Key Lessons for Business Owners from the Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Attack
Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Attack
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a broad spectrum of struggles for business owners across all industries. But the rise of ransomware attacks is one of the biggest challenges businesses are grappling with right now. It’s evident from the recent attacks on established organizations, including Colonial Gas, JBS, and McDonald’s.
So, whether you’re running a niche fashion boutique or a global conglomerate, your business is vulnerable to ransomware attacks. Apart from disrupting business operations, such attacks significantly impact brand reputation and customer trust. Worse still, your business will face serious financial consequences that can take a toll on your bottom line.
The good news is that safeguarding your business against cyberattacks isn’t rocket science. From choosing the right business internet provider to outlining a powerful incident response plan – there’s a lot you can do to prevent and minimize the ramifications of ransomware attacks.
In this blog, we’ll delve deeper into the world of ransomware attacks and explore ways to protect your business. Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
Ransomware Attacks: A Closer Look
Typically, ransomware works by blocking access to your critical systems and data. The attackers demand a hefty ransom, usually in a cryptocurrency, to restore access with the assurance that they won’t duplicate or tamper with the compromised data/systems.
Cybercriminals can launch ransomware into your systems using various techniques, including spear-phishing, as well as leveraging hardware and software vulnerabilities. In some cases, they can even exploit weak passwords and lack of sufficient authorization methods to launch the attack.
The attack on Colonial Pipeline in May 2021, one of the largest fuel networks in the U.S., was accomplished by DarkSide (a Russian hacker group) using a compromised system password that had been circulated on the dark web.
Rise of Ransomware During the Pandemic
First things first – ransomware attacks aren’t new. They’ve been around since the early 90s, gaining prominence in the last decade. Even before the pandemic, many reputed organizations had fallen prey to ransomware attacks.
For instance, in May 2017, the NHS became the victim of a worldwide WannaCry ransomware attack. It resulted in a major disruption to the healthcare system in the U.K., forcing hospitals to shut down, cancel patient appointments, and re-route ambulances.
Nevertheless, the frequency and seriousness of ransomware attacks have grown with the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s understandable considering organizations were forced to digitize most of their operations.
Unlike normal circumstances, most businesses had to adopt a hurried approach to digitization, leaving ample opportunities for cybercriminals to exploit. Between providing employees with remote work opportunities and catering to the changing needs of consumers, cybersecurity took a backseat for many businesses.
Renowned companies in the world, including Cognizant, Magellan Health, Carnival Corporation, and Canon, fell prey to ransomware attacks in 2020. These attacks resulted in catastrophic data breaches as well.
Impact of Ransomware Attacks
The most obvious implication of ransomware is that it prevents you from accessing your company’s digital infrastructure. Consequently, you want to stall key business operations, thus disrupting product manufacturing and delivery.
For instance, the WannaCry attack in 2017 brought the NHS to a standstill, jeopardizing the health and well-being of millions. On the other hand, the recent Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack forced the fuel giant to shut down most of its 5,500-mile pipeline and stall the delivery of 2.5 million barrels of fuel per day.
It resulted in a short-term fuel crisis in the southeastern part of the U.S. People started panic-buying gasoline while hospitals, airports, and other critical organizations grappled with a fuel shortage.
That means a ransomware attack can be a major inconvenience for your customers. If the word of the attack gets out, it can even diminish their trust in your brand. They might be forced to switch to a competitor, thus resulting in huge losses.
Worse still, such attacks can have disastrous consequences for your customers. If their data is leaked on the dark web, it’ll threaten their safety. In the worst-case scenario, not having access to your products/services could even result in a casualty.
That’s precisely what happened when a hospital in Germany couldn’t admit a patient because of an ongoing cyberattack. The patient even succumbed due to delayed treatment. It might be the first known fatality due to a ransomware attack.
Apart from the impact on your brand and customers, ransomware has serious financial repercussions. Colonial Pipeline had to pay $.4.4 million in bitcoin to gain access to their system. Apart from the ransom, you might have to pay penalties to regulatory bodies and customers.
Keeping Ransomware at Bay
Protecting your business from ransomware attacks is the need of the hour. To begin with, choose a reliable business internet provider that offers plenty of advanced security enhancements, including firewall, malware protection, and data backup. Also, check whether the internet provider offers secure web hosting.
Next, create an incident response plan that outlines the steps to deal with a ransomware attack. You wouldn’t want to decide whether to pay the ransom or contact regulatory authorities while you’re under attack. Defining a response plan precisely outlines the decisions and actions of senior executives during an attack.
Lastly, don’t forget to educate your employees about cybersecurity best practices. From setting complex passwords to connecting to a secure network – your employees can do a lot to keep cybercriminals away from your business.
What steps is your business taking to deal with ransomware attacks? Share your suggestions in the comments section below.
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