against companies that failed to adequately protect consumer data.

At First Business Bank, we’re often on the front line, helping business clients in these unfortunate situations. These are best practices we suggest for our employees and clients; I hope our expertise can help you prevent a ransomware attack.

Ransomware Prevention Practices

Use this checklist to help prevent a ransomware attack from holding your data hostage.

  1. Schedule ongoing security training for all staff to prevent ransomware and all types of cyberattacks.
  2. Limit administrator-level access to your network and remove administrator-level access from workstations.
  3. Create a business continuity and incident response plan for all critical data and your organization. Could you still operate without immediate access to your data?
  4. Back up all data regularly — save it securely offline, in the cloud, or on a separate backup server. If you store your backup on the same server as your data, your backup could also be held for ransom.
  5. Implement a firewall and anti-malware software, and update both frequently.
  6. Apply available operating system and software updates immediately to prevent vulnerabilities from being exploited.
  7. Enable popup blockers in your browsers. Clicking on a popup could unknowingly install malware on your device.
  8. Don’t click on links in emails or on websites without hovering over the link and looking carefully to verify that it’s a trusted address.
  9. Cautiously open emails and attachments — even when they are from someone you know.
  10. Verify links in emails or on websites by opening a new browser window and navigating there yourself without using the link.
  11. Avoid downloading software to your workstation whenever possible, especially if it is free software. Only download software from websites you know and trust.
  12. Do not use public Wi-Fi to conduct business or when sensitive information is involved.

If you do experience a ransomware attack or an attempted one, contact your local FBI field office or the U.S. Secret Service immediately for instructions about paying the ransom. Some victims who pay are targeted again, and some are asked to pay more. Remember to report it to the FBI’s IC3. Reports help them stop criminals from inflicting more damage worldwide.

For more expert articles about top fraud threats to businesses, visit the First Business Bank Resource Center.

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