Trojan horses, redirects, keylogging, and other forms of malware have been around for a long time, and the battle between security software programmers and hackers continues daily. Updating your company security is essential, because there’s always some black hat somewhere in the world trying to find vulnerabilities in websites that hold valuable data.

Hackers want your customers’ names and account numbers, credit card numbers, passwords – all of the information required to assume their identities on the Internet and in the real world.

Data has value, and the bad guys have found a new way to squeeze value out of your proprietary data using malware called ransomware.

Ransomware: You’re Locked Out!

Ransomware prevents businesses from accessing their own data. It encrypts the information on your company servers and work stations, targeting file extensions: doc, docx, jpg, xls. All your critical company data is now encrypted – and you’re locked out until you pay a hefty ransom.

The ransomware may be downloaded with an innocent click on an email from an unknown sender. It is often disguised as a pdf file. The .exe extension can be hidden, so even if you know enough to avoid opening mail from unknown senders, the ransomware is released when you click on what you think is a secure pdf file from a trusted source.

Think It Can’t Happen to You?

According to the FBI’s 2018 Internet Crime Report, 1,493 U.S. companies were victims of ransomware attacks in 2018, with reported losses exceeding $3.6 million, a number that doesn’t include lost business, time, wages, files, equipment, or any third party remediation services paid for by a victim.1

How Does the Data Hijacker Get Paid Without Getting Caught?

Ransom payments can be made using a variety of Internet currency, including Bitcoin and prepaid credit cards. Other hijackers actually provide a “premium telephone number” you dial to make payment and have your data unencrypted and returned for use without damage.

To add to the stress, there’s also usually a time limit to pay off the data-hijackers. If the ransom isn’t received by the deadline, the data will be deleted or sold in hacker marketplaces, and your company now has even bigger problems. Client and company data is now in the hands of hackers, and even your Chief Technology Officer can’t decrypt it.

Ransomware can be attached to anything. Your business probably receives emails every day from unknown sources – prospects, customers, clients, sub-contractors – often you don’t know who sent that email. You open it and release ransomware across your company’s system.

Ransomware is difficult to track, and it’s usually sent out as part of a phishing scheme with legitimate company addresses as sources. Anti-ransomware software is available, but the best defense is preventing unknowing employees from opening executable files.

Even popular security software brands have a hard time identifying ransomware. It’s essential to employ front-to-back, blanket email filtering to prevent executable attachments – ransomware and other malware – from ever being seen by employees. These executable files should go straight to your cyber-security company for removal.

Create software restriction policies (SRPs) to prevent enabling the execution of ransomware files. Employees should be trained to identify potential ransomware and to scan all emails and attachments from unknown parties. Your IT can create group policies for the office network that prevent any employee from opening a potentially infected executable file.

It can happen to your company, and in a worst-case scenario, you lose virtually all critical business data.

To learn more about how you can help safeguard your company’s critical data, click here for information about cybersecurity from Nevada State Bank.


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC