Over the last couple of years, a new kind of malware has become a threat to small businesses everywhere. Known as ransomware, this virus holds a user’s system hostage for a sum of money. Generally speaking this sum is a few hundred dollars; enough to be significant when done in high volume, but not enough for an individual or business to waste valuable time, money, and resources on trying to find a way to fix it. The thing about ransomware is that it can be such a hassle to decrypt, that even the FBI says victims should just pay up.
In the case of Advantage Benefits Solutions, hours after one consultant’s computer became locked, ransomware had spread to the firm’s server and backup system. The virus had encrypted vital claims information and financial data. The ransom note that appeared said to pay $400 within 72 hours.
“They set the ransom so low that, as violated as I feel and as much as I wanted to fight, at the end of the day I realized I can pay and get back to work,” said Mark Stefanick, the firm’s president. So his daughter, Advantage Benefits Solutions’ marketing manager, went to Walgreen’s to get a $400 MoneyGram, the ransom was paid, and “within 30 minutes, a program that unencrypted the data began to run.”
In June and July of 2015, over 67% of those who got infected with ransomware were from the SMB sector. On top of that, 17% were from large enterprises. Typically, enterprises have larger budgets to prevent computer viruses from being harmful, so they’re not ideal targets. Conversely, SMBs are less likely to have the security, backup solutions, and anti-virus software that bigger companies would have.
One common way that ransomware ends up infecting a small business is by way of an email that claims to contain a resume as an attachment. The fake resume file reads “my_resume_pdf_id_1422-7311.scr” and once downloaded releases the malicious software. Another way that ransomware disguises itself in an email is when the sender impersonates a courier service. These efforts are even well-localized. For instance, in Turkey the email pretends to be from Turkish Cargo and in Italy it pretends to be from a courier service called SDA.
Compared to 2012, there was a 62% increase in the number of breaches by cyber-attacks in 2013. And at the end of 2014, Intel Security “reviewed more than 250,000 new ransomware samples – a 155 percent increase from the previous quarter,” according to Tripwire. Additionally, ransomware is not limited to desktop computers. In 2014, ransomware known as “KeyRaider” infected 225,000 Apple mobile devices. So taking the proper precautions is more important than ever.
Here are a tips to adhere to in order to keep your livelihood safe from ransomware:
-Whenever possible, make a backup of important files outside of your server where it can’t be affected.
-Install Anti-virus software.
-Don’t procrastinate when installing updates for software.
-Do not click embedded links in emails that are not from trusted and familiar sources.
-Be careful opening emails from unknown sources.
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