Large-scale ransomware attacks dominated the news earlier this year and affected millions of businesses around the world. Large and small businesses alike fell victim to WannaCry and Petya ransomware.

Security firm Proofpoint found attackers typically use email to plant ransomware.[1] Attackers generally use phishing schemes to enter a company’s systems and infiltrate devices, cash registers, computers and networks. Once triggered, ransomware blocks access to data, devices, computers, software and networks until a payment is made to gain the decryption key.

Paying the ransom isn’t always the answer: Ransom payments can run from $300 to $2,500 per incident and there is no guarantee the fraudsters will actually provide the key when payment is made.[2] And once a company shows a willingness to pay a ransom, it can become the victim of repeat attacks.

Security analysts warn that the next step fraudsters likely will take is linking malware that steals sensitive customer data to point-of-sale ransomware.[3] Retailers and small and medium-size businesses risk losing customer confidence, brand loyalty and their reputations through these attacks.

Employees are the first line of defense against ransomware and malware attacks. Companies are encouraged to train employees to spot phishing emails at work and to be suspicious of urgent emails containing links, attachments, photos or videos.

Other technology safeguards that retailers and other businesses should consider include:[4]

  • Deploy a managed firewall across all locations to monitor payment card processing and block out malware. The firewall should control outbound network traffic to block sensitive data from being pulled by attackers to overseas sites.
  • Improve detection and response to attacks by using managed detection and response software specifically designed for point-of-sale systems.
  • Use file integrity monitoring software to alert when files that normally remain static have been changed.
  • Integrate various security features including firewalls, gateway anti-virus and intrusion detection software through a unified threat management system.

[1] “Proofpoint Quarterly Threat Report 2Q 2017,” available for download at: https://www.proofpoint.com/us/quarterly-threat-summary

[2] Ransomware averages noted in:  “The Rise of Ransomware,” a study by the Ponemon Institute, January 2017, page 1. Available for download at: http://www.ponemon.org/library/the-rise-of-ransomware; and “The Cost of Cryptomalware: SMBs at Gunpoint,” a Corporate IT Security Risks Special Report by Kaspersky Lab, Sept. 7, 2016. Available for download at: https://business.kaspersky.com/cryptomalware-report-2016/5971/

[3] “POS Malware, Ransomware Threats are on the Rise. How Can Retailers Protect Themselves?” by John Christly, Smallbiz Technology, July 5, 2017. Available at: http://www.smallbiztechnology.com/archive/2017/07/pos-malware-ransomware-threats-are-the-rise-how-can-retailers-protect-themselves.html/#.We4oZtJe6sc

[4]  “POS Malware, Ransomware Threats are on the Rise. How Can Retailers Protect Themselves?” by John Christly, Smallbiz Technology, July 5, 2017. Available at: http://www.smallbiztechnology.com/archive/2017/07/pos-malware-ransomware-threats-are-the-rise-how-can-retailers-protect-themselves.html/#.We4oZtJe6sc

This news is provided as a service to you by Marlin Business Services Corp., a nationwide leader in commercial lending solutions for the U.S. small business sector. Marlin’s equipment financing and loan programs are available directly and through third-party vendor programs, including manufacturers, distributors, independent dealers and brokers, to deliver financing and working capital that help build your success.