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Hey everybody, this is Gene Marks and welcome to this week’s Small Biz Ahead podcast. Let’s talk about ransomware. Listen, it is affecting so many businesses and it could affect yours. Have you ever heard of GandCrab, Ryuk, BitPaymer, SamSam, Matrix? These are all different forms of ransomware. It’s a type of computer virus that, for the past few years, as you probably know right now, has wrecked havoc on businesses and organizations, both big and small, around the world. And is not going away anytime soon. It is likely that your business has bumped into this problem, and if not, you probably will. There are plenty of other types of viruses and malware that can affect your business, but ransomware is particularly concerning because, well, it’s a money maker for the entrepreneurial computer hacker. I mean, just recently a Georgia County paid more than $400,000 to get rid of a ransomware virus.
And over the past few years, there have been costly attacks on some big name companies and health services and transportation places and school districts as well. They make the headlines. But you know what? The small companies that get affected by ransomware, you and me, we don’t make the headlines, but that doesn’t mean that small businesses are unaffected. A recent study found that more than one in five businesses with less than a thousand employees had experienced a ransomware attack, which caused them to stop operations in order to recover and causes an average of a thousand, a hundred thousand dollars in losses per incident due to the downtime. This was reported on CNN. A large organization can bounce back from a ransomware attack, but for a very small one where all the information is lost, it is a lot harder to rebound. Ransomware guys, it’s a million, a multi-billion dollar a year business and it’s growing.
There have been hundreds of millions of ransomware attacks worldwide with 100% and more increase, 300% since the beginning of COVID. Now, if you wonder how a ransomware attack can happen, it’s not as hard as you think. It can be easily downloaded as part of a file, a spam email, a click on a fake online advertisement, or even by visiting a malicious website that appears to be legitimate. Once the virus is downloaded, it quickly spreads throughout a company’s network and then encrypts or locks up all files. The makers then demand a ransom, usually a few hundred bucks in some sort of digital currency like Bitcoin to get a key code that will unlock the data. And by the way, that’s assuming they’ll live up to their word. And why shouldn’t they? They’re hackers, right? So are you excited about the prospect of paying some hacker in most likely Eastern Europe or some far other part of the world, a ransom and then hope that they will live up to their promise and send you a description code?
Do you really think they’ll never bother you again? I hope not. What you need to do is take proactive steps to protect yourself and your business. So let me give you some thoughts. Number one, update your security software. My company uses a product called Malwarebytes, but there are plenty of other good security applications around that are made by McAfee, Symantec, Bitdefender, FireEye. Make sure the software is installed on all devices for all of your employees. Nowadays, these types of applications update themselves as long as you let them. Make sure you do that. Don’t let your subscriptions lapse. Next, get training. Multiple studies have shown that the biggest cause of security breaches is you and me and our employees as well. Many of us inadvertently click on things we shouldn’t be clicking on, or we browse to fishing and other dubious websites where malicious software is downloaded without our knowledge. Bring in an outside firm to conduct annual training for all of your employees.
Consider using applications like KnowBe4, KNOWBE, the number four. Or Webroot Security Awareness or Inspired eLearning, where these customized security tests can be created that your employees must take and pass regularly. Subscribe to an online backup application. These are relatively inexpensive. They’re good ones like Carbonite, EyeDrive and Backblaze. They won’t stop a ransomware attack from happening, but because they’re continually backing your applications concurrently from all of your devices and servers, you’ll be able to wipe everything clean if you’re attacked and restore them from your last good backup. I mean, yeah, you might lose a few good hours, even a day of work, but in the end, you’ll be up and running quickly with nothing paid out to the ransomware maker. Finally guys, and probably most importantly, upgrade your operating systems. If, for example, in like millions of other businesses, you’re running Microsoft Windows, make sure you’ve got the most recent version installed on all of your devices, because as I write this, there are tens of thousands of software bots that are secretly looking for older, more vulnerable computers running out of date operating systems that they can exploit.
All they need is one out of date machine and they’re into your network. So a current operating system is a strong defense. So listen, I admit, none of these tactics are gonna guarantee that you’ll go unscathed to buy a ransomware attack, but by employing them, it will make it less enticing for a hacker to strike your business. That’s because with so many businesses that have such poor security, why would a hacker waste time with yours? Get protected, make yourself aware. Getting attacked by a ransomware virus can shut down your business for days or even weeks and even put some people out of business. Take this stuff seriously. Guys, you’ve been listening to another episode of the Small Biz Ahead podcast. You can visit us at SmallBizAhead.com or SBA.TheHartford.com if you’d like some advice and help and tips to help you run your business. My name is Gene Marks. I hope this episode helps you protect your business and run your business that much better. I’ll be back next week with another thought or tip to help you run your business. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you soon. Take care.
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