Ransomware is a category of viruses that encrypts files on a victim’s computer and keeps them locked until the victim pays up. If you don’t pay the criminals who spread it—up to $5,000 per user, according to the FBI—you lose the files forever. Imagine you arrive at your home or office to find all your computers padlocked, and a man in a mask demanding $5,000 per user to give you the key.
That’s what ransomware is like. Numerous tech publications have listed ransomware among the biggest digital threats facing businesses today. This is due to its capacity to slip through home or corporate security and its potential to replicate itself across a corporate network. The first ransomware targeting Macs has recently been spotted in the wild If your home or company computers gets infected, you face two very hard choices: Either spend multiple days recovering the locked files from backups—during which time you’ll endure user downtime, lost sales and angry customers—or pay ransom to an organized crime syndicate. (Even then, you still need to wipe and restore your computers to remove the virus. Without a personal or business continuity plan in place, your business suffers downtime regardless. More on that later.)
The employees of the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center can tell you what it’s like. This February, they were forced to take their PCs offline so I.T. could contain a ransomware outbreak and restore the files. They spent 10 days relying on fax machines and paper charts. They made unwanted headlines in the New York Times, the BBC and countless other publications. In the end, they ended up paying $17,000 in ransom, just to avoid even more protracted downtime. Don’t assume that ransomware attacks only happen to hospitals…ALL companies are at risk. Our 2016 Crypto-Ransomware Study reveals that paying the ransom is the least of your worries:
Downtime will cost you more than the ransom
- Ransomware is targeting bigger businesses
- Ransomware is a growth industry
You need a solid business continuity plan in place for fast recovery from a ransomware attack. “Business continuity” is the ability for the business to continue operations immediately after a disaster, or even while a disaster is ongoing. Check out our full 2016 Crypto-Ransomware report for a deeper dive into the problem of ransomware and information about tools you can use to help get users back up and running after an attack. This report, which is based on a survey of 300 IT experts, helps you understand the true cost of ransomware, learn some basic prevention and containment techniques, and plan for business continuity to avoid downtime in the increasingly likely even that your business will get hit.
Cecil Cates has 25 years of experience in information technology. He is the owner and president of CMIT Solutions of Northern Union County, a company that helps businesses use technology to deliver their products and services more effectively.
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