You login to your computer to check your morning emails. Suddenly, a ransomware attack message pops up on the screen. “Your computer has been hacked! In order to regain access, send money to this address!”
Such a message is truly frightening, but often equally embarrassing and frustrating as well. It is one of the worst cybersecurity nightmares.
The problem is, today’s aggressive hackers are smart, and they use psychologically manipulative social engineering techniques to get you to open the door to them. If this happens to your business—perhaps an unsuspecting employee responded to a phishing email and gave out a private password—ransomware can cripple your entire operation.
There have been many high-profile ransomware attacks across multiple industries. In addition to the operational and financial implications, a ransomware attack on your company—especially one that leads to a data breach or leaked customer info—can be a PR nightmare.
Prevention is the best option for addressing ransomware threats. But if a ransomware attack happens to your company, it is important to address customer concerns over their privacy and security.
We’re written about ransomware before! If you’re interested in additional articles covering ransomware incidents, attacks, prevention, and recovery, view our ransomware tag archive.
How Does a Ransomware Attack Occur Through Social Engineering?
Let’s take a look at how a ransomware hack usually happens.
1. The Initial Ransomware Attack
First, it often starts with social engineering. Hackers know how to get people to do things they shouldn’t be doing. Phishing works like this. A hacker will contact a target—through email, text message, or even a phone call—making false or misleading claims about a hacked account or urgent task or update. The attacker will claim you must act immediately to update your credentials or provide some other information, often providing a link to a login page or web-based form. When someone enters their account information into that login page, instead of gaining access to an account, the information is stored so the hackers can use it later to access your device, your email accounts, or any number of other services for which you might’ve used that same account username and password.
Other attacks might require the user to download and run a file attachment with a malicious payload included. Once the ransomware virus infects your computer, what happens next is usually data encryption.
2. Data Encryption and Sabotage
The ransomware hacker will then start to encrypt data that is on the infected device. A key will be set up so that the data can only be unlocked by someone possessing that key (in this case, the hacker), who is planning on “selling” that key to the victim for a sum of money.
Sometimes, the ransomware virus will make it harder for the computer data to be restored. For example, a ransomware hack called “CryptoWall” removed volume shadow copy files to make it harder to restore from a backup. Ransomware hackers are also on the lookout for Bitcoin and cyber currency wallets to steal from victims’ hard drives.
4. Financial Extortion and Threats
Once your data is encrypted and locked, you will receive a message from the hacker asking for payment. In some cases, they may threaten to make your data public. In many cases, paying the ransom is the only way to recover the encrypted data. The risk there is that on some occasions, victims paid up and they still didn’t get their data back. Most ransomware attackers will provide the decryption information once the ransom is paid—it’s in an attacker’s best interest to deliver the key as their next victim will be less likely to pay up if a hacker has a reputation for not following through—and some will even negotiate a lower price. But there is no guarantee of either.
This might mean that some of your data will be lost forever if it wasn’t properly backed up prior to the cyberattack. It also means that your data might be released out into the wild and you can’t take that back—which is mostly a concern if your business has private financial data like credit card or banking info or you deal with sensitive client data, such as medical records or other personal data.
(We are assuming, of course, that you have nothing shameful or illegal on your business workstation.)
Preventing Ransomware Attacks with Strong Cybersecurity
The best way to prevent ransomware attacks is through a comprehensive cybersecurity plan. This plan should not only include fortifying your network against cyber intrusions, but training your staff to learn how to avoid social engineering scams.
Furthermore, frequent and multiple backups of data—onsite and offsite, all thoroughly secured—need to be a regular part of your cybersecurity strategy.
Did you know that old printers can also be sources of network security risks? Managed print services can be a way to upgrade your old printer fleet in a cost-effective manner.
CDS Office Technologies has the expertise to help prevent and recover from ransomware attacks. With our managed technology services as well as managed print solutions, your business can be kept safe from the cybersecurity threats lurking in every email inbox.
CDS Office Technologies offers the latest in cybersecurity technologies for your business. Contact us today for more information!