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The rise, and rise, of ransomware and the darknet

31 August 2017

As part of our commitment to improving knowledge around the County about Cyber security and the threat posed by on-line criminals, Gloucestershire College has teamed up with Cheltenham-based cyber security experts Tech-Op, and Cotswold Life magazine to host a half-day seminar that will help local businesses do more to protect themselves from cyber-attack.

In a series of editorials we focus on the role of ransomware, the darknet, how it is on the rise and the clear danger it presents to your business.

Could your business survive an attack?

There is no getting away from it, the use of ransomware and its crippling effects is on the up!

Ransomware is unique among malware in that it targets user data, locking or encrypting crucial files. It then literally holds a business to ransom to get it back. Bitcoin and other ‘crypto-currencies’ are often used because they give the attackers anonymity and are difficult to trace.

In May we witnessed one of the largest ransomware attacks in history. Known as WannaCrypt or WannaCry, this ransomware specifically targeted Windows XP systems and affected organisations in 74 countries across the globe.

In the UK alone, 16 NHS health trusts in the UK were ‘crippled’ by this malware, including computers in Aintree, Blackpool, Broomfield Hospital in Essex, Colchester General Hospital, all hospital systems in Derbyshire, Great Yarmouth, East and North Hertfordshire, James Paget hospital in Norfolk, Lanarkshire, and Leicester to name a few.

Cyber crime; are you a target?

When news of the mass infection or encryption of a well-known business’s I.T. system breaks, a common response is, “shouldn’t they have done better?” or “I’m amazed they weren’t better protected!”

Lucky for you, your business isn’t such a high-profile and targeted brand, right? At least the cyber criminals won’t go after it! But wait, according to the FSB, small and medium sized businesses account for 99.9% of all UK private sector business, with a combined annual turnover of £1.8 trillion. So, if someone was intending on using ransomware and looking for the market with the biggest return, where would they go?

Would they target the global corporation, admittedly with potentially billions in the bank, but with £200,000 NASA-level firewalls, or the business with the £20 antivirus software installed? Ask yourself this; whose data is most important to them? If a global corporation loses its data, it faces a hefty, but manageable fine; if an SME loses its files, it may be out of business almost immediately. So, it’s clear…they are after you too, Mr and Mrs SME.

WannaCrypt represents a significant evolution in ransomware. Like many other criminal activities, these efforts continue to become more sophisticated and harder to recover from. Organisations need to take the right steps now to protect themselves from this evolving threat.

But there are things you can do as an SME, so please join us to find out why the risks are so real, how your business can be the target and what you can do to prepare and prevent yourself from becoming the victim.

If you would like to know more about how to protect your business, and staff, join one of our live, interactive seminars where our partners Tech-Op will take you on a journey into the darknet, demonstrate how ransomware works and more importantly, show you what practical steps you can take to avoid being hit.

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