Ransomware attacks are big business for hackers with some amassing millions of dollars from a single attack. This was the case when CNA Financial paid some $40 million to retrieve data lost in a 2021 ransomware attack. JBS also paid $11 million in 2021 and Colonial Pipeline paid $4.4 million to attackers to restore the flow of nearly 100 million gallons of fuels that flowed through the pipeline daily.
Of course, most small and medium sized businesses lack the financial resources to weather this type of attack. These costs do not even include other costs associated with cyber-attacks.
Understanding the six ways ransomware attacks harm businesses, and their customers, will help you prioritize your investment in risk avoidance and minimization efforts and encourage the utilization of resources like CISO cybersecurity to reduce your risks.
1. Lost Data
For some businesses, data is currency. When ransomware attacks occur, businesses are no longer allowed access to their networks and databases. This means that you no longer have access to vital information required to operate your business. You can’t simply use a different computer to do the job.
For this reason, many business owners who would not otherwise pay the ransom demands, do so. The data that has been locked away is far too precious a commodity to refuse. That is what happened in the case of CNA Financial (2021) who paid $40 million to retrieve their data.
2. Costs of Paying or Refusing to Pay Ransom
As discussed earlier, the average ransomware demand is approaching one million dollars in 2022 and some larger businesses have paid substantially more to restore access to their networks.
Some, though, have refused to pay the ransom and this leads to different costs for those who were unprepared and lacked a plan of action to manage the ransomware attack or the funds to pay the demanded ransom. It is far more than the costs of replacing a single computer or even all the computers for your business.
It is about attempting to restore and/or retrieve lost data, determine the breadth of the breach and what customer, employee, privileged, or trade secret information may have been compromised, and of delays and disruptions to your ability to conduct business throughout the process. These costs add up.
3. Supply Line and Distribution Disruptions
In addition to the loss of access to your computers, many businesses are unable to deliver goods, track goods, or manage their supply lines while a ransomware attack is underway.
While it would be nice if you were able to snap your fingers and come up with the funds to pay the ransom, most businesses aren’t that fortunate. It may take hours, days, or even weeks to meet the demands and restore your systems. During this time, you are unable to conduct business. That means goods are not delivered and revenue is not received.
4. Reputation Damage
Perhaps one of the costliest results of a ransomware attack is the loss of reputation businesses suffer. Many small businesses are never able to recover after an attack such as this. Once consumers lose faith in a business, the path to restoring that faith and rebuilding your reputation is long and costly.
5. Legal Concerns and Restitution
Then there are the legal ramifications. The truth is that businesses are responsible for safeguarding customer and employee information that is entrusted to them. Whether it is financial information, private information, health details, confidential or privileged materials, or something else, your business can be held financially responsible for damages related to data breaches that occur on your watch.
6. Increased Vulnerability to Future Attacks
Finally, once a single attack occurs and the vulnerability has been exploited once, businesses become prime targets for future attacks. Some happening immediately once systems are restored. In fact, many cyber attackers share information about vulnerabilities discovered during the attack so other attackers can take advantage of them.
Preventing Ransomware Attacks For Your Business
There is quite a bit of doom and gloom related to ransomware attacks. In fact, there’s nothing good that ever comes of them. Even if you pay the ransom, there are no guarantees that your systems will be fully restored without serious ramifications to your businesses, your customers, and the people who work for you.
That is why prevention is, by far, the best cure for ransomware attacks. Keep your information backed up daily, train your employees to avoid ransomware attacks, and consider bringing in a consultant to assess your security plan and help you further minimize your cyber risks.