"A Ticking Time Bomb"...Russian cyber-attacks may be coming... 

As Russian military forces escalate attacks in Ukraine, the United States is bracing for another kind of invasion closer to home… cyber-attacks! The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has increased monitoring of cyber-attacks targeting businesses and is warning that “the nation should prepare for an uptrend in ransomware.”

Ransomware attacks have surged in recent years, increasingly striking smaller targets. As the Russian economy takes a major hit from global sanctions, this will cause immense pressure on organized cybercrime rings based in Russia. These cybercriminals have been leveraging ransomware as their go-to currency.

In ransomware attacks, hackers lock down computer networks and demand payment to regain access. Some target big companies in pursuit of profitable paydays, while others use a “spray and pray” approach to ransom as many victims as they can find. Small businesses are most vulnerable to the expected wave of ransomware attacks and Cybersecurity professionals are urging them to take immediate steps to defend themselves. 

Even though many SMBs know they are at high risk, many don’t believe they will fall victim or think they have the resources to protect themselves. Most companies worry about the day-to-day aspects of running their business and cyber-attacks often escape their attention.  When they do hear about it, they often hear of large companies paying sizable ransoms and tt’s tempting to view your business as being too small of a fish.

As a result, small businesses frequently don’t know which of their systems are exposed on the internet. They don’t keep software up to date or patch security flaws. They don’t know the vulnerabilities of the third-party software for payroll and other systems they rely on. They don’t back up files. And they don’t use multifactor authentication to enhance their authentication processes.

What should SMBs do right now? The good news for small businesses: there are simple, practical steps you can take right now to prevent cyber-attacks that do not require big budgets …

  1. Back up your files 

Frequently back up your system so if it becomes infected with ransomware, you can restore it. Store backups on a separate device that cannot be accessed from your primary network. It is also important to regularly test your backups. Some businesses may make a fatal mistake of waiting until a cyberattack happens to realize that their backups weren’t complete or that they can’t restore them.

  1. Use multi-factor authentication

A Microsoft study estimated that more than 99% of all cyber-attacks would have been prevented by multi-factor authentication.

  1. Update and patch software

Make sure all operating systems, software and apps are running the latest versions.

  1. Use antivirus software

Install next-gen antivirus and anti-malware software, use firewalls and other tools, and keep them updated.

  1. Handle email with care 

Be careful when clicking on links in emails even if the sender appears to be someone you know. If you are not sure, contact the sender directly. Malicious website addresses are often very similar to legitimate ones but have slight variations in spelling or a different domain, such as .net instead of .com. Open email attachments with caution, especially when they are compressed or ZIP files. Always visit a website directly and do not trust links in emails or SMS messages.

  1. Treat employees as your first line of defense

People can be your strongest asset. Train and educate all your employees on how to identify phishing and social engineering, turning employees from potential victims into an extension of your security team. We always recommend providing cybersecurity training for all employees. A ransomware attack can start with one person inadvertently clicking on a link, so every team member needs to be cyber aware and responsible. Phishing attacks are the most popular entry point for cybercriminals, so conduct regular tests to make sure employees can spot a phishing email.

  1. Safeguard credentials

Compromised or stolen passwords and other credentials are often used by attackers to access a network, so be sure to enforce good password hygiene, and regularly change credentials for employees that have access to privileged, or valuable information. Companies can also monitor their information on the Dark Web to take proactive action on compromised accounts.

  1. Partner with a Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP)

Security expertise isn’t just a tool for the Fortune 100 companies.  MSSP Providers, like AlphaONE, specialize in bringing the same security tool, skills, and expertise to SMBs.  Proactive protection is affordable…. And MUCH cheaper than the alternative!

Are you or your business feeling vulnerable?  Feel free to reach out to us and find out how we can help protect your business from cyber-attacks by calling 833-ALPHA-ONE or 334-245-3125.