In 2017, the infamous WannaCry cyberattack devastated businesses and even hospitals around the world. For instance, it cost the United Kingdom’s NHS £92 million, and as a result, caused 19,000 appointments to be canceled.
And this is just the ramifications of one type of ransomware.
Granted, it’s the most catastrophic one to date, but the reality is, many variations of WannaCry are floating about out there, and if you’re not careful, your business may be next, especially if it’s a government entity.
If you’re wondering why and how ransomware spreads, then keep reading. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about this type of malware, including how to fend it off.
What Is Ransomware?
To start, ransomware is a type of malware. Malware is a combination of “malicious” and “software,” and as the name implies, it wreaks havoc on your computer.
As you can tell from the name, ransomware hijacks your computer and renders you locked out of your device. This is because it encrypts all your data, which essentially puts it under lock and key.
Once you’re locked out, you’ll receive a message asking you to pay a “ransom” in Bitcoin; this way, the recipient is untraceable. Theoretically, you’re supposed to get the “key” to unlock your data after paying. But the truth is, many people don’t hear back from the cyber criminals after they’ve paid the ransom.
How Ransomware Spreads
In the past, cybercriminals would gain access to their victims’ devices through actively finding vulnerabilities in networks and taking advantage of those. While they still do that today, there are much easier ways for infiltration nowadays.
One such way is through social engineering; more specifically, phishing. This is where the cybercriminal pretends to be a trusted entity, such as a brand name (like Disney) or institution (like Bank of America).
They create fake emails and websites that closely resemble the real thing. People who are unaware of such digital scams believe these emails, then log in through the fake websites. This means their credentials are captured and sent to the scammers.
Another way fraudsters trick their victims is through attachments. They word their emails with urgency, which prompts you to open any files that are attached. As a result, you download malware.
Modern cybercriminals prefer to use social engineering because of two reasons. First, it’s easier to set up since they just need a few “templates” to set up and send out—emails, websites, and malware attachments.
Second, they don’t have to send out a separate cyberattack to each potential victim. Instead, they cast their net to thousands of recipients, and even if one person falls for their scam, then they’ve profited.
Why Ransomware Spreads
The main reason why ransomware spreads is because of human error. The cybercriminals count on you and your employees to be unable to discern between genuine and fake emails or sites. In fact, phishing emails are responsible for 94% of ransomware.
You’d expect that once one device is infected, it should be contained within that computer. So why does ransomware spread?
It’s because people don’t keep their computers’ software up to date. Once one person opens an attachment with malware, it then infects the entire network. This means if one person opens a malicious file at your work, it can potentially infect every device on the network, which can be hundreds!
Therefore it’s important to always use the latest software and to always install updates and patches when they come out. The newer and more updated your system is, the less time cybercriminals have had to hone their specific technique.
When you’re using an outdated operating system that no longer has support, this means it has more holes that scammers can use to get through your defenses.
Why Government Entities Are Targeted
There are several reasons why government entities are targeted by cybercriminals.
First, when compared to an individual or small business, government entities have plenty of money to hand over for ransom. This means that they’re more likely to pay the ransom and can even pay more than the average victim.
Secondly, government entities have sensitive data that must not fall into the wrong hands. The sense of urgency makes them more likely to not only pay the ransom but also do so promptly.
Lastly, many government entities use legacy software, meaning they’re outdated and usually not upgraded to the maximum security possible. This means it’s a lot easier for scammers to take advantage of vulnerabilities that haven’t been patched.
How to Safeguard Your Company
As we’ve said above, your workplace needs to use modern and robust software to keep malware out; this includes firewalls and antivirus programs. Make sure your employees always keep these things updated.
Also, you need proper security awareness training at your business. Your workforce is your first line of defense against digital scammers, which makes it worthwhile to invest in their education.
With some training, your employees will be confident in recognizing signs of phishing and will be able to avoid opening malicious files. They’ll also get a thorough education on practicing good digital hygiene, which is necessary for keeping your company data safe.
Keep Your Business Safe from Ransomware
Now you know how ransomware spreads and what you can do to protect your business from it.
While there are many components to cybersecurity, one of the most important ones is security awareness training for your employees. If they’re skilled enough to detect a ransomware attack, then it won’t get far enough to trigger your antivirus software. Prevention and proactiveness are key.
Would you like to get thorough security awareness training for your workplace? Then take a look at our plans now.