How Will A Ransomware Attack Affect Your Business?

Date: 19 May 2022

Accenture, Acer, Colonial Pipeline, JBS Foods. What do these names have in common? Yes, they might be some of the most successful companies and organisations in the world but these formidable giants of industry were also victims of some of the most significant ransomware attacks in 2021. 

Apart from facing ransom demands to the tune of $50 million, these victims of ransomware attacks also had to suffer many days of business loss. But that’s not all. In some cases, hackers also allegedly published sensitive company data and financial information online to claim responsibility for the attack and to showcase the damage they intended to cause. 

The above should illustrate just how catastrophic ransomware attacks can be to any business. 

In this article, we take a closer look at how ransomware attacks can wreak havoc on huge business houses and formidable public institutions alike. We will also explore the most practical and feasible ways to protect yourself and your business from such attacks. 

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What is A Ransomware Attack? 

Before we do a deep-dive into the deleterious effects of ransomware attacks, let’s answer some basic questions: What is Ransomware and What Happens in a Ransomware Attack?   

Ransomware is a malware that encrypts files on the target device, making them inaccessible to the original users until they pay a ransom. Ransomware attacks have become the easiest way for malicious threat agents to make a quick buck. 

They usually threaten their victims with either the prospect of being locked out of their files forever or worse, having their data leaked online - a possibility that can create tremendous loss of reputation and trust for a business. 

Ransomware attacks can have devastating consequences on businesses, resulting in the loss of essential data and operational downtime. In many situations, organisations have had to pay large sums of money, usually in cryptocurrency, to ransomware attackers to regain access to their data.

In addition, ransomware can spread quickly through an organisation, affecting multiple devices and systems. As a result, businesses need to be aware of the dangers of ransomware attacks and take action to protect the data even before a potential attack. 

Downloading Cyber Management Alliance’s 9-point Ransomware Readiness Checklist is a fantastic place to start when it comes to evaluating exactly how prepared your business is for a ransomware attack. A detailed Ransomware Readiness Assessment, however, is the ideal recommendation for businesses that want to seriously control the damage a ransomware attack could cause. 

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What Will A Ransomware Attack Do To Your Business? 

Although we've touched upon the answer to this question briefly earlier, here’s a slightly closer look at the potential damage a ransomware attack can cause even to a small-to-medium sized business.  

1. Business Loss: If the ransomware encrypts your business-critical files (which it probably will) your business might have to shut down for days or weeks while you try to recover your data. Something similar happened with the Colonial Pipeline. The company proactively shut down its operations due to the ransomware attack, leading to gas shortages in the East Coast of the U.S. 

A ransomware attack, therefore, in most cases will lead to lost revenue and customer trust. 

2. Ransom Payment: You’ll have to face one of the toughest decisions as a business - to pay or not to pay the ransom. While regulatory agencies across the world discourage organisations to pay ransom, many businesses choose to go down that road as they realise they have no other option. 

You may end up losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in ransom if you get attacked, without any guarantee that the attackers will actually unlock your data.  

The cost of a ransomware attack can vary depending on the type of attack, the amount of data encrypted, and the type of business you have. For example, a small business with limited data may only have to pay a few hundred dollars to get their data back, while a large corporation could be facing millions in ransom payments.

3. Reputational Damage: Your business reputation could be seriously damaged if news of the attack gets out - which it probably will. Your existing customers’ data and confidential information could leak as a result of the attack, making it difficult to not just retain existing clients and customers but also discouraging others from doing business or partnering with your organisation in the future. 

4. Regulatory Fines: You could be subject to regulatory fines if sensitive customer data is compromised in the attack - an added financial burden in an already lamentable situation. 

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What Can You Do To Control The Damage?  

A well-thought ransomware response and protection strategy is essential to controlling the damage to your bottom-line and brand. Make sure you already have solid security measures, including backups of your data, to recover if an attack does occur. 

The most efficient method to protect your business against ransomware attacks is a strong backup and an effective incident response plan. When it comes to ransomware, the best thing you can do is be prepared. 

There are several different techniques to backup your data, so you'll need to decide which method is suitable for your business.  

One alternative is to utilise an on-site backup where you can keep your data stored locally (either on a physical server or in the cloud). This is an excellent alternative if you have the resources to manage your backups.  Another option is to use an off-site backup service. This involves sending your backups to a separate location, typically in the cloud. This is the most suitable choice if you don't have the resources to manage your backups or want an extra layer of protection.  

Once you have your backups in place, you'll need to create a solid cyber incident response plan. This plan should outline how you will restore your data and how you will respond in the event of an attack. You can also download this handy Ransomware Response Workflow and share it will all key stakeholders in your business. Visual workflows such as this one help eliminate chaos and confusion in times of a crisis and allows everyone to take measured steps and decisions. 

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Final Thoughts

Ransomware is a quickly becoming one of the most serious IT and business concerns the world over. A ransomware attack can create serious repercussions for an organisation, its partners, customers and other stakeholders. 

The only real protection against a ransomware attack today is preparation. The best way to protect your business is to be proactive and have a plan in place in case of an attack. By taking the time to understand the risks and preparing for them, you may not be able to prevent a ransomware attack but you will definitely be able to reduce the trouble it can spell for you. 

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