Important! New mandatory data breach reporting laws may impact your company.

RANSOMWARE. Sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie which has nothing to do with your life? Chances are you, your family and business could be at risk from something which sounds as if it belongs on a Hollywood movie set or in the basements of bored, tech-savvy whizkids.

Ransomware  – where a company is effectively locked out of its website and forced to pay a ransom to an anonymous hacker to regain control – is proving to be the new battleground between not the big players in the cyber world, but small and medium businesses.

Ravin Prasad, CEO of Brisbane-based Cybernetic Global Intelligence (CGI), said it was critical the business world understood how these attacks occur and how easily you can combat them.

“Small and medium businesses really are low hanging fruit, to some extent, with many businesses mistakenly believing their websites and businesses hold nothing of interest for cyber criminals” Mr Prasad said.

“A local tyre business, for example, may make sure it has security on its doors and windows, probably has a safe for the day’s takings and may even have security cameras.

“But the chances are, the greater risk to its security is someone hacking the website, capturing all the details of the business and its customers and blocking you from accessing them until a ransom is paid.

“Cyber security is quickly becoming the new battleground and you can go into it prepared and protected or you can leave yourself vulnerable by not having the information and protection you need.

“It is a mistake to think that a standard anti-virus software package is enough to offer thorough protection for you and your business. Real protection means engaging the services of someone who specialises in this area.”

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) 2015 Cyber Security Survey on Major Australian Businesses revealed as many as 50% of respondents had been involved with at least one cyber incident in the previous year.

The same report showed there had been “a significant surge in the number of ransomware incidents with four times the number of respondents reporting in 2015 (72%) as compared to 2013 (17%)”.

Cyberthreats of most concern

While cyber-attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated, the response to them has often been anything but. A recent wave of ransomware attacks in the US had led the FBI to encourage payment of ransoms. It has since back-flipped on this stance saying paying ransoms only “encourages them to extort the next person”.

Data from the US Justice Department indicates ransomware attacks increased four-fold in 2016 to now average about 4,000 attacks a day. The cost to US businesses in the first three months of 2016 totalled US$209 million. It would be naïve to think Australian businesses are not being attacked on a similar scale.

“In many ransomware attacks, businesses were left vulnerable because they are in a fight they don’t even know is happening around them,” Mr Prasad said. “In most instances, the lack of preparedness comes down to a lack of knowledge and the mistaken belief anti-virus software is all you need to protect yourself from a cyber-attack.

“That’s why it’s important to check your company is cyber secure. If you don’t understand cyber security, get in someone who does. It will save you a great deal of money, stress and time in the long run.”

Cyber actors of most concern

Cybernetics Global Intelligence is a cyber-security specialist where each team member is a stakeholder in the company and has more than 15 years’ experience in data security. 

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