Does your small business need to be concerned about cybercrime or, specifically, a ransomware attack?
Yes. 100% yes.
Ransomware is a growing menace, often targeting small business, and its effects can be devastating. Consider these sobering statistics:
- Cybercrime cost the global economy almost a trilliondollars in 2018. Much of that came from losses due to ransomware
- There has been a 300% increase in ransomware attacks in the last year alone
- 60% of all cybercrime is now directed at small business
So yes, it is a problem of which you need to be aware. Here’s what you need to know:
What is ransomware? Ransomware is computer malware that infects systems by blocking access to the computer until you pay up. In other words, cybercrooks kidnap your computer until a ransom is paid.
Specifically, an unsuspecting computer user will be lured into either opening a corrupt email attachment or clicking on an infected website link, thereby installing malicious software. Once operational, the malware locks down the computer and a message like this appears on the screen:
What happens then? Once the encryption software has infected the host computer, a countdown clock starts ticking. Instructions state that the user has, say, 72 hours to pay a ransom or all of the encrypted files on the computer will be deleted.
In most cases, the amount of the ransom is not astronomical – something like $500 - $1,000 is typical. The idea is that the owner of the locked-down computer will often decide the easiest course of action is in fact to simply pay the ransom.
What are your options? Once your computers have been infected with ransomware, you essentially have three options:
1. Pay the ransom: As indicated, this is often the path of least resistance. The way it hopefully works is that the computer user pays the ransom and the cybercriminals then send a “key” to unlock the computer/system.
In all likelihood the word “hopefully” just jumped out at you, and for good reason. These are bad guys after all. They may send the decryption key, or they may not.
2. Attempt to remove the malware: The idea here is to hire a cybersecurity expert to get rid of the infected software. (Typically, this is not something you can do without expert help.)
3. Do nothing and recover your files: If you have an online backup of your data as you should, then the final option would be to wait, have the creeps delete your hard drive, and then start over with your backup files.
No, not a pleasant thought.
How can you protect your business from ransomware?
There are several precautionary steps you can take to keep yourself and your small business safe:
First, be sure to install an Internet security software program on your computer system. The best these days are cloud-based systems that monitor your computer in real time.
Second, do a deeper dive into how ransomware is spread and teach your staff about safe computing processes and procedures.
Of course, neither losing your data nor paying a ransom is an attractive option and that is why taking ransomware seriously and instituting precautionary measures is your best course of action.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success.© Steven D. Strauss
Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice. Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation