What Managers Need To Know About Ransomware Attacks

If you are not prepared, an attack can be devastating
If you are not prepared, an attack can be devastating Image Credit: Richard Patterson

Managers operate at the front lines of the companies that they work for. They count on the company’s systems being up and available to allow them to get their work done. If the company gets hit with a ransomware attack, there is a very good chance that those IT systems that we need in order to get our work done will no longer be available to us and our teams. If this were to happen, work would grind to a halt. That would be bad news for our team and for the company. This means that we need to be aware of what ransomware is and how we can help our companies both prepare for and defend against this type of attack.

Its All About You

For most managers it might be tempting to think the average cyber extortionist has bigger fish to fry than your business. However, hackers have targeted the largest petroleum pipeline in the United States, Ireland’s national health service, the city of Gary, Indiana, and numerous other big targets. These attacks receive the attention, but while they may receive less attention, 50 to 70 percent of ransomware attacks are aimed at both small and medium-sized companies. Changes in business practices, accelerated by the pandemic, have left small businesses even more vulnerable. In a ransomware attack, cyber criminals use malware to take over and encrypt a victim’s files and data, effectively holding the data hostage until they’re paid to release it. The surge in remote work has been a golden opportunity for hackers, who took advantage of out-of-date VPNs and unsecured home networks.

The consequences of a ransomware attack on a small company may not be as wide-ranging as those on a hospital or a public utility, but the result for a manger can be more crippling. 60 percent of small businesses can fail within six months of an attack. For the companies that do recover, repeat ransomware attacks are becoming increasingly common: 80 percent of victims are hit a second time. Small businesses are attractive targets because they typically lack the needed budget and resources to prevent, identify, respond to, and recover from threats. The good news is that there are some simple methods that can help.

Managers Need To Realize That Every Industry Is Vulnerable

In the past, no target has proved too small for hackers, who are constantly on the hunt for new opportunities. Managers need to realize that no matter if it is education, government, health care, manufacturing or electricity, each sector has had many successful cyber-attacks in the past. Some hackers enjoy variety, focusing on specific groups for a while before they move on to the next group.

Mangers Need To Remember That They Need To Remember To Back Up

If a manager has really good backups in place, from a business continuity perspective, especially if they’re a small business, they are not as impacted. But don’t count on being able to use your backups to return to normal right away – even companies with backup systems aren’t safe. Increasingly, when they attack thieves have been targeting backup systems, as well as entire devices. A cloud-based backup may be a good option for managers, since it keeps your data off-site while keeping it immediately accessible. Managers need to understand that there are ways this option can backfire, such as if your malware-infected files sync to your cloud server. Keep in mind that cloud service providers also can fall victim to ransomware attacks.

Managers Must Secure Their Remote Workers

Managers need to realize that remote workers are sitting ducks for cyber criminals. Hackers can slip in through their remote access entry points, including remote desktops and VPN access portals. Managers should make sure their remote workers are trained to spot phishing attempts, use two-factor authentication, and download the most recent updates of security software.

Managers Need To Have A Plan Of Action For A Ransomware Attack

Managers need to know who will your company contact once it suspects a ransomware attack? How will you get the word out to both employees and clients? Do you know where are all the backups located? What would you do if the hacker already found the backups? Ideally, to address these questions a manager should perform tabletop exercises, or a real-time simulation of a ransomware attack, so you’re not flying blind if your data is intercepted. It is possible to hire a cybersecurity firm to perform the exercises or do them yourself, but it will end up costing you either way. Team members can then identify what went wrong, and fix any vulnerabilities in their system. Different scenarios in your incident response plan will help you develop a memory around what to do in the event that one of them actually takes place.


Managers Must Accept That They’re Almost Guaranteed To Lose Some Of Their Data

Studies have shown that 92 percent of ransomware victims who comply with the thieves’ demands don’t get all of their data back. Victim companies commonly pay the ransom to get access to a decryption key, which they can use to unlock and decrypt their data. Managers need to realize that there’s always a chance that the key won’t work. If it does, at least some of the data may be corrupted, in many cases irretrievably. Even more worrisome for managers, there’s a chance that the hacker may have installed spyware or other malicious software in your system. So although every hacking situation is different, experts typically urge managers not to give in to hackers’ demands. The general advice is not to pay any ransom, as it may boost further attacks and might even be illegal in your country to do so. The best advice is to prepare for such attacks in advance and then prevent them from happening in the first place.

Managers Should Not Count On Law Enforcement To Recover Ransomware Payments

98 percent of ransomware payments are made in Bitcoin. The reason that hackers use this payment system is because traditionally it’s been hard for authorities to track. The good news is that that appears to be changing. After the Colonial Pipeline company paid approximately $4.4 million to hacker group DarkSide to regain access to its systems, the FBI was able to recover roughly $2 million of their money.

What All Of This Means For You

Mangers are busy every day. We have a lot of work that we need to complete and keeping our teams on track is a full time job. It turns out that since managers are working on front lines of the company, we are often the ones who first experience the results of a cyber-attack on our company. The big question that we need to know the answer to is what we should do if our company is attacked?

No matter what size your company is, it may be a good candidate for an attack. If your company is attacked, then there is a good chance that the company will not be able to recover from it. No matter what industry your company is in, they could be the target of a hacker. Managers need to make sure that secure backups are made and can be located. Workers who are working remotely need to take steps to secure their work environment. You will eventually be attacked, you need to make sure that you know what you want to do when you are attacked. Managers also need to understand that if they pay a ransom, they can’t count on law enforcement to get their ransom back for them.

The last thing that any manager wants is for their company to be attacked by hackers. Our jobs are hard enough without having to deal with outside threats. However, since we are the ones who are working on the company’s front lines, we need to be the ones who detect when we are being attacked and take action. Make sure that you understand what a ransomware attack is and how to defend your company.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Can you think of a situation in which it would be acceptable to pay a ransomware ransom?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As a manager you have a number of different tasks that you are responsible for using your manager skills to accomplish. You have to attract the right talent to join your team. This is easy because we have manager training that shows us how to do it. Once you do this, you have to find ways to get them to want to stay. This can be a difficult thing to do. Even the most experienced members of your team can fall short of expectations or grow bored when not given the proper outlet or projects, making it essential for managers to provide ways to challenge team members to tap into their most valuable skills. If you nurture your top talent, you’re ensuring that your team stays engaged while fostering their potential to grow within the company. When you encourage your employees to show you just how innovative and talented they can be, your team is bound to generate out-of-the-box ideas to help propel the company forward. Now just exactly how can you go about doing this?