February 17, 2016
3 Lessons From A Ransomware Attack
On a long-haul flight from Australia to New York, there’s only a limited number of things you can do to keep yourself occupied. After watching a couple movies, I migrated to the podcasts within the media collection and found myself entrenched in a Radiolab podcast titled Darkode, about a mother and daughter who were victims of cyber crime.
The subject, Alina, lived with her husband and daughter in New York City and while I didn’t get the impression she was ‘tech-savvy,’ Alina was familiar with computers and helped her husband organize and reconcile all their tax-file information on their home computer.
One day after turning the computer on, she couldn’t open any files.
A message popped up on the screen. “All your files and folders have been protected with an encrypted file system called CryptoLocker. You have seven days to pay $500 to unlock your files and folders. If you don’t pay within this time, the fine will be doubled. If you don’t pay within another week, your files will be deleted.”
A total of 5,726 files had been encrypted.
Alina’s husband didn’t want to pay, but they knew the tax receipts were worth far more than $500, not taking into account the years of personal family photos on the computer. She overruled her husband and decided to pay.
Alina was forced to set up a Bitcoin account, which required taking a photo of her husband and his driver’s license to submit as part of the application. Following the form filling, the next stage is to buy the Bitcoins, which is done via a money order and can be a very time-consuming process.
With this story, there are three major lessons we can focus on:
High-profile threats require a high-profile solution
When I think of cybercrime and cybersecurity threats, particularly crypto viruses, I see them as a group of highly coordinated, established and well-run technical criminals. This type of high-profile threat requires an equally high-profile prevention. Our business data has never been so valuable, as it’s constantly growing and the most crucial piece of how our businesses are run. Investing in a strong, reliable data protection platform is not only recommended, it’s basically required.
Time is money
It’s not if, but when a virus will hit you. You can say goodbye to your $500, but for me, this isn’t the main issue. Seven days out of business for Alina? Let’s say this is a law firm with 20 lawyers that rely on their IT to run their business with an average bill rate of $250 an hour. One week of downtime is worth $25,000, and that doesn’t take into account the possible damage to the company reputation.
Prepare for the worst
As a small business, this is too big of a threat to ignore. Have a proper plan in place, and make sure you’re taking secure backups of your critical data, and that you can fail over to that backup when the virus attacks. Vet out the many solutions and invest in the one that protects your data, no matter where it lives.
As always, taking the proper precautions is the best way to protect yourself from any form of ransomware. In the event you’re attacked, the best way to avoid paying a ransom is to have a proper business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) solution featuring up-to-date backups. This will allow you to restore your data to a point in time before the infection, and retain your precious data. To learn more about all things ransomware, including the common types, how it is spread and how to prevent it, download our eBook: The Business Guide To Ransomware.