This past April, Apple fell victim to a $50 million ransomware attack, just months after news of similar attacks rippling across public utilities and governmental organizations made headlines. A month later, ransomware hackers forced a major U.S. oil pipeline to halt operations. Alarmingly, these extortions aren’t isolated incidents. The first half of 2021 saw a 102% increase in ransomware attacks compared to the beginning of last year, according to cybersecurity firm Check Point Software.
Ransomware is a type of malware that threatens to publish the victim’s personal data or perpetually block access to it unless a ransom is paid. As made clear by the recent attack on a tech behemoth like Apple, all industries are prone to these extortions. Accounting firms, however, are especially vulnerable. According to Journal of Accountancy article, small and medium-sized accounting firms are often primary targets for data theft — mainly because they often host sensitive client data and can act as gateways to larger or more prominent parties. They also often lack the sophisticated defense infrastructure of larger firms.
With the number of these ransomware attacks steadily rising, you don’t want to be caught without a solid security plan. So, how can your firm be best prepared for a ransomware attack?
Employee Email Security Training
Ransomware attacks are best prevented through continuous education. That education can be facilitated through email security training.
As the name suggests, email security training sends employees simulated cyberattacks via email. If the employee opens the email and clicks on a link, they’re directed to a training resource that outlines the warning signs they missed, and how to better prepare for future attacks. This tactic not only fortifies your firm’s security, but it can also help you identify and mitigate vulnerable users before a real attack impacts your bottom line.
It should be noted, however, that it’s a common misconception that attackers will only go for the most vulnerable employees in the organization. Even high-ranking officials are targeted with phishing emails specifically tailored to them. This is a tactic known as “whaling.” Remember, everyone in your firm can be a potential weak link — make sure you secure your entire organization with continuous, mandatory training. To get your team started with email security training, we recommend visiting Practice Protect’s website where they offer cloud best cyber security training for your entire team.
Ransomware Detection Tools
The earlier your firm can detect a potential ransomware threat, the better your chances are of shutting it down. Ransomware detection tools run in the background of your computer to detect the presence of a rogue ransomware app in your system. They instantly alert an IT professional, then cut off access to critical networked resources until IT can remove the ransomware. Having an IT department that can help implement this software is recommended.
Permission Structure for your Data
It’s unnecessary to provide all your employees with access to every file. In fact, we strongly recommend against it. Doing so could create wider opportunities for ransomware hackers to breach your system. Each employee should have access to the minimum amount of files necessary to do their job and nothing more. Otherwise, one erroneous click of an email by an employee could result in a catastrophic, company-wide data breach.
A Solid Backup Strategy
Make sure you have your files backed up to a secure, separate location in case of an attack. You’ll want to make sure you understand how often you’re backing up, whether it’s every hour, every day, or every week. Then, assess how long you retain those backups, as well as how long it takes you to recover your data. This will give you a clear picture of how your recovery will operate should a ransomware attack target your firm.
Additional strategies to consider when building a backup strategy: have an outsourced IT provider backup your files in an off-site safe. You should also test your backups regularly to make sure they’re not connected to a network.
Stay Safe Out There!
Ransomware attacks are on the rise, and you don’t want to be stuck without a strategy should your firm’s security be jeopardized. Invest in preventative measures, such as installing ransomware detection tools and undergoing email security training, as well as in reactive measures, such as regularly backing up your files on a disconnected server. At Tech Guru, we’re continuously analyzing and improving our own security measures to ensure the safety of our data — and we help firms across the country safeguard theirs.
Find out where your firm currently stands with their security, and establish technology priorities by taking the Tech Guru Security Self-Assessment below.