A ransomware attack took out the computer network of Atlantic General Hospital, as was discovered on January 29th of this year. While the situation was resolved as of February 13th and the impacted departments returned to full operation, there are bound to be lasting ripples that will continue on for some time.
Let’s explore what some of these ripples will likely look like (spoiler alert: they’ll probably be expensive) and why businesses of all sizes should once again see this as a warning to pay more attention to their cybersecurity needs.
Why Ransomware is a Big Deal, Both During the Attack and Long Afterwards
Hopefully, you’ve heard of ransomware by now. On the off chance you haven’t, however, we’ll run through what this nasty form of malware does.
When a system is infected with ransomware, the malware starts encrypting the data present, leaving it illegible and useless without the decryption key. The attacker will then offer that decryption key to the system’s owner in exchange for some amount of money… the ransom in ransomware. To encourage the targeted business further, the attacker will often provide a countdown clock marking when all the encrypted data will be erased if payment isn’t received.
This is bad enough as it is, before you consider that many attackers won’t stop there. Some will steal the data before they encrypt it, with the intention of leaking or selling it, and some will demand a second ransom in exchange for not leaking the data. In many cases, paying the ransom does the victim no good, as the attacker will simply take their ill-gotten funds and leave the data still encrypted. This means that the only hope of recovering this data is usually reliant on the existence of a comprehensive data backup to restore from.
To make a painfully long story short, ransomware is bad news, as Atlantic General Hospital experienced firsthand—and we haven’t even touched on another massive pain point that a business that was infected is bound to face.
The Ransom is Far From the Only Cost of Ransomware
Let’s make something very clear, right now: a business impacted by ransomware should never pay to have their data released to them. Not only is there no guarantee that the attacker will hold up their end and restore the data they locked away, those funds will only perpetuate the idea that ransomware works, making the problem worse for everyone but the people who use it.
However, even with the ransom itself going unpaid, there are still considerable costs that will assuredly accumulate:
- Downtime is notoriously expensive for businesses, as employees still need to be reimbursed for their time and bills need to be paid, despite work not being able to be done. Consider your cash flow calculations if your incoming funds were removed from the equation. That’s what ransomware can do.
- You also need to consider the potential fallout where your public relations are concerned. Not only does it show that you might not be trustworthy enough to handle the data your clients and customers have entrusted to you, consider if Atlantic General Hospital was unable to reroute many patients to other facilities—or, if more than their outpatient lab and imaging was affected? The damage could have been truly catastrophic. Your business is almost certainly going to look bad, and that has costs all its own, from lost business to releasing statements and notifying your clientele.
- You’ll also find that you could still have restricted operations, even after you’re rid of the ransomware, and very well could be playing catch-up for some time. This will almost certainly lead to missed business opportunities that, when all is said and done, are capital losses for your business.
No Business Is Too Small to Be Immune to Ransomware
It can be too tempting to assume that these kinds of attacks would only be utilized against higher-value targets—things like hospitals, public infrastructure, and corporations with seemingly unlimited funds. Too tempting, because it is a hugely inaccurate assumption to make.
Modern cybercrime is often lazy, for lack of a better word. Many of these kinds of attacks are spread through low-effort measures—things like phishing messages, which can be sent en masse to thousands of potential targets at once. At the end of the day, a small business’ money is as good as a corporation’s money… why not make as much as possible, instead of taking the time to pick and choose only the biggest (and often, most well-protected) targets?
You need to ensure that your business is prepared to deal with cyberattacks of all kinds, including ransomware, and that’s where we come in.
As one of the best options in Maryland for businesses seeking assistance with their critical information technology, Dresner Group has extensive experience in helping these organizations protect themselves and their clients from attacks like these. Find out more about what we can do by calling (410) 531-6727.