What is ransomware and how do attacks happen?

By WEST BEND , Kayla Eggert

Ransomware attacks have made headline news this year. An attack against a large US pipeline created gasoline shortages all along the east coast. A food manufacturer was also targeted and ended up paying $11 million in ransom money to unlock their computer systems. Criminals are getting better and better at infiltrating and disabling companies’ computer systems. Even if your business isn’t as large as those recently attacked, it’s still very important to make sure you’re taking steps to protect your organization.


What is ransomware and how do attacks happen?


Ransomware is malware that infects a victim’s computer and then encrypts their files. This means the files aren’t able to be accessed or read. A message is then usually sent with instructions on how to pay a ransom to release the files. These attacks often happen through phishing emails, meaning an email with a malicious attachment or file. Attacks can also happen when software isn’t regularly updated, and the hackers exploit a known security flaw.


Keeping Your Business Safe


These attacks can have devastating consequences even for a small business. Protect your company with these tips:

  • Make sure software systems are updated so there are fewer vulnerabilities for a hacker to exploit.

  • Train employees to identify phishing emails and instruct them to never open suspicious attachments or provide identification credentials.

  • Install antivirus software on company computers and use a spam blocker on the company email system.

  • Make sure data is backed up onto a different server. If all the data is backed up and secured, hackers will have no leverage to extort your business.

Additional Resources


To learn more about ransomware, check out this information from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.


Read through our other articles on cybersecurity:


Crisis Communication after a Security Breach


Strong Passwords and Backing Up Data


Phishing Attempts


Physical Device Protection


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