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ransomware attacks on small businesses

Ransomware Attacks on Small Businesses

ransomware attacks on small businesses
via Pixabay

Hackers are always on the hunt for new targets. It doesn’t matter how large or small a business is; everyone can bring cybercriminals what they are looking for – valuable data.

Small businesses often forget that they can be a victim of cybercriminals too. In fact, hackers tend to attack small businesses more often than large corporations. Why? Small businesses lack the resources and knowledge on how they can secure their business data.

According to Accenture’s study, 43% of cyberattacks are aimed at small businesses, and only 14% were able to protect themselves from attacks. Most small businesses pay between $10,000 to $50,000 to retrieve their data. That amount is quite expensive for small businesses.

Ransomware attacks are causing small to mid-sized businesses to suffer. They end up needing to spend much more than they earn. Unlike large enterprises, small businesses don’t have the means to get the best and most expensive security tools and experts to watch their data. 

However, that doesn’t mean that small businesses cannot protect their data at all.

In fact, there are affordable software and simple practices that small businesses can use to help them protect their business from threats.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts or holds the victim’s information or data and requires a ransom in exchange for the data. When data is encrypted, no one can access the file or database. It can only be retrieved by paying the ransom.

Businesses can get infected when someone opens a link in a phishing email or downloads an email attachment. Then, the malicious code takes control of a computer or perhaps the whole network once launched.

There are various ways ransomware can be delivered. It can originate via security flaws and infect a system without the user’s knowledge. Ransomware often attacks vulnerable software and systems. It gets into older, unsupported versions of software. 

The problem with ransomware attacks is that they can spread across a network and affect multiple files and databases. Therefore, it encrypts the entire organization’s data, so there can be no access at all.

How Does It Work?

Ransomware uses a type of encryption that encrypts and decrypts a file using a pair of keys. The hacker generates a unique public-private pair of keys for the victim. The private key is needed to decrypt files saved on the attacker’s server. The attacker will only give the victim the private key once the ransom is paid, but this is not always the case. 

Ransomware looks for and encrypts important files. It can also spread to other systems and large enterprises by exploiting the system and network flaws.

Once data has been encrypted, ransomware will demand payment within 24 to 48 hours, or the files will be permanently lost. If backup data isn’t available, the victim will have to pay the ransom to get their files back.

Here are some ways ransomware attacks try to find their target:

  • Phishing emails. Companies use emails all the time for communication and collaboration. Hackers exploit it by sending phishing emails that contain malicious links or attachments. Victims who do not know how to differentiate a phishing email from an original one can click on the link or download an attachment. Then, cybercriminals can now access and encrypt important files.
  • Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). Hackers try to access through RDP as computers are linked to one another on a network connection. They’ll use the trial-and-error method to access the RDP or use the credentials they have bought from the dark web.
  • Outdated software. Any weaknesses in your software or security hackers can take advantage of it to inject malware into the system and deploy its intended action.

Why Should You Be Alarmed?

Since most business data are stored in the cloud or people pay online to get goods, hackers find this an opportunity to steal valuable information.

With so many businesses online, cybercriminals can easily pick their next target. Since most small businesses don’t focus much on protecting their data, it makes it easy for hackers to gain access to their systems.

The lack of security and training of small businesses are the reasons why hackers always target them. Most news we hear is about large companies from the finance, healthcare, or government sectors, but there are more attacks on small businesses. 

Ransomware attacks are damaging to businesses. It can cost more than a business’s revenue. Furthermore, it causes downtime and damages the reputation of a business.

If a business is just starting or cannot afford to get back on its feet after the attack, it can cause closure of the business.

Should You Pay the Ransom?

Most experts advised businesses not to pay the ransom. Why? Cybercriminals will keep encrypting files as they know small businesses may pay. Also, they might find a way to do so again for your business. Furthermore, paying the ransom doesn’t guarantee that your data will be returned.

What to Do to Protect Your Small Business from Ransomware Attacks?

Of course, you’re not here to pass the time but to make sure that you know how to protect your business. No business owner wants their business data to fall into the wrong hands.

So, here are tips you can do to secure your small business from ransomware attacks this 2022.

Make It a Habit to Back up Regularly

There are many ways you can back up your business data. You can find good options of cloud-based backup systems or store them on-site.

If you regularly back up your data, you can retrieve your files in case a ransomware attack happens. There is no need to pay the hackers for your encrypted files when you have a copy.

However, make sure to have more than one backup system. Most hackers are increasingly targeting backup systems to keep the company out of access to their data.

Furthermore, make sure that files you sync to the cloud are not infected by malware because this can affect files on the cloud and other users too.

Update All Systems and Software

Outdated software becomes a gateway for hackers to get into a system or network. They exploit vulnerabilities of a software or system to inject their malicious code.

Updating your software and system can keep you away from possible attacks. Developers update their software and release them frequently to patch holes. If you see any business application requesting an update, don’t click the ignore button.

Create a Ransomware Attack Action Plan

Aside from backing up your data on multiple backup systems as part of your action plan, you can also encrypt your backup files for additional security. Hackers will find it difficult to gain access to data they have stolen if it is encrypted in the first place.

Another way to protect your business from ransomware attacks is to create a scenario similar to an attack. You can hire cybersecurity companies to help with the activity. This real-time exercise will help you and your employees on what to do in case an attack occurs. There is no need to panic over the attack because you’ll have an idea of what to do.

Educate Employees

Employee negligence accounts for 48% root cause of data breaches in small businesses. That’s why it is crucial to educate your employees about cyber threats, where they originate, how they can enter the system, and their effect on your business.

Also, having an action plan where employees participate in a ransomware attack scenario can teach them how to react and what to do if an attack happens.

If your employees have an idea about ransomware attacks and other threats, they can reduce the possibility of giving hackers the chance to enter into the network in the first place.

Limit Access to Company’s Valuable Data

Giving access only to those who are required to handle company data can less likely put your business data at risk of attacks. You can train employees who manage sensitive data so they won’t accidentally give access to cybercriminals.

Also, limiting those who can access company data can make it easy to monitor the content.

Install Antivirus Software

Antivirus software is a tool to proactively scan your device for the presence of threats. It can perform deep scanning and check on files for malicious content. Also, antivirus software secures online activities and blocks phishing websites that can be a potential place for hackers to gain access to a system.

There are dedicated antivirus software programs made for the specific operating system and number of devices you use in your company. You can buy Windows or Mac antivirus or opt for multiple protection software.

Use Multi-Factor Authentication

Whenever possible, enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) on your accounts. This additional security can be a biometric, token, or PIN code. It’ll prevent hackers from gaining access to your accounts. Even if they have your password, they cannot log in without the additional security.

Monitor for Suspicious Activities

Use monitoring tools to track user behavior and check for suspicious traffic or activity in your system. Detecting the presence of unauthorized behavior can prevent attackers from further deploying their attacks.

Some suspicious behavior can be:

  • Access to data that’s not part of daily task
  • Transferring data
  • Access to company data after office hours
  • Multiple failed login and authentication request

You can customize the monitoring tools by indicating what is normal from suspicious behavior. Any activities that are not within the stated parameters will trigger the monitoring tools to send alerts and notifications.

Implementing these practices can secure your company’s data.


Ransomware attacks will continue to rise with other threats as most of our activities happen online. Since everything is accessed using the internet, it becomes easy for hackers to deploy their attacks and find targets.

Small and mid-sized businesses are often the target, but there are ways that they can keep their company data safe. With the tips mentioned in this article, you can go ahead and secure your vital information and avoid spending on data breaches.

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