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5 Simple Things Your SMB Can Do Today to Mitigate Tomorrow’s Ransomware Attacks

Sixty-six percent of mid-sized organizations suffered a ransomware attack in 2022, with an average ransom payment of $812,000. In these attacks, a hacker uses malware to encrypt an organization’s networks. The hacker demands a ransom in exchange for unencrypting the data. They may also threaten to release sensitive information if the ransom isn’t paid.

SMBs may think that they are relatively safe from such attacks thanks to their smaller revenue and online presence. However, these very factors can also cause them to be relatively lax when it comes to their cyber security, making them a tempting target for hackers. Because of this, SMBs must implement key security practices that will make them a tougher target for would-be wrongdoers.

1. Educate Your Employees

Your employees are the lifeblood of your business — but when it comes to cyber security, they can also be one of your greatest liabilities. An analysis of cyber security breaches in the healthcare industry found that employees were responsible for 39 percent of data breaches in 2021.

Businesses must actively train their employees how to recognize and respond to potential security threats. One of the most common ransomware attacks employees fall for is a phishing attack, where they receive a seemingly legitimate email that contains a malicious link or file. Clicking on the link unleashes the ransomware attack on your system.

Helping employees understand the potential impact of a ransomware attack, as well as how to recognize phishing attempts and other threats, can greatly reduce the risk of such incidents.

2. Harden Your Network Security

Businesses should actively invest in security measures that “harden” their network against cyber attacks. This can include a mixture of anti-malware software, intrusion detection systems and firewalls. 

However, it should be noted that business owners cannot rely on a single type of security software to fully protect their system. As the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) explains:

“Since each firewall is different, you will need to read and understand the documentation that comes with it to determine whether the default firewall settings are sufficient for your needs. […] Though properly configured firewalls may effectively block some attacks, do not be lulled into a false sense of security. Firewalls do not guarantee that your computer will not be attacked. Firewalls primarily help protect against malicious traffic, not against malicious programs (i.e., malware), and may not protect you if you accidentally install or run malware on your computer. However, using a firewall in conjunction with other protective measures (e.g., antivirus software and safe computing practices) will strengthen your resistance to attacks.”

3. Keep All Software Up-to-Date

The software your company uses can provide an avenue for hackers to unleash a ransomware attack. Hackers are constantly trying to exploit weaknesses in software programs, writing code that will help them make use of a vulnerability to access your data and unleash a ransomware attack. As a result, many software updates are primarily performed to patch known security vulnerabilities.

Of course, the more software programs your business uses, the harder it can become to keep track of everything. Because of this, many businesses use managed IT services to help them implement all software and network protection updates. The use of cloud-based tools can also reduce risk, as long as you are accessing them from a secured network.

These risks also exist with the third-party providers who make up your supply chain. Business owners should carefully vet all potential suppliers to ensure that they use adequate security measures to protect any confidential data that their partners may have access to.

4. Have a Data Breach-Response Plan

Even with quality security measures in place, determined hackers could still breach your defenses. As part of developing a cybersecurity plan, managed IT provider ThrottleNet recommends taking a proactive stance in addressing possible breaches:

“If your firm’s data is breached, you’ll want to quickly respond to the situation: 1. Inform your customers of the breach and provide them with information on how they can protect themselves from identity theft or fraud. 2. Change your passwords and update your security measures. 3. Consult with a cyber security specialist to help you secure your systems and prevent future attacks. 4. Implement a plan to monitor your systems for any unusual activity. 5. Keep an open dialogue with your customers so that they feel comfortable entrusting their information to you in the future.”

Customer outreach can be especially important for avoiding possible litigation. A pre-established plan will enable your team to respond quickly and decisively should a breach occur.

5. Back Up Your Data

Another key aspect of preparing for a data breach is implementing a data backup plan. There is no guarantee that a hacker will release your data, even if you pay the ransom. They may even demand an additional ransom once they realize you are willing to pay money to get your data back.

You can reduce the effectiveness of a ransomware attack by regularly backing up your data. Even if a ransomware attack were to hit your business and compromise your data, having a secure backup will allow your business to get up and running again quickly.

Of course, how you back up your data matters.

As Rieva Lesonsky writes for AllBusiness, “Cloud-based backup services offer greater security than backing up data onto your own servers. However, that doesn’t mean they are foolproof. You should never use a consumer backup service for your business. Choose a business-class solution for greater security.”

Continues Lesonsky, “Before choosing any backup service, ask how they secure your data, including how often they back up your data, where they store the backups, and who has access to your data. If your business needs to meet specific industry security standards for storing data, such as HIPAA regulations, make sure the service provider offers that level of security.”

Acting Now Protects Your Future

How your SMB prepares for cyber threats today can make all the difference in preventing a security breach. By developing a comprehensive cyber security framework that trains employees, improves internal security measures and helps you know how to respond to a potential breach, your business can greatly reduce its risk of cyber threats.