Ransomware attacks are far more common in our days and more costly than we would like to admit. Ransomware incidents occurred as early as 1989. In the first half of 2018, over 181.5 million ransomware attacks were reported, and the numbers haven’t shrunk even in 2021. But what exactly is ransomware? How can companies avoid it, and why is it so costly for victims of such attacks?
What Is Ransomware?
In the physical world, criminals would kidnap people and hold them hostage for ransom. In the digital world, criminal hackers use ransomware to harass and extort money from their victims. Ransomware is software created by hackers that blocks your PC and restricts your access to your data. They hold your data hostage by encrypting it.
Usually, if you want your information restored, you have to pay the cybercriminal a certain amount of money to regain access to your computer. However, these cybercriminals typically demand to be paid in virtual currencies. Apart from the hassle of getting virtual currencies to pay them, they also usually get away with it since virtual currency can’t be tracked. What’s worse, you don’t have any guarantee that your data will be restored to you.
The Cost of Ransomware
The cost and damages done by ransomware vary significantly. Usually, victims pay between $200 to 400$ to gain back access to their computers. However, companies suffer even more. Take, for example, the company GWT Global, a U.S. travel service corporation.
They were the victims of the Ragnar Locker ransomware gang in 2020 and had to pay an astounding $4.5 million to gain back access to their computers. What’s worse, ransomware attacks are rising globally with 2021, setting a new record in these incidents.
These cyberattacks increased by 151% from the previous year. Another firm, SonicWall’s Capture Labs, reported 304.7 million attempted ransomware attacks on their telemetry alone. Since virtual currency is hard to track, its value shifts frequently, and as the world goes through chaotic economic ups and downs, the cost of ransomware attacks is on the rise.
It is a big issue even for the regular internet user, not just companies. Since, even if you are lucky and have to pay a small sum to get your data back, you don’t have a guarantee that you will get it back. Apart from this, you might lose data that might have great emotional value and is often irreplaceable.
When it comes to companies, their losses are more significant in terms of monetary value. Even if they don’t pay the ransom requested by the hackers, companies lose a lot of time on these issues, which inevitably affect their production, and thus financial losses. Here are some other examples of significant ransomware attacks:
- Acer – $50 million ransom
- CNA Financial – $40 million ransom
- Kia Motors – $20 million ransom
- Colonial Pipeline – $4.4 million ransom
Is it Better to Fix or Take Security Steps Against Ransomware?
You can remove some ransomware from your PC without losing data; however, this might not be possible in other cases. The best protection overall is prevention, and you should consider taking specific security steps that will significantly lower your chances of contacting a ransomware virus.
How Can an Organization Prevent Itself From Hackers and Ransomware Attacks?
Hackers exploit the way the internet works nowadays more easily than before as internet users will easily give their personal information. To protect yourself or your organization from ransomware attacks, here are some steps you need to consider.
Backup and Recovery
You need to have a backup and recovery plan for your critical information. Store this information regularly on an external drive. Be cautious, as network-connected backups are still vulnerable in the face of ransomware attacks.
Keep Everything Updated
Your operating system, software, the latest patches, applications, anti-virus software, everything needs to be up-to-date on your PC. Hackers can find vulnerable points in your system if you run out-of-date programs. Regularly scan your computer with your anti-virus software.
VPN for PC
Use a VPN for PC to avoid ransomware. A virtual private network will encrypt your data and make you truly private on the web, and it is among the best tools to stay protected in the face of cyberattacks. However, avoid suspicious links and sketchy downloadable files.
Restrict User Permissions
If you run your PC with full administrator privileges, it can use those privileges against you when your PC gets hacked. However, if the cyberattack occurred on a PC user with fewer privileges, then the virus’s modifications to your PC will also be limited.