Disasters cannot be prevented, but cyber-attacks can be – or at least diminished with the right strategy and investment.

Unfortunately, ransomware installed via a malware virus is the fastest-growing threat for both individuals and organizations, with hospitals and city governments as the biggest targets. If this occurred, would you be prepared? Are your company’s systems and data adequately protected?

Attacks on a business are bad enough, but for a city government or a hospital, an attack can have a crippling effect on functionality and ability to properly serve patients and residents.

A few months ago, a major ransomware attack happened to a U.S. city of more than 619,000 residents, locking down files until hackers were paid $70,000. It effectively shut down the city’s networks for quite some time. The damage was great and months later, the impacts are still being felt. 

If you want to be prepared, here are some steps you can take to help prevent a cyber-attack from happening to your organization.

Invest in up-to-date technology and security

Do not rely on hosting your servers in-house without a foolproof back up. The city under attack was using a mostly internally hosted email system and was running a seven-year old Windows server in their data center.

At a minimum, a cloud-based data storage subscription service provides an automatic backup (BaaS), and most are designed with the tightest data security programming ­– alleviating the holes that in-house systems often have if they are not replaced or updated regularly. A more strategic plan involves Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), a service that can build resilience into every aspect of operations, while minimizing expensive IT disruptions. And, cloud-based solutions eliminate the need for investments in hardware and infrastructure, and allow organizations to refocus their IT talent on the more important business at hand versus continually keeping up with DR hardware and software.

By leveraging a DRaaS provider, you can focus on what you do best. In the case of this city, the hackers had an open door, with 113 subdomains (about a quarter of which were internally hosted) and more than 250 public IP addresses, which created far too many points of entry into the internal network.

Create an air gap

Maintain periodic “air gap” copies of your data on tape or other offline media and store it offsite where it is inaccessible via your network. If this is impractical for you, consider cloud-based immutable object storage. This way you’ve created yet another layer of protection. Remember, if data can be accessed on a network, a hacker can attempt to ransom it.

Consider the bigger picture

When it comes to recovering from a disaster, the cyber-attack is important, but you must also consider the total cost. This city was asked to pay a ransom of $70,000, however, the actual costs of recovery, in the form of lost or delayed revenue and direct costs to restore systems were around $18 million.

Who will pay for this? The residents of the city will end up paying for it.  Tracking down how and when malware gets into a network is a significant but important task. The more complex the network, the longer it will take to recover from such an attack. However, with the right solutions in place, your business will be better protected to fight – and win – in a malware attack.

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