16 Critical Things Every Business Leader Should Know About Ransomware

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With more and more data being stored digitally or in the cloud, ransomware has become a rising issue in recent years. While most people have heard of ransomware, business leaders may not always be aware of factors that can contribute to higher risk.

A lack of understanding of these issues can leave companies significantly more vulnerable to a ransomware attack. To help businesses prevent this fate, the members of Forbes Technology Council share 16 things every leader needs to know about ransomware.

1. Cybercriminals aren’t picky about your industry.

Business leaders need to understand that no matter what industry they are in, they are a potential target for ransomware attacks. Cybercriminals aren’t going to care what you do as long as they can make a profit from attacking you. If you have IT and users, you are potentially at risk. – Saryu NayyarGurucul

2. There may be several weak areas within your IT infrastructure.

Ransomware is synonymous with digital kidnapping. It is crucial for business leaders to know that any digital asset can be digitally ransomed if there is an issue with any of several IT infrastructures, including architecture, design, implementation and operation. Building employees’ cybersecurity IQ is one of the ways to minimize the risk. – Dr. Adewale Peter Obadare, Digital Encode Limited

3. You should be wary of cloud solutions that rely heavily on third-party plugins.

I believe addressing ransomware risk starts with choosing the right cloud platforms and being honest with yourself about your company’s internal IT abilities. Avoiding solutions that require lots of third-party plugins to function and ones that leave the burden of updates and security patches to the customer is the best course. – Jason Smith, NXTurn

4. Ransomware is often part of a two-pronged attack.

Ransomware is no longer just about locking files to extort payment. It’s increasingly part of a two-pronged attack where the first stage is to steal data and the second stage is to encrypt systems. This gives the attackers two ways to extort payments. Companies need to be prepared for how they will handle two situations congruently: a data breach and a ransomware event. – Ryan Weeks, Datto

5. Hackers target all employee levels.

Ransomware attacks target all levels of employees, from rank-and-file staff to the executive level. Organizations often make the mistake of assuming hackers are either after the C-level crown jewels or an easy entry route via lower-level employees. Ransomware can enter a business from top to bottom, so it’s best to take measures from the C-suite to mid-management and down. – John Shin, RSI Security

6. Rapid moves to the cloud and remote work have increased companies’ risk.

With companies moving quickly to the cloud, configuration errors pose a risk. Couple that with remote employees on insecure networks, and enterprises have exposed the “soft underbelly” of their security systems. True ransomware readiness must go beyond prevention to include data preservation and fast recovery capabilities. As cybercriminals up their game, IT must stay on the cutting edge of the cloud to match wits. – Manoj Nair, Metallic

7. Real-world user behavior is rarely ideal.

Most companies regularly remind users to maintain good habits such as periodically changing and not reusing passwords, but real-world user behavior is far from ideal. Companies should employ the same best practices used by Google, Apple, Amazon and others, including spotting potential fraud through user behavior data and implementing real-time alerts to keep users involved in maintaining the integrity of their accounts. – Ari Jacoby, Deduce

8. Ransomware attacks aren’t just an IT problem.

In many cases, hackers leak sensitive information belonging to an organization so that the company cannot keep the attack private, placing the business and its reputation at risk. Hackers take control over critical operation systems, where each encryption is a very costly interruption to business continuity. – Reuven Aronashvili, CYE

9. You can mitigate risk through smart data management.

No business is immune from ransomware. But we can mitigate the risk of ransomware by keeping extra copies of our data. This way, if ransomware attacks the main copy, you have a backup copy to fall back on so you don’t become a victim of the ransomware. This is why data management is key. Ensure actively used data receives good protection while cold, passive data is managed inexpensively. -Krishna Subramanian, Komprise

10. You need to thoroughly review your backup strategies.

Educating your employees on the signs of attempts by hackers to gain access to your network is key. Additionally, backing up your system is a crucial recovery piece. Review your backup strategy, including when your files are backed up, frequency of backups and whether they’re full or incremental. Test your backups regularly to make sure that the system is operating as planned. – Paul Valenti, Electronic Restoration Services (ERS)

11. Backups should be separate from your primary network.

There’s only one surefire way to recover from a ransomware attack: Restore encrypted files and folders from a recent backup. While a “perfect” backup process may not be possible for logistical reasons, make sure you do backups that are separate from your primary network, and test them regularly. – Caroline Wong, Cobalt.io

12. It’s important to test your backups.

One of the most important things business leaders should know about ransomware is the need to have tested backups of their most valuable data. This is critical as ransomware will encrypt computer systems, lock tech leaders out of their own data and require a ransom for decryption. Having good backups will enable business leaders to rebuild these systems and restore their data. – Bob Fabien Zinga, Directly, Inc./U.S. Navy Reserve

13. You need to rehearse to ensure a speedy recovery.

Despite best efforts, ransomware attacks will happen, and organizations need to have plans in place to rapidly recover. Make sure you have a pristine secondary copy of your primary data that you can restore within a target timeframe. Do your rehearsals diligently—the key test is how quickly you can restore operations. – Jacqueline Teo, HGC Global Communications

14. Evolving attack methods will require new tech solutions.

In 2021, ransomware will remain the go-to way for criminals to monetize a breach, and their methods will evolve. For instance, as operational technology and Internet of Things devices become more common, criminals will target them, so attacks will have a more visible impact on the physical world. Business leaders must ensure that security and IT teams adopt technologies to mitigate ransomware, including IDS/IPS and file monitoring. – Ilia Sotnikov, Netwrix

15. Education is your best defense.

Every business leader should not only know about the most common ransomware tactics, but they should also teach their employees about them. Ransomware is definitely on the rise. Fortunately, most internet criminals employ the same strategies. Familiarizing yourself and your team with them could end up saving your company’s reputation. – Marc Fischer, Dogtown Media LLC

16. You should focus on incremental improvements rather than a ‘silver bullet.’

Ransomware attacks continue to plague several key verticals, including healthcare and the automotive industry. Business leaders need to understand that there is never a way to reduce the risk of ransomware to zero. However, some basic things can be done to significantly lower risks. Organizations should focus their investment on smaller incremental gains, not look for a single “silver bullet.” – Craig Goodwin, Cyvatar
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