A cyberattack may be catastrophic for any size of the organization. Ask the CEO of a Northeast Ohio medtech company who suffered a “two-week panic attack” when a Romanian cybercriminal group shut down his operations in February 2019.
Employing “GandCrab” ransomware, a form of malware that encrypts a victim’s files and demands a ransom in order to recover access, the criminals kept the midmarket company hostage until the harmful software was removed.
Employees were locked out of the company’s Laptops, servers, email files, and inventory management system due to the cyberattack.
“That was a time in which someone else controlled your life,” claimed the CEO, who requested anonymity for security reasons. “A nightmare I would never advocate reliving.”
The globally interconnected corporate environment
Recent difficulties at the medtech corporation are indicative of the contemporary ultra-connected global corporate climate. With increased digital connectivity comes increased cybersecurity risk, a threat landscape that continues to evolve as remote work becomes more prevalent, according to Ellen Boehm, senior vice president of IoT (Internet of Things) strategy and operations at Cleveland-based software solutions provider KeyFactor.
Boehm stated, “We’ve been following this course for years.” “COVID has expedited the requirement for more secure technologies to achieve this interconnected world.”
Boehm stated that protecting essential corporate assets might be difficult for small to medium-sized enterprises without a specialized information technology staff or the time to prioritize cybersecurity. Yet, she feels that these firms disregard internet security at their risk.
According to the Ponemon Institute, around 76% of US firms experienced a cyberattack in 2019, with 60% of small enterprises collapsing within six months of a breach.
Persistent work-from-home methods allow employees to access critical corporate information via personal computers, iPads, and home Wi-Fi networks. Unauthorized devices may not be connected to an employer’s network, creating security holes for hackers and increasing the likelihood of a successful assault.
KeyFactor required three months to remotely protect its systems during the height of the COVID-19 epidemic, despite having a software security background that provided it an advantage over most industries. In the early days, several smaller clients were left exposed because they lacked the personnel or knowledge to bridge virtual holes.
Small and medium-sized enterprises generally outsource IT, according to Boehm. Maybe they do not need to engage a full-time employee to complete these intricate infrastructure components.
Not too little to be compromised
The CEO of a medtech company stated that having cybersecurity precautions in place is no guarantee against a determined hacker. Criminals penetrated his system by using remote monitoring software that had not been patched against GandCrab by the company’s service provider.
Throughout its lengthy time of recuperation, the firm was unable to bill clients or manage its inventory control system. While the firm struggled to satisfy demand, a group of experts, security personnel, and forensic investigators worked evenings and weekends to restore system access.
The chief executive officer stated, “We reverted to paper-based operations until we could resume regular operations.” During those two weeks, we all had to be on our toes, and there wasn’t much time for sleep.
After the company’s service provider paid the ransom, it was easier to sleep. In reaction to the new remote work environment, the business fortified its online systems with a redesigned firewall, segregated backups, improved defensive software, and up-to-date patches.
“My advise to firms is to establish a rapport with their service provider,” stated the CEO. “Have they the sophistication and tools that you require? Are they too thinly stretched? Do they respond within an acceptable amount of time? They are crucial questions.”
John Nicholas, a professor of computer information systems at the University of Akron, remarked that cybercrime affects businesses across industries, even entrepreneurs who believe they are invisible to criminals.
Yet, ransomware and other threats lurk, with Cybersecurity Ventures predicting that worldwide ransomware expenditures would exceed $265 billion by 2031.
Small firms with less security safeguards in place are a tempting target for ransomware hackers, according to Nicholas. Affected organizations may be unable to access their files until a huge ransom is paid.
Contemporary phishing emails are much more sophisticated, expanding from “Nigerian prince” frauds to complex emails imitating a victim’s bank or PayPal account. Phishing is an attack designed to get a victim’s personal information, such as credit card numbers, bank account information, and more, by impersonating genuine websites.
Then there are “vishing” scams, in which con artists say that work must be completed on an employee’s computer. The attacker then takes the target to a malicious website that installs malware on the machine. Malware is an umbrella word for software that is meant to enter a device stealthily, with data loss and system harm being the most prevalent outcomes.
With more individuals working from home, the tide of internet crime, which was already on the rise, has become a tsunami, according to Nicholas. Even if many of these assaults are blatant hoaxes, it just takes one person to fall for the bait to corrupt an entire network.
Simply put, modern firms cannot allow employees to use unencrypted personal devices, especially with artificial intelligence and machine learning giving another another avenue for criminals, Nicholas explained.
Nicholas stated, “If I had a small firm, I would invest in laptops and tablets and have my IT department protect them.” This data will be encrypted so that it cannot be seen without considerable effort, particularly if staff lose or misplace equipment.