All LinkedIn Articles are posted by Victor J. Quinones, Jr., CEO, Chairman, and Co-Founder at Virtual-Q. Original article posted here.
Cyberattacks are nothing new, but the threat to American companies is steadily growing. Organizations must put in place security measures to mitigate the evolving risk, but many business leaders aren’t exactly sure where to start.
This is a particular problem for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that often don’t have the budget for a full-scale internal IT team with cybersecurity expertise. All is not lost, though, because IT and cybersecurity support firms like Virtual Q can provide the necessary expertise to meet the threat.
What Is Ransomware, and Why Is Colonial Pipeline Important?
A ransomware attack occurs when hackers break into an organization’s systems, lock out normal users or put a halt to vital functions, and demand a ransom before data is released. Typically, these ransoms take the form of cryptocurrency. Lately, a string of high profile ransomware attacks has shed fresh light on the threat.
On May 7, the DarkSide hacking group based out of Russia launched a cyber attack on the business IT systems of the Colonial Pipeline, effectively shutting it down until a ransom was paid on May 15. The ransom, equal to 75 Bitcoin or nearly $5 million, was a substantial sum of money. But, considering the fact that the pipeline carries roughly 45% of the gasoline, jet fuel, and other petroleum products for the East coast of the United States, Colonial was forced to pay.
And, just weeks later, JBS, one of the world’s largest meat packing companies, suffered a similar ransomware attack by another hacker group. The message here is that these attacks aren’t going away—they’re accelerating in frequency.
At this point, you may be wondering why such a large-scale attack is relevant for SMBs and their owners. While large attacks like Colonial and JBS draw press attention and virtually write their own headlines, the fact is, hundreds of SMBs deal with ransomware attacks each week and the cost can severely impact a company’s ability to stay in business. Specifically, 55% of SMBs have experienced a data breach or cyberattack and the average cost for an SMB to overcome a data breach is $38k.
Issues With Business Continuity Strategies
The importance of backup and disaster recovery strategies is hard to overstate. However, a business leader should not rely completely on peace of mind derived from their business continuity strategy.
If systems and data are backed up, one might think they’ll just ignore the attack and restore their systems. The trouble is that hackers may also be able to, for example, release damaging or confidential information to the public if the ransom is not paid. This could negatively impact such factors as operational ability, recruiting, stock price, and more.
Uncovering Hidden Costs
The question executives need to address is whether they can afford the costs of a ransomware attack. Remember, these costs are potentially much greater than the ransom alone. The Colonial Pipeline hack resulted in costly downtime, but the long-term damage to their status could be even greater.
As fuel stations along the East Coast ran out of gas to meet demand, prices per gallon climbed and customer confidence was shaken, impacting profitability for stakeholders at every point in the supply chain and dramatically altering any semblance of competitive advantage among fuel providers.
Furthermore, Colonial’s expensive incident raised questions about procedures for when a company, whether integral to national infrastructure or not, should notify customers about data breaches and what details should be made public. All data is valuable, and high-profile attacks underscore ongoing concerns about personal privacy on a consumer level and the protection of intellectual property on a corporate level.
Taking Preventative Measures
The threat of online attack is ever present, so the best strategy is to take preventative action.
- Implement robust security architecture like firewalls, antiviral defenses, endpoint encryption, and user authentication to your network to prevent data intrusion.
- Utilize proactive detection to identify threats in your online ecosystem and neutralize them before they become an imminent danger.
- Assess your company’s exploitable vulnerabilities and develop strategies to mitigate those risks.
- Establish a comprehensive business continuity/disaster recovery plan, including incident response playbooks, and run drills so all essential personnel know their roles and proper procedures.
At Virtual Q globally, we’re implementing tools and strategies to help SMBs mitigate the risk of ransomware and cyber threats of all kinds. What does your current security strategy look like? Don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re here to discuss.
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