The festive season is often a time of increased vulnerability for businesses, with ransomware attacks reportedly surging by as much as 70%. As businesses focus on the festive rush, cybercriminals capitalise on the decreased attention to cybersecurity. This blog post aims to provide SMBs with essential strategies to protect themselves from these growing threats.
Understanding the Threat
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a victim’s files, with the attacker then demanding a ransom from the victim to restore access to the data upon payment. The festive season, a peak period for businesses, often sees a spike in such attacks due to several factors:
Increased Online Activity: The festive season witnesses a surge in online transactions, providing a larger attack surface for cybercriminals.
Reduced Vigilance: With staff often on holiday or preoccupied with increased workloads, there’s a lapse in regular security practices.
Targeting Vulnerabilities: Attackers exploit vulnerabilities that might have been overlooked during this busy period.
Key Strategies for Protection
Regular Backups: Ensure regular backups of critical data. These backups should be kept separate from your network to prevent them from being encrypted during an attack.
Be Wary Of Offers Too Good To Be True: No matter how tempting an offer might be, think before you click that offer. Buy only from trusted and established online retailers and avoid websites of retailers you’ve never heard of.
Think Before You Click: Pay attention to the emails you receive. Don’t open emails from unknown senders or click on links in suspicious messages.
Monitor your accounts: Check your online financial accounts regularly for suspicious spending. Also, take advantage of text and email alerting services that many banks and credit card companies now offer.
Update and Patch Systems: Keep all systems and software updated. Cyber attackers often exploit vulnerabilities in outdated software to gain access to your network.
Pay wisely. Use a credit card or pre-paid debit card instead of a debit card linked to your bank account. Or, use a reliable, established third-party payment service, such as Google Pay, Apple Pay or PayPal.
Implement Access Controls: Limit access rights for users to the minimum they require to perform their job. This can contain the spread of ransomware if an attack occurs.
Advanced Threat Protection: Utilise advanced cybersecurity tools that include threat detection and response capabilities. Tools that can identify and isolate ransomware attacks in real time are crucial.
Incident Response Plan: Have a well-documented incident response plan that outlines the steps to take in the event of a ransomware attack. This plan should include who to contact, how to isolate infected systems, and steps to restore from backups.
Secure Remote Access: With remote working on the rise, ensure that remote access to your network is secure. Use VPNs and robust authentication methods to protect against unauthorized access.
Regular Security Audits: Conduct regular security audits to identify and mitigate potential vulnerabilities in your network.
Responding to an Attack
In the unfortunate event that your business falls victim to a ransomware attack during the festive season, it’s important to know how to respond:
Do Not Pay the Ransom: Paying the ransom does not guarantee that you’ll get your data back. It also encourages further criminal activity.
Isolate Infected Systems: Immediately disconnect infected systems from the network to prevent the spread of ransomware.
Contact Authorities: Report the incident to law enforcement. They can provide guidance and help track down the attackers.
Restore from Backups: Use your backups to restore encrypted files.
The rise in ransomware attacks during the festive season is a stark reminder of the need for continuous vigilance in cybersecurity practices. SMBs must adopt a proactive approach to cybersecurity, understanding that it’s not just a one-time effort but an ongoing process. Investing in robust cybersecurity measures and fostering a culture of security awareness among employees are essential steps in protecting your business.
Remember, the cost of preventing a ransomware attack is invariably less than the cost of recovering from one. As we approach the festive season, let’s ensure our businesses are not just thriving but also secure from cyber threats.