What are the 5 dangers ransomware creates for enterprises and organizations?
Ransomware remains one of the most potent, versatile, and devastating branches of malware in existence. A favorite of hackers the world over, every business regardless of size should fear what ransomware could do to their IT environment. Moreover, they must work to protect themselves against it.
But what exactly can ransomware do? What dangers does ransomware pose? We dive into those questions here.
5 Dangers Caused by Ransomware for Businesses
How Does Ransomware Work?
Ransomware is defined by how it operates rather than how it infiltrates networks (i.e. spear-phishing). A hacker uses any of the means at their disposal to get their ransomware into the business IT environment. The ransomware then encrypts specific files, parts of the network, or the entire environment, preventing access by the victim company.
As befits the name, the hackers responsible send a message to the victim demanding a ransom payment (often in cryptocurrency but not always) for the decryption code to regain access. Usually, they put the victim on a time limit on the ransom payment; failure to pay within the time limit may result in an increased ransom demand or the exposure of the encrypted data (or both).
With that established, here’s how ransomware can damage your business.
One of the underrated dangers of ransomware is appearances. Customers naturally shy away from businesses that don’t appear to have their cybersecurity under control and may abandon brands entirely after certain attacks.
Unfortunately, there is no way to conceal ransomware; by nature, they attract attention since they need someone to notice what’s happening to get them to pay up. Trying to gain customer trust back after having lost it is a huge challenge, which can take a significant investment of time and resources. Worse, depending on how the ransomware attack occurred, your business may face compliance fines, which hurt both financially and reputationally.
At the end of the day, ransomware attacks files and networks. Once the hacker encrypts them, those files become the hacker’s playthings. They could release the files to the public, or sell them on the Dark Web, or just keep them for future attacks. When ransomware hits, you can never be totally sure what’s happening with your infected files, but you can always assume it won’t be good.
If a hacker’s ransomware affects enough of the IT environment, then it can inflict one of the chief dangers of ransomware: downtime. Imagine a customer coming to your website and discovering it non-functional. How many times will they re-attempt before they give up and try a competitor?
The damage that lost sales and interaction caused by downtime can’t be calculated nor overstated.
Lost Ransom Money
Of course, some would argue that enterprises should take the obvious route in dealing with ransomware: pay the ransom. However, paying the ransomware is always a mistake, for more than a few reasons.
First, the prices are often exorbitant; while often tailored to the business attacked, the demands can reach into the millions. It represents a significant hit on your bottom line.
Second, paying the ransomware does not guarantee that the hackers will actually return your data to its normal state. Remember that phrase “no honor among thieves?” It applies to cyber-criminals as well. Often, they turn around and demand another payment.
After all, why shouldn’t they? They already know you’ll pay. This leads neatly to…
One of the dangers of ransomware is that it invites more ransomware attacks by other hackers (or perhaps the same hackers if you fail to find the vulnerability they exploited). Words of your vulnerabilities and tactics may yet spread on the Dark Web or on hacker forums, and you may not have a long respite before you suffer another security incident.
This applies double if you end up paying the ransom. By encouraging bad behavior, you end up suffering from more of it. Only the victims are also your employees, clients, and shareholders.
Check out the Endpoint Security Buyer’s Guide for information on preventing ransomware.
Ben Canner is an enterprise technology writer and analyst covering Identity Management, SIEM, Endpoint Protection, and Cybersecurity writ large. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from Clark University in Worcester, MA. He previously worked as a corporate blogger and ghost writer. You can reach him via Twitter and LinkedIn.