Technology Advisor Blog

Ransomware Protection in Boston: 5 Things You Must Do

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 5/6/24 2:42 PM

Ransomware RemediationRansomware protection for your Boston area business can save you from going out of business. What would you do if your files and essential data suddenly became inaccessible, stolen, and sold on the dark web? Could you operate critical business functions without this data?

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the immediate steps your business must take if it’s just been hit by ransomware. You'll also see the latest data surrounding ransomware attacks and their effects on small business. And most importantly, we’ll look at what to do immediately after a ransomware attack has occurred, before going into the building blocks of a full-scale ransomware protection strategy.

Why Ransomware Protection is Critical for Small Business

Cybercrime is on the rise - and it is costing victims, usually small business owners, a lot more than it used to. The numbers are staggering: 2024 is projected to result in global costs of up to $9 trillion. What’s also scary for business leaders is that anybody and any business can be hit with ransomware. It’s a myth that cyber-attacks are heavily targeted - this isn’t usually the case. The reality is that most malware attacks, including ransomware attacks, are indiscriminate. A cybercriminal can send out a million emails to a range of targets with little cost to them but dire consequences for their unsuspecting victims.

Criminals Are Targeting Small Business

Ransomware Protection BostonWhile cyber attacks on larger corporations tend to make front-page news, small businesses are getting hit just as hard, if not even harder. Of the businesses that suffer a major cyber attack and related data loss event, 1 in 5 businesses have to shut down.

Even if organizations can recover, the recoil both in reputation and business costs is severe. Overcoming cybercrime events deals a major blow to operational efficiency as more time and resources are poured into dealing with the problem and trying to return to normal functionality. Because of the downtime businesses face, coupled with other associated remediation expenses, cyber attacks cost businesses on average over $9M.

One of the leading forms of cyber attack is through ransomware attacks. Delivered via email, where 90% of all cyber threats arrive, ransomware literally takes control of and encrypts your data in order to extort you for money. Approximately 82% of ransomware attacks occur in small to midsize businesses, making it one of the biggest cyber threats to modern business. That’s why prioritizing ransomware protection is essential for every Boston business. Because Boston is such a prominent business city, more cybercriminals are targeting this area for ransomware. Just in 2020, 1 in 6 Massachusetts communities suffered ransomware attacks. You don’t want to be among them.

Ransomware Remediation 101

If you get hit with ransomware, it's going to be a big shock, especially for small businesses. Understanding how ransomware attacks happen and how to respond immediately is critical to salvaging your data and returning to normal as soon as possible. Let’s start by studying how ransomware works and then examine your immediate steps should ransomware a event occur.

How Ransomware Bad Actors Break In

Boston RansomwareDespite the popular image of sophisticated computer criminals, ransomware actors don’t necessarily have to be programmers or hackers. There are actually ransomware kits that criminals can purchase and implement from the dark web. This has led to the rise of career ransomware implementers whose sole focus is to target and extort any business they can penetrate. Some of these organizations are quite sophisticated, blasting out millions of emails or running scanners to compromise firewalls, steal credentials, and initiate brute-force attacks.

So, what are the first and easiest entry points for ransomware criminals? Passwords. If you or your staff use simple passwords or the same password for multiple accounts, these are an easy way for bad actors to unleash ransomware and other malware. Thanks to the automated tools cybercriminals use, if your ransomware protections are weak or you don’t have proper security measures in place, a breach can occur very quickly. Your password psychology, as we call it, is important.

How Ransomware Attacks Occur

Usually what happens is that one of your team opens an email infected with malware. This triggers a pop-up to appear onscreen stating that your files have been encrypted and demanding money to decrypt the data. If you want to get your files back, then you're going to have to pay for the passcode, usually in cryptocurrency, which is favored by cybercriminals.

The biggest issue: there is no guarantee that the criminal will actually give you the passcode after you have paid. Even still, it’s likely they have already stolen and plan to sell your, and your customers’, data. This is not a good position to be in at all, so when this happens, you must respond immediately.

Isolate Compromised Network Areas

The best ransomware defense is planning for this a long time in advance, with the right technology and procedures in place. Regardless of your level of preparation, a ransomware attack can still occur. If it does, your first action should be to isolate the infected system.

If you can, block the site or account in your network where the ransomware breach occurred and cut it off from the rest of the system. You should temporarily remove the affected user’s permissions, block the account’s access to the rest of the system, and change passwords. If you’re uncertain where the affected source is, unplug the network cable. At this point, you don't know how far ransomware malware has spread, so you’ll want to contain it as much as possible.

Contact Your Insurance Provider if You’re Covered

Boston RansomwareAfter isolating the ransomware as best you can, the first phone call you need to make is actually to your insurance company. We advise all businesses to carry cyber insurance. If you have cyber insurance, it's very important to connect with them because they'll have a process and a breach coach to guide you through the ransomware remediation covered under your insurance. The last thing you'd want to do is invalidate your insurance by trying anything yourself.

Seek Emergency Ransomware Help in Boston

Depending on your in-place ransomware defenses and your insurance situation, you’ll most likely need emergency ransomware services. If this is the case, you’ll need to engage a trusted, local ransomware and cybersecurity firm in Boston - you’ll want direct and real-time support. Our veteran cybersecurity team at Ekaru is your one-stop source for all cybersecurity services, from ransomware recovery help to full-scale ransomware prevention planning.

If your system has been hit by ransomware, our team will work to help you identify and isolate the infected areas of your network, recover data, and, most importantly, help you fortify your network. For 20+ years, Ekaru has provided ransomware removal services for many small businesses in the Boston area, so we bring proven experience to the situation. We prioritize quick responsiveness and work under strict confidentiality, which is why we are a trusted IT security firm and Boston ransomware removal service.

Contact Ekaru for an immediate help with ransomware →

Ransomware Protection Plan: 5 Key Components

One of the worst mindsets a business can have with regard to ransomware is, ‘What can I do? I don't have an enormous cybersecurity budget. If big corporations are getting hit, how can I withstand ransomware?’ While ransomware attacks are indiscriminate, they are preventable.

Although there is no perfect security system, having a proactive ransomware protection plan in place decreases your odds of data loss and disruption immensely. With the proper ransomware protections in place, 90% of attacks are prevented or thwarted. Let’s look at the steps you can take to effectively safeguard your business from ransomware.

1. Undergo a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment

Ransomware - Locked Out of ComputersThe first thing to do is get a cybersecurity risk assessment. Best conducted by accredited cybersecurity professionals like Ekaru, this involves a deep vulnerability scan of your base-level network security. The goal is to identify where gaps in your system exist. We look at how strong your passwords are, whether you are missing IT patches, and whether there are compromised components in your firewall or antivirus software. Ekaru also goes deeper to assess what other internal and external threats pose liabilities to your individual organization.

What we discover is used by businesses to build thorough data protection and contingency plans, usually developed with the support of our team. Additionally, we have a cybersecurity training platform that comes with the purchase of a very basic risk assessment process, so you can go through and start building ransomware prevention skills at once.

Schedule Your Free Cybersecurity Assessment →

2. Seek Cybersecurity Training

The ransomware protection Boston companies require includes thorough cyber awareness training for employees. Even with all the security software in the world, most ransomware incidents occur due to human error, from an employee of the impacted business! Let’s look at an example.

One incident Ekaru dealt with involved an employee who received an email that said there was a Dun and Bradstreet analysis report available which indicated a negative mark against the company. Immediately, he rushed to open the email to uncover what was going on. Only, this email was fraudulent and actually contained ransomware. Many ransomware bad actors are now imitating notable brands to catch unsuspecting employees unawares.

One of the first indications that this was a scam containing malware was that he kept trying to open the file, and it wouldn’t load. This is because every piece of protection software the company had was preventing that file from being opened. This person didn’t know that this was the case and didn’t recognize the signs of a phishing scam. So, he copied the link and opened it manually. The employee wound up infecting the network with ransomware, despite having great protections in place.

The lesson here is that the ransomware training Boston-based staff and supervisors often ignore is actually mission-critical. Don’t fall into the trap of just relying on network security software! This story is a clear indication that the biggest risk to your network security is ignorance. Anyone can fall prey to ransomware. It only takes one mistake to completely ruin your business.

Don’t let this happen - not when affordable training is right in your grasp. Along with cybersecurity and data security solutions, Ekaru offers highly affordable, in-depth ransomware prevention tips and courses companies can apply immediately.

3. Start Forming Your Company’s Cyber Security Plan

Having the right tools and a plan of action in place is key to preventing and mitigating ransomware attacks. With the results of your security assessment, you’ll want to address core vulnerabilities and set up a contingency plan to contain and deal with a ransomware attack should it occur despite your protections.

Some great free resources to help you get started include the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework and the Center for Internet Security (CIS). Both have lots of published content you can use to guide your procedures and develop a system for protecting critical data and systems. For example, NIST provides different implementation groups: basic, intermediate, advanced, and expert to guide you. The core network security framework NIST recommends revolves around five fundamentals:

  • Identify (threats, essential data, security software, roles in the event of ransomware, etc)
  • Protect (encrypt data, implement backup systems, conduct ransomware training, etc)
  • Detect (monitor system activities, conduct cybersecurity audits, etc)
  • Respond (have plans for investigating ransomware, customer notifications, etc)
  • Repair (restore key systems, recover data from backups, re-evaluate firewall, etc)

Don't be intimidated by all the technical jargon. Just start looking through NIST and CIS and try to align the key steps and frameworks with your own business. You can begin by simply asking questions surrounding each framework module. For example, when you are in the identify phase, things you’ll want to ask include:

  • What are your digital assets?
  • What are the technologies you need to secure your network from ransomware malware?
  • Where is your accounting and other data like client information located?
  • What are the statuses of your backup drives?
  • Who do you contact if ransomware hits, who are the professionals you’ve identified?

If you’re uncertain about how to implement your plan or feel that you are missing aspects, Ekaru can help you.

4. Invest in Backups

One of the most critical components of robust ransomware protection in Boston is the use of data backup systems. Even within a small business budget, you need to have backups and a redundant server as a failsafe. Specifically, you want an isolated backup system that's independent of the network to ensure there is no contamination of malware.

If your system does become compromised, you can simply turn off your main hard drive and then fall back on your backups to resume productivity with minimal downtime. Even in cases where malware is purged from the network, there is always the risk of some data being completely lost or damaged. Backups ensure that you can always return to your mission-critical data even if your system undergoes a catastrophic event. This gives you an added layer of protection and peace of mind. However, this requires you to implement frequent backup cycles and ensure that the data is being backed up properly.

Even if your data is secured for your use in the event of a cyber breach, ransomware users can still expose and sell your data if they penetrate your network. You need a robust and proactive ransomware protection system from the inside out. Besides backup systems, you must make sure your cybersecurity stack is also substantial enough to protect your network.

5. Get Cyber Insurance Coverage

Some small businesses in the Boston area will shrug off the idea of cyber insurance, but our team at Ekaru highly recommends that every business, regardless of size, get coverage. In this day and age, with the cost of just a single ransomware event being so high, you want the assurance that you will have the resources in place to recover without extraneous expense. Considering how many businesses are forced to cut staff or go out of business entirely due to prolonged downtime and recovery-related expenses, cyber insurance makes for a very reasonable investment.

What’s more, if you’re proactive with your ransomware protection planning, you can actually get a great coverage rate. For example, many insurance companies want businesses that use key tools like multi-factor authentication and have manage, detect, and respond services on standby. If you implement such measures and have an actionable cybersecurity protection plan in place, your chances of getting insured at a reasonable rate increase immensely. This is exactly the type of proactivity insurance companies want to see in businesses they work with and will be more accommodating to land a coverage deal.

Ransomware Protection in Boston is an Essential Investment

No matter the scale or industry of your business, ransomware can undo everything you’ve ever worked for. Don’t risk your business’s future, or your own livelihood, by not adequately protecting your IT network from ransomware. Remember, the ransomware protection Boston companies require is much less expensive than having to undergo ransomware recovery and fallout. There are ways you can prevent ransomware and safeguard your business, and it starts with identifying your cyber vulnerabilities and educating your team. This is where Ekaru can help.

Contact us for your ransomware consultation: call Ekaru at ​​(978) 692-4200.

Topics: ransomware, ransomware recovery, ransomware protection, Boston Ransomware

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