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Jun 1, 2019

Held for Ransom(ware): You AND Your Company. How NOT to be a Victim

Sponsored Content provided by Robert Burrus - Dean , Cameron School of Business - UNC-Wilmington

This Insights article was contributed by Dr. Elizabeth Baker, Associate Professor of Management Information Systems at the UNCW Cameron School of Business.
 
It can happen at any time...you get that phone call that your corporate servers are locked up. No one can log in and all of your data has been hijacked. A mysterious message appears on the server screen stating that for some price, you can regain access to your servers and data. WHAT IS HAPPENING? It’s called ransomware, and it is a growing concern among corporate and personal cybersecurity practitioners.
 
What is ransomware?
It is a special type of virus that infects your machine and encrypts all of the data with an encryption key that only the attacker has. The hackers expect you to pay a ransom to get your data back. So what is the main objective of these hackers? If you think it’s to steal your data, you’d be wrong. They only care about financial gain by getting you or your organization to pay that ransom to get access to the data back.
 
There was a 229% increase in ransomware attacks from 2017 to 2018, causing several million dollars in damages.
 
Why this dramatic increase?
The attackers are financially successful. People and organizations store valuable data on their systems – data with financial, sentimental, and even reputational value. Many people and organizations make the mistake of thinking there is nothing that hackers would want, but what the hackers want is you to be afraid to lose the data or have the data made public. Do you have photos on your system that you don’t have copies of elsewhere? Do you store data that you don’t want people to know, items that could cause career or personal ruin? Then you would be a perfect target.
 
What do you do when it happens?
Local authorities will not be able to assist you, and most professionals will recommend that you simply pay the ransom to uncorrupt your files. In most cases it ends up being better to pay the ransom than lose your data or have that data leaked to the public. Chances are you’re going to have to pay up in either Bitcoin or via an international wire (because neither of these are trackable!).
 
How do I protect my business?
The best stance is to be proactive and to avoid becoming a victim in the first place.

  1. The first precaution you should take is to eliminate their bargaining power – back up all of your irreplaceable files on an external hard drive! Schedule daily backups to the drive and then shut down your machine overnight. It should be mentioned that solely using cloud storage as backup is not recommended – most of the time, the virus can spread into the cloud as well.
  2. Another precaution is to consistently install software updates and patches to keep your machine up-to-date and secure.
  3. The third option is to outsource the first two items to a third-party vendor or company that specializes in cybersecurity protection. This is a good solution for larger organizations who can budget the cost for this service annually.
Getting out in front of the attackers will keep you safe from ransomware.

Robert T. Burrus, Jr., Ph.D., is the dean of the Cameron School of Business at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, named in June 2015. Burrus joined the UNCW faculty in 1998. Prior to his current position, Burrus was interim dean, associate dean of undergraduate studies and the chair of the department of economics and finance. Burrus earned a Ph.D. and a master’s degree in economics from the University of Virginia and a bachelor’s degree in mathematical economics from Wake Forest University. The Cameron School of Business has approximately 60 full-time faculty members and 20 administrative and staff members. The AACSB-accredited business school currently enrolls approximately 2,000 undergraduate students in three degree programs and 200 graduate students in four degree programs. The school also houses the prestigious Cameron Executive Network, a group of more than 200 retired and practicing executives that provide one-on-one mentoring for Cameron students. To learn more about the Cameron School of Business, please visit http://csb.uncw.edu/. Questions and comments can be sent to [email protected]. 

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