Businesses are becoming frequent targets for fraud. In fact, 43% of cyberattacks are aimed at small businesses, while only 14% of companies are prepared to repond.1 Malicious attempts to gain access to your company’s and customers’ confidential information can come in various forms, two of which are malware and ransomware.

These attacks can significantly alter your business’ financial standing and reputation among current and prospective clientele. Preparing for an incident before it occurs is imperative to the long-term success of your operation. Compare malware and ransomware and review steps to protect your business from both.

What Is Malware?

Hackers use malware to infect your device with unauthorized software to access confidential information – often for monetary gain. Malicious codes often prompt you to download a program or open an email attachment, which enables the hacker behind the screen to take full control of your device and system. Malware codes can be disguised in many forms, including spyware, bugs, viruses, bots, adware and many more.

Small businesses with less than 100 employees are reported to receive 350% more cyber security attacks than larger businesses,2 with each incident costing hundreds of thousands of dollars – some even causing companies to close their doors.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a subset of malware, which gains full control of your confidential data and restricts access until a ransom is paid. Hackers launching a ransomware attack can block access to various devices, including personal computers and smartphones, and often lock your device or encrypt files. In 2021, a business was targeted by a ransomware attack every 11 seconds.3 In 2022 alone, ransomware attacks are estimated to cost U.S. businesses over $20 billion. This also increases the amount companies are spending on cybersecurity, which is expected to reach $172 billion in 2022.4

Direct ransom payments are far from the end for businesses victimized by a ransom attack. Costs incurred from business downtime are found to be five to 10 times higher than the original ransom payment. For small businesses in 2020, the average ransom request was $5,600 while the cost of interruption was $274,200 – an over 17% increase from 2018.3

Other indirect expenses of a ransomware attack include compensation, lawsuits and reputation damage from customers who feel their information was not properly protected. It is important to note while the encrypted data may be restored, your customer’s trust may not be.

How to Prevent a Malware and Ransomware Attack

Costs incurred from malware and ransomware attacks can overload business owners, so it is imperative to take steps today to keep your information secure and prevent an incident. Proactivity is a must to prevent malicious attempts at your business. Educate your team on ways to spot a hacking red flag, how to protect your information from attacks and what to do should an attack occur. To get started, all members of your organization should:

  • Keep security software up-to-date: An updated program is one that works. Consider enabling automatic updates to run on your devices to defend against malicious incidents and various security risks.
  • Avoid the unexpected: If you receive an unsolicited email or suspicious link, do not open it. This may be a phishing attempt to gain access to your sensitive information. According to the FTC, the majority of ransomware is downloaded through phishing emails. It is also important to double-check a website’s URL and features to verify the site is not a fake. Hackers often attempt to replicate a popular website to trick you into entering your credentials.
  • Use strong passwords: Pass on recycled or easily guessed passwords that include your initials or birthday. Hackers have methods to easily break these and access your account. Create varying, uncommon passwords for each of your accounts and, where applicable, enable two-step authentication.
  • Think twice before downloading: Investigate reviews of software or programs you are considering downloading onto your device before doing so. This will help ensure legitimacy.
  • Ensure your firewall is enabled: Firewalls block certain information from accessing your device. Make sure this is turned on at all times to prevent fraud.
  • Limit privileges: Applications often need permission from your computer to run, even malware. Implement constraints on what programs can and cannot do without your permission and look out for alerts notifying you of attempted changes.
  • Employ a recovery plan: Enabling a back-up system to act as a safety net for your employee and customer data can reduce the impact of a malicious attack. Consider storing the information in a secure location offline and out of reach to hackers to use in the event of an attack.

Report any ransomware attack to your local FBI field office immediately and request assistance. These incidents can be stressful on your time and wallet, so it is crucial to prepare before one occurs. Visit our website to learn how we can help your business remain safe online.