Why Ransomware is More Than Just An IT Problem

Ransomware is a growing threat that keeps on making headlines as strains improve, and attackers realize the potential profits they can gain. 2016 may have been declared the “Year of Ransomware” by many experts, but this year has so far seen its fair share of highly impactful and public ransomware threats like WannaCry and NotPetya. These strains show that highly sophisticated ransomware is becoming the norm and serve as reminders that businesses need to protect themselves appropriately.

When it comes to preventing, protecting and mitigating cyber attacks, the responsibility often falls to the IT department. However, security experts agree that this mindset isn’t a sustainable security business model. Cyber protection is still an afterthought in many cases, but this is a major mistake. Ransomware is more than just an IT problem and your organization could be facing the consequences if it doesn’t prepare effectively.

Costs of a Ransomware Breach

Companies are mostly relying on their IT team to champion cyber security efforts, but not all are setting aside enough money for protection apart from the technology budget. This means that security spending might get lost among other priorities and leave certain areas underserved, which is exactly what hackers are looking for. Attackers seek out organizations, particularly small- and medium-sized businesses, that don’t have the money, expertise, tools or resources to protect themselves effectively. Companies cannot rely on their size as a means to avoid attacks and must consider the consequences of a ransomware breach.

The consequences of ransomware are much more than monetary costs.

Ransomware breaches are extensive. The 2016 Internet Crime Report from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center disclosed $2.4 million in victim losses from a total of 2,673 complaints related to ransomware last year. Keep in mind that this is only the results of organizations that reported a ransomware breach – the actual amount of money lost and number of victims is likely much higher. In addition, most studies don’t measure the breach’s effect on business operations. When ransomware brings down systems for a length of time, it can negatively impact business volumes and cause the loss of customer trust. These types of costs are too high for any organization to chance.

Inadequate Training Leaves Weak Links

The costs of ransomware combined with business expectations put a lot of pressure on IT teams to succeed. However, technology professionals can no longer be the main block to something like ransomware, especially as strains continue to evolve. In many cases, ransomware is distributed through email attachments and might even require a recipient to actively click and download the files. In these cases, employees are the ones who are unknowing victims that open up their business systems to potential damage.

At the end of the day, every single person in the organization is responsible for upholding cyber security standards. The Managing Insider Risk through Training & Culture study found that 66 percent of respondents believed that employees are the weakest link in efforts to create a strong security posture, Dark Reading reported. Despite this, only 35 percent of senior executives have made it a priority to improve staff knowledge of security culture. Sixty percent even admitted that workers have no knowledge of the company’s security risks, showing just how much organizations are really relying on IT departments. Of the companies that do have training programs, 43 percent stated that they have only one basic course for all employees. Most organizations don’t include important topics like phishing, social engineering attacks, mobile device security or secure use of cloud services. Forty-five percent don’t even make the training mandatory.

“It’s everyone’s job to ensure that protections are upheld.”

Stepping up Your Security Game

Workers continue to be the biggest risk to their organization when it comes to ransomware and other cyber attacks. The costs of a breach are just too much to ignore, and while IT teams might be responsible for putting security procedures and tools in place, it’s everyone’s job to ensure that protections are upheld. Fortunately, there are a number of critical steps that can be taken to provide multiple levels of safeguards:

1. Create a training regimen, and enforce it

Employee negligence and unawareness can be easily fixed with ongoing training sessions and routine policy enforcement. This means administering sessions that are current and address emerging cyber threats to ensure that people understand what malicious strains look like. Knowing is half the battle; the other half should be made up of regular policy checks. Testing your staff members and enforcing consequences for violations will set expectations and help maintain security. Workers are the first major means of stopping a ransomware attack and this step ensures they understand their role.

2. Patch all vulnerabilities

Although patching can be seen as a time-consuming activity, it’s necessary to close open security gaps. After WannaCry hit businesses around the world, Microsoft released patches to protect companies. However, some organizations didn’t follow through and were hit by NotPetya, which used the same vulnerability. Patch management solutions can help rollout updates more seamlessly and reinstate security across mission-critical systems.

The pressure on IT teams to address all ransomware issues is unrealistic and unsustainable. It’s everyone’s job to protect the business from ransomware and other malicious techniques. For more information on how to maintain security, contact Faronics today.

About The Author

Matt Williams

A self-proclaimed ‘tech geek’, Matt has worked in technology for a decade and divides his time between blogging and working in IT. A huge New York Giants fan, expert on Reboot Restore Technology when not watching football Matt gets his game on playing Call of Duty with his friends and other tech bloggers.

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