Data Breaches and Ransomware: A Beginner’s Guide

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It’s important to know what’s out there. When you’re protecting your business from various cyber threats, the best way to start is by learning what kind of threats your system can face, and that is just as true about the dangers of ransomware. Ransomware, and in turn, the effects of data breaches in general, can wreak all kinds of havoc on you and your livelihood before you even realize what it’s taken away from you. But while that sounds drastic, there are ways to combat this kind of malware, and that all starts by learning about the threats you have to contend with in the meantime.

What Is Ransomware?

Anyone will know that it’s a type of program that’s likely bad for you, just from the name alone. But what is ransomware, and how does it hurt you and your network?

Ransomware is a type of software that, upon taking root in your endpoint or network, will gain access to your data or other digital assets and require that you pay ransom to the attacker using the ransomware in order to get your assets back. Not only is this a blatant cybercrime, but it also puts much at risk, including how you do business now and in the future. Without the proper precautions, data held at ransom can ruin a business’s reputation, finances, and security protocol in one fell swoop — which is why it’s so important that you are able to identify the risks and take precaution against this type of malicious program, as well being aware of the increased rate of ransomware attacks so that your company can stay up to date with the latest news and trends in order to keep the company protected.

What Does This Have To Do With Data?

Ransomware is but one of many malware types that put your business’s data at risk. What that means for you and for your clients varies from case to case, but consider this: a hospital may not be able to treat in a timely manner without the information they should have access to regarding their patients; alternatively, a financial firm may lose all the trust their clients have from a data breach, given that their valuable assets have been exposed to cybercriminals.

No matter what field you’re in, what business you run, data is important to the function of it. More than that, though, it’s a measure of faith from your customers or clients: they give you their data because they want something from you in return, but they expect it will be safe with you. When it is proven that their data is no longer safe with you because of something like a ransomware attack, it’s all the more difficult to win their trust back and to create that sense of security they once had with you and your business.

Ransomware, due to the nature of its function, also prevents you from being able to deliver on what you offer as a business or organization. This type of attack affects hospital treatments, government offices that now can’t process documents safely, and even the mom-and-pop shops that can no longer access their inventory management system or their shipping info.

In other words, ransomware has everything to do with data.

Where To Avoid Ransomware Attacks

There are some relatively common places where ransomware can be encountered, and many of these encounters come from engaging with suspicious materials — and though it should be common sense, many people still engage with these materials, such as phishing emails. However, there are other routes that ransomware can take which are more subtle. One of these increasingly common routes is through messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, and another more traditional route is using malicious file downloads.

What you’ll find is that there are just as many opportunities for you to avoid these attacks on compromised websites as there are for you to dodge emails and social engineering attempts through SMS text messaging as well. One wrong click on a shared link can send you down the rabbit hole, but past that, there’s even the chance that an attacker can identify weaknesses in your computer setup remotely and force their way in using remote access tools that are meant for IT troubleshooting. Considering these various routes that the attacks can take, it’s safe to say that, in a way, ransomware can come from almost anywhere on the internet.

How To Combat Them

While there are no ways to prove your system against cyber attacks 100%, there are various ways in which you can strengthen your defenses. Firstly, by knowing where they come from, you can start to evaluate your system’s current defenses against the many routes that ransomware can take. You might find that your browser is not up to date, or that you could benefit from a URL filter that shows you which sites are likely to be compromised. Similar defense tactics on each ransomware route would be a good start.

More than that, though, it’s important that you utilize software that can help in the case that ransomware or other cyber attacks do make it onto your network or computer. Something that can detect these breaches and prevent them from doing further damage is key; that’s why using an endpoint protection software like EDR or XDR tools can truly make all the difference when your network — and your livelihood as a whole — is put at risk.

The way that you respond to present threats, and the way that your defenses prevent them from occurring in the first place, will prove to your team and your clients how much you value your data and theirs. Only by treating said data as the valuable resource it is, with protections in place that reflect that value, will you be doing right by your clients and by your business overall.

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