Ransomware: What It Is and How It Can Affect Your Business

Since businesses have existed, there have been criminals looking to profit from them. Faced with thieves stealing inventory and trade secrets, businesses invested in padlocks. When crooks found sophisticated ways to pick those padlocks, businesses implemented security cameras, alarm systems and active guards. It was a cat-and-mouse game – the two parties each devising creative ways to outsmart the other.

That’s certainly true in the modern age, as businesses increasingly rely on technology. Businesses use their computer systems for several critical processes – communication, accounting, ordering and banking, to name a few. Think of these computers as digital offices and warehouses, storing valuable information and facilitating key business procedures. The basic padlock may have worked in the past, but criminals are finding new ways to pick them.

Take ransomware, for instance: a relatively new form of malicious software that takes advantage of system vulnerabilities. To keep your business vigilant, proactive and protected, you need to know about these emerging threats. In this article, let's take a closer look at ransomware – what it is and what you can do to protect against it.

What Is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software (malware) that encrypts your business’ software, either blocking your access to it or threatening to publish sensitive information unless you pay a ransom. It's used as part of a criminal moneymaking scheme to intimidate and coerce businesses.

Photo: Kritchanut/ Getty Images/iStockphoto

According to the US Justice Department, ransomware is the “fastest growing malware threat,” with an average of 4,000 daily attacks since 2016. Criminals using malware prey on all computer users, from home users to government networks. But the biggest fish they’re often after are businesses.

How to Protect Against Ransomware

A recent high-profile example of a ransomware scheme involved the popular band Radiohead. Hackers threatened to release 18 hours of unreleased music unless the band coughed up a hefty ransom. Radiohead chose not to pay – instead, they released the music themselves, thereby stripping the hackers of the upper hand.

This approach may have worked for a musical act, whose 'information' (their music) was destined for public consumption anyway, but it's hardly an option for businesses seeking to protect private data. The best way for your business to protect against ransomware is to use anti-malware software.

What is anti-malware software and how does it work? The best versions of this proactive software take a two-pronged approach – they protect against incoming threats and eradicate existing threats. To achieve this, a quality anti-malware software will run sophisticated, real-time protection that hunts for signs of a threat, notify you if you accidentally visit a malicious site or open a malicious file, and continuously scan for and remove any existing infections.

If an advanced form of malware does encrypt your data, great antivirus software should have what’s called ‘ransomware rollback,’ a cache that allows you to roll back or restore those files affected or removed by the ransomware.

Anti-malware software is a proactive and protective solution that deters criminals and nullifies their attempts to intimidate your business. The struggle between honest businesses and crooked criminals may be constantly evolving, but with anti-malware software, you have the upper hand.
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