Appropriate ransomware protection is crucial for small businesses, as ransomware attacks increased by more than 150% in 2020, according to a study cited in Infosecurity. Today, the information contained in business networks and computer systems is often more valuable than the items in your physical store, and ransomware is one of the biggest threats to that information.
Ransomware is a type of malicious software (also known as malware) that’s designed to block a user or an entire organization from accessing its own digital files. Cybercriminals use ransomware to encrypt an organization’s files and then require it to pay a ransom to regain access.
In 2020, American businesses and organizations paid out $350 million for ransomware attacks, according to ABC News. The number of cyberattacks continues to rise, and organizations of all sizes, including small businesses, are at risk.
That’s why it’s a priority to implement the right cybersecurity solutions for small businesses.
Why Small Businesses Are at Risk
It may seem like cybercriminals would be most interested in large organizations, capable of paying larger ransoms. While there have been highly publicized attacks on large companies, small businesses are also targets. Successful attacks on smaller companies don’t make headlines, but these businesses are still attractive to criminals. Here’s why.
- Your systems contain valuable data. Your business’s financial, customer and employee data are all valuable to thieves and can be sold for high prices.
- You’re an easier target. Without many of the advanced cybersecurity protections large organizations can afford, small businesses’ systems can be easy to penetrate.
- You might not be able to fight back. Without resources like high-powered legal teams and IT wizards, small business owners are more likely to pay the ransom in order to get back to business.
- You likely haven’t invested in top cybersecurity measures.
You’re not alone on that last point, though, according to data from the Cyber Readiness Institute (CRI). Most small business owners say that while they’re concerned about cyberattacks, they lack the funds to invest in necessary security measures.
According to CRI research, only 40% of small business owners have implemented a cybersecurity policy, and the same percentage say that economic uncertainty prevents them from making security investments.
How to Implement Ransomware Protection
Cybersecurity solutions for small businesses don’t have to be expensive or difficult. In fact, protecting your business from ransomware can be simpler than you might expect, and you can take small steps that will have a lasting impact. Here are a few to get you started.
Create a Plan
Every business should have a written plan for how to respond to a cyberattack — just as you might have a written plan for responding to a natural disaster or another emergency. The plan doesn’t have to be a huge document, but it should detail what actions your business will take in the event of an attack and who’s responsible for each action.
With the plan in writing, you’ll be able to act quickly and decisively in case of a cyberattack.
Talk to Your Insurance Provider
Make sure your business insurance coverage includes cyber insurance and that your cyber insurance covers ransom. If your current insurance provider doesn’t offer a cyber insurance policy, find one that does.
Your policy will likely include ransom payments up to a certain limit. Make sure that limit is in line with the amounts cybercriminals are currently requesting. If it’s not, you may need to increase it.
Embrace Multifactor Authentication
Multifactor authentication should be required for employees accessing any company accounts — even social media. This means employees will have to take an extra step when logging in (which can be a little annoying), but it will be much more difficult for rogue actors to access those accounts as well.
Train Your Employees
Human error is the biggest cause of security breaches, according to CISO MAG. For that reason, training employees is one of the most effective strategies for protecting a company’s information. However, CRI research shows that just 46% of small businesses have offered cybersecurity training for employees.
So, it’s crucial to make sure your employees are informed about hackers’ latest tactics and how to avoid them. Provide training that explains phishing and other strategies hackers use to gain access to sensitive company data.
Remember, most employees are busy doing their jobs and aren’t focused on evading hackers, so they need reminders from time to time. Consider revisiting a training course annually.
Consider Your Vendors
If some of your vendors have access to your business’s sensitive information, such as company financials, employees’ personal information or customer data, their cybersecurity protocols are just as important as yours. Make a point to ask about their security processes and programs to make sure they aren’t putting your sensitive data at risk.
Don’t Be an Easy Target
As cybercriminals continue to pursue ransomware victims, small business owners must take this threat seriously. Rather than assuming criminals want larger targets or that there’s nothing you can do to truly protect your digital data, take time to learn more about the reality of owning a business in the 21st century.
Yes, paying the ransom is the easiest way for ransomware victims to get their files unlocked, but doing so lines the pockets of malicious actors and encourages them to continue the same tactics. Further, it could cost you a pretty penny.
Take ransomware protection seriously and implement cybersecurity solutions for your business as soon as you can. It will deter thieves, safeguard your data and, despite the added monthly or annual expense, it will likely save you a ton of money.
At the end of the day, cybercriminals are drawn to the easiest targets. Don’t be one.