Ransomware and how it can break your business
Ransomware is a malicious type of software that encrypts data until a ransom is made, usually in a cryptocurrency, such as a Bitcoin.
Even pop icon Madonna has been targeted and so has Sir Elton John.
But it is not just celebrities who can fall victim to this kind of cyber-crime.
The trouble with the internet, is that it has no barriers or boundaries. Travelling criminals from cities, such as Manchester, Birmingham, London and Liverpool, have traditionally targeted businesses over the border, moving from urban England into rural Wales. Now cyber-criminals are moving in too, but without the need to even get into a car.
Criminals can break into your business via the internet from anywhere in the world, in a disturbingly hidden way.
Criminals from as far away as India, Nigeria and the Ukraine, are targeting the UK right now, as well as countries all over the world.
Just because people live in rural Wales, doesn’t mean that they have any special protection.
Absolutely no-one is exempt from a cyber-attack, if they have a computer, tablet, mobile, or a smart device.
A lot of this ransomware is what’s called ‘spray-and-pray’. For example, a criminal sends out a load of emails and finds out who responds to them. Once they find their way in, a criminal will find areas of the system you are using in your company and then, from that, they will try to elevate their permissions, so they can then start to manipulate the software within that whole system.
It doesn’t matter if you are a one-man band, or a multi-million pound company, a ransomware attack can bring your whole system down for a week or more, meaning that no-one can get onto that system, freezing all your finances and business communications.
Immediately after an attack, no-one tends to know who has taken what, or what damage has been done. All of the information in the system has been re-encrypted to stop anyone getting into it, using different passwords.
Your files may still be in your system but they will be of no use whatsoever to you because you can’t get into it and everything about your company is locked down. This can include: your communications systems, payment systems, your CCTV, your income and your outgoing streams, invoices and sales.
There is also the question of how much damage has been done to your company’s reputation in the eyes of its customers?
Business is all about trust and that will have been eroded because now the criminal has your details too.
But if you think strategically, and look at all of these individual sections of your company, you can start to mitigate the impact of ransomware and to help prevent an attack happening in the first place.
You can’t say it’s never going to happen but if it does happen, you are in the best position possible to try to get your network up and running again and to help protect it more effectively.
Looking at recent high-profile Ransomware attacks, criminals have often managed to penetrate their victims’ networks some weeks or months prior to the deployment of the ransomware. This means that criminals could ‘cherry pick’ certain data files that they can re-sell on the dark web. All of this means you need to take your cyber security seriously and make sure you are monitoring your network and can detect if there are anomalies. You also need to have a backup regime that will work in case the worst does happen.
When was the last time you tested your backup?
Detective Constable Gareth Jordan has been a police officer for 13 years and prior to that, was employed in the IT and Pre-Press and Print sector.
Gareth is now based at Police HQ in Carmarthen and has been involved in investigating all forms of crime that have a cyber-element to them.
He has a wealth of knowledge regarding Cyber Security and continues to expand this by being involved in the day-to-day investigation of cyber-based crimes.
Gareth knows about the latest cyber scams and can explain how they are carried out – and more importantly – how you can avoid falling foul of them.