Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Attack: How It Can Affect Your Business
There is a growing ransomware trend in the United States. Cybercriminals are attacking water treatment plants and solar power firms to extort money. Police departments have not been spared either, and any business is at risk of attack. A recent cyber-attack crippled the Colonial Pipeline, resulting in fuel shortages all over the eastern seaboard. The height of the crime was that the government had to declare a state of emergency in four states.
Although Colonia Pipeline paid close to $5 million to the cybercriminals, operations are yet to resume and might take a few days. However, the Colonia Pipeline is a massive and crucial business entity in the US and will survive the event.
Unfortunately, a majority of small and medium businesses would not survive such a ransomware attack. Experts warn these attacks are happening more often, and the Russian-based hackers are advancing their attack methods. The cyber-attacks are part-blackmail, part-ransom, and part-invocation of squatter’s rights.
The Danger of Ransomware Attacks
The rate at which cybercriminals are using ransomware attacks to cripple businesses has hit an all-time high. A cybersecurity industry leader, Datto, recently released a report that encompasses statistics from over 1,400 survey respondents. Datto’s clients managed service providers, and channel partners painted a blatant picture of what is happening.
- 56% of MSPs reported attacks against their clients in the first half of 2019. About 15% of these businesses encountered multiple hacks in one day.
- 85% of managed service providers say ransomware is the most common malware threat to small and medium businesses.
- Approximately 61% of small and medium businesses were affected by a ransomware attack in 2020, with an average downtime of six days.
Ransomware attacks don’t come cheap and can bring businesses down within no time. A business occurs costs in paying the ransom, which keeps escalating if the company takes time to pay up. According to Datto, the average ransom amount hackers ask for is on an upward trend, with the average being approximately $5,900. The average annual increase of the amount is about 37%.
Besides, companies also experience downtime, which is costly to a business. Kaspersky notes that about 34% of organizations affected by a ransomware attack may not regain their data until a week later. In that week, the affected company loses business, can’t serve clients, can’t get work, and incurs other downtime-associated costs. The company has to pay employee wages and meet additional operational costs to keep the company moving. In other words, it incurs a lot of expenses without generating any revenue.
The other cost that companies affected by ransomware have to meet is remediation. Damage control is not a cheap event. A company has to hire a professional IT company to help restore technological sanity. In some cases, it may have to involve the services of a forensic cybersecurity crew to determine the extent of the attack. Worse-case scenarios subject an organization to fines. These are for contravening Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations.
How to Protect Your Business Against Ransomware?
Your business is dependent on data-driven networks, and you can’t afford to be casual about their security. You must be proactive in protecting your systems from ransomware attacks. Experts recommend doing the following.
Regular Software Updates
If you’re in the habit of postponing software updates that pop up on your screen, this habit should stop. Software updates are crucial for your online safety and cybersecurity. The updates are all about revisions of the software and include repairing security loopholes and removing bugs. Updates also add new features to your system while removing the obsolete ones. You also need to check that your operating system is the latest version.
Regular updates are also crucial in patching security flaws. Hackers thrive on software vulnerabilities, which give them access to your data. They write a code targeting this vulnerability and package it as malware. When you view a rogue website, play infected media, or open a compromised message, the malware steals your data.
Software updates include software patches that cover these security holes and make it hard for hackers to access your data.
Ensure you configure your access controls correctly. Shared permissions for files, directories, and networks should be restricted. The default settings should always be “read-only” access to sensitive files. Remember to limit permissions for write access to critical directories and files. Only users that need local admin rights should be allowed to have that access.
Data backup should always be on top of your priority list in your cybersecurity measures. If you have it as a solution, you have a guarantee that your data is secure. It may not protect your business from an attack, but it will help you avoid data loss from the primary storage. It will also save you from paying the ransom to get your data back from the hackers.
Investing in a comprehensive data backup solution is necessary. Ensure your data backup storage:
- Backups data regularly and consistently, both on and offsite
- Maintains its integrity
- Is independent of the primary data source, including the networks and computers it is backing up
- Functions separately from the primary network. This way, the encryption process won’t “hop” networks to the backup storage, preventing your data from being encrypted.
Network monitoring is crucial as it avails the information that system administrators require to establish if a system is running optimally. Network monitoring experts use monitoring tools to proactively pinpoint deficiencies, enhance efficiency, and stop any suspicious activity in its track. Ensure you have an IT team in place that constantly keeps an eye on your systems.
Other crucial steps to take in protecting your systems from ransomware attack include:
- Installing firewall
- Creating awareness among your employees
- Being cautious about suspicious email links
- Testing your system periodically
- Checking that the sites you visit are secure. Only open those with a URL that begins with “https.”
- Enhancing your passwords.
Get Professional Help Against Ransomware
All companies are vulnerable to a security breach, but the above tips can provide a line of defense against attack. However, sometimes the efforts of the internal IT security team are not enough to combat an attack. Working with a professional IT service provider can go a long way in enhancing your internal security measures. Having a layered IT security approach assures you of added security. Talk to the experts today, and let’s figure out how to overcome cybersecurity challenges.