A hospital in Los Angeles reportedly paid $17,000 this year to get important computer programs restored. The hospital paid the hackers who scrambled its files, not a technology service.
The hospital was the victim of ransomware, one of the latest, major cybersecurity threats facing businesses, organizations and individuals.
Ransomware is a form of cyberattack that varies in severity. Hackers might infiltrate a network and encrypt files or they might lock up use of a computer or network. The hackers’ objective is usually to get a company or person to pay to regain use of electronic programs or information.
Sometimes a victim can resolve problems through an action as simple as restarting a computer. Other times, even the best technicians cannot repair the damage.
Victims of advanced ransomware infections may have to decide whether to pay the ransom or sacrifice their information. To make matters worse, even if they reluctantly decide to pay, there is no guarantee they will get the information back.
Some cyber trend watchers already have called 2016 the year of ransomware.
“It’s a big problem, and it’s getting worse,” says Jake VanDewater, director of managed services and customer premise equipment at SDN Communications. “All indications are that it’s increasing significantly. It looks like it will be above and beyond projections.”
To help businesses protect themselves against ransomware, SDN will host two Uptime University breakfast seminars in late May – one in Sioux Falls and one in Sioux City.
The first one will be held May 24 at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Sioux Falls. The second one will be held May 25 at the Hilton Garden Inn Riverfront in Sioux City in cooperation with FiberComm. The wide area network provider is partly owned by SDN and serves residential as well as business customers in Sioux City’s tristate, metropolitan area.
At both venues, the event will begin with check-in and breakfast at 7:30 a.m. The program will begin at 8 a.m. and last about two hours.
The informational sessions are free to representatives of businesses, commercial organizations and institutions in the area that want to learn more about the rise of ransomware and how to protect against it. Advance registration is required, however, and limited to 100 people.
VanDewater will be the lead-off speaker at both seminars. Other experts from SDN and Fortinet Inc. will also speak.
Fortinet is a national company known for its high-performance, network-security products, such as firewalls. Sioux Falls-based SDN is the premier regional provider of broadband connectivity and telecommunications services for businesses.
The increasing use of smart devices in offices and homes is providing hackers more potential entryways to valued data. And the black market of the Internet is very accommodating in offering technological know-how and payment options to criminals.
The frequency of ransomware attacks is difficult to accurately measure because businesses might be reluctant to report being a victim so customers don’t see them as being vulnerable.
Industries such as banking and financial services, health care and information technology are among the most common targets of ransomware, Van Dewater says.
The good news is that by taking precautions, ransomware attacks can be prevented, VanDewater points out. Steps such as deploying good, up-to-date virus, malware and firewall protection are musts, not just to block ransomware but to protect networks from an expanding array of other cyber threats.
Training employees also is extremely important, VanDewater says. The effectiveness of the best software and hardware protection in the world can be circumvented by a single, careless employee who opens an infected link in an email, clicks onto a contaminated website or plugs a bad jump drive into a computer.
Organizations also should have a detailed business continuity and disaster recovery plan in place.
“That’s a key component,” VanDewater says.
Hopefully, the backup plan won’t be needed, he says, but preparing a response in in advance can help a company survive an attack and stay in business.
Visit the Uptime University: Rise of Ransomware page to find the event that best fits your schedule and register. Registration is limited to 100 people. The first 15 people to register will receive a special gift bag at the event.