No matter what industry you’re in or what position you hold, we’re all at risk of an invisible enemy every day. That enemy is ransomware. Ransomware is the most dangerous, destructive cyber threat businesses face today. Businesses hit with ransomware can be forced to pay thousands to millions of dollars to restore their data, or they might have to shut their doors for good. So how do you fight this type of enemy? The key is getting the right information that can help you understand how to protect yourself and your business. Here are the basics.

What is Ransomware?

You’ve probably heard of ransomware before—there are new stories about companies being hit with the cyber attack nearly every week. But what exactly is ransomware, and how does it actually work?

Ransomware is a type of cyber attack that encrypts victims’ computers and network files so that users can’t access their data. Cybercriminals then post a ransom (hence, ransomware) that the business must pay to restore this information. The initial threat is often spread through phishing emails. If a user clicks on a malicious link or download, the malware can infect the computer and spread to the entire network. The systemic lockdown makes it impossible for businesses to continue to operate, meaning many companies are forced to pay the ransom to restore their network and data.

Who is at Risk for Ransomware?

Many businesses understand the dangers of ransomware but might not actively protect their own systems because they think it’s not an actual threat to them. They think criminals are targeting large corporations and enterprises, not small, local businesses. However, the opposite is actually true.

Hackers are aware that smaller companies underestimate their need for cybersecurity because they don’t see themselves as targets. That’s why criminals often hone in on small to medium-sized organizations who they know might be vulnerable. They look for smaller businesses whose systems are less secure.

The result is that every business is at risk for ransomware—small, big, and in between.

When Should You Worry About Ransomware?

The next thing you need to know is when to worry about ransomware—which is actually the key to preventing it. The trick to ransomware is that once criminals have encrypted your system, there’s really only one way you can get your data back without paying. That’s with a backup. Backups are a vital component to protecting your business from ransomware, but you have to set up your backup system in advance. Further, you want to make sure your backups are controlled with different credentials than other accounts and access is highly restricted.

Even beyond backups, the steps you take right now can mean the difference between triumphing over ransomware or succumbing to it. It’s all about protection and prevention early—before the ransomware has locked you out of your systems.

Why Does Ransomware Matter?

I think we all understand this one by now, but to put it more clearly, you need to be thinking about ransomware because it can cost your business money. And not just a little bit of money. The average cost of a ransomware attack is $761,106. And 73% of cybercriminals succeed in encrypting data. Considering these two facts together, if you haven’t already begun preparing for and protecting your business from ransomware, now’s the time to start. Investing in cybersecurity will also cost your business some money but mitigating the risk of ransomware makes it a worthwhile investment.

How to Protect Your Business from Ransomware?

Finally, how do you actually protect your business from this threat? Well, to start, a few important steps to take are enabling multi-factor authentication for all logins, creating backups in the cloud, installing anti-ransomware, and training your employees to spot and avoid phishing emails. It’s also never a bad idea to consult with a technology provider. They can help create cybersecurity plans specific to your organization that provide protection from ransomware and other cyber threats without breaking the bank. In the end, ransomware is a formidable foe, but it can be defeated with the right armor in place.

James Fair, Executech Sr. VP of IT Services, – Utah