Informative articles on Cybersecurity, IT Services, and cyber threats as they relate to small and medium size companies.

What To Do Immediately If You Detect Ransomware?


Since the start of the year, ransomware attacks have more than doubled and show no sign of slowing down. But what is ransomware, and how can you respond if you detect ransomware?

We'll discuss how much of a threat ransomware has become to businesses of all sizes, how to respond to a ransomware attack, and how to prevent a ransomware attack in the future.

What is Ransomware?

A ransomware attack is when an attacker holds a person’s or business's information at ransom. A company will typically have its data protected so outside users can’t access its files or database. Once there has been an attack, an attack makes a ransom to provide the user or business access to their data.


When a ransomware attack occurs, it will travel across a network and spread through servers, crippling an entire business. Ransomware attacks have continued to be labeled a severe threat, paying out billions to attackers. Not only are companies paying a ransom, but they’re suffering severe damage in the process. 

How Much of a Threat is a Ransomware Attack?

With the number of ransomware attacks continuing to grow each year, this means that organizations today are more likely to fall victim to a ransomware attack. 


With businesses relying on technology to operate, every organization needs to protect itself. With many large corporations falling victim to ransomware attacks, you rarely hear about the small businesses that suffer from them too. Actually, small businesses have the most to lose if they're not protected.


Many small businesses are not well established and don’t have the budget for protection the way large corporations do. This makes small businesses easy targets for ransomware attacks.


However, your business is more likely to fall victim to a ransomware attack, no matter how large or small it is. Because of the increased likelihood of an attack, it's essential now more than ever to take the proper steps to recover from one.

How to Respond to a Ransomware Attack

Below are some steps you can immediately take when you detect ransomware.


  1. Don’t Give in to the Ransom


If you detect ransomware, one of the first things you’ll want to do is stand your ground and don’t give in to the ransom. However, some business owners do if they keep additional copies of their data. There are several reasons why you should never give in to the ransom.


  1. After you detect ransomware, it’s essential to remember that you’re dealing with a hacker. You won’t regain your lost data if you pay a criminal ransom.
  2. If you pay a hacker the ransom, you’re letting them know that they succeeded in stealing your data. When they know their process has been successful, they’ll begin to target other organizations and keep the cycle going.
  3. Lastly, when you pay a hacker ransom, you're paying more than you would initially dealing with the attack. You must still clean your servers from malware if your data is returned. Your business will also pay more for downtime on top of the random costs.


According to research, around 66% of organizations reported that their business suffered a ransomware attack in 2022 and 2023. Ransomware continues to remain one of the most considerable risks today. 

2. Report the Ransomware Attack


After you detect ransomware and have settled down from your frustrations, you need to report the ransomware attack. Reporting the ransomware attack will help police find the attacker, how they pick their targets and will help shield other businesses from suffering an attack.


When your business suffers a ransomware attack, you should contact the authorities, who will transfer you to the cybercrime unit.

3. Clean Your Software

The next step to take after you detect ransomware is to have your software cleaned. There are many programs out there that claim that they can eliminate ransomware from your software, however, there are a couple of issues with this approach.


First, there’s no guarantee that someone other than the attacker can remove the ransomware. Second, even after you clean your software, your data might still be unavailable to access. In today’s growing digital world, ransomware is becoming more sophisticated and difficult to decrypt, so it may take longer to clean.


In addition, you’ll also need to recover your original files by using a decryption key. However, with today’s sophisticated attacks, attackers are using modern keys, which could take years to find the right key.


In this sensitive situation, your best bet is to wipe every device clean and start from new. This route will require reinstalling every device. When starting fresh, ensure you’ve eliminated all traces of ransomware so you don’t run into any problems when restoring your data. 

4. Data Restoration

One of the most critical steps to take after you detect ransomware and you've completed the above three steps is to restore your data. When restoring data, this is usually the job of your IT department; however, restoring data is also viewed as a security issue.


Many consider data restoration a security issue since preventing a ransomware attack isn't always possible. Once your business has fallen victim to a ransomware attack, you can either pay the ransom, which is always frowned upon or continue without your files. If your business has developed a business backup plan, you can recover your data quickly and avoid financial losses.


With data restoration, there are many ways you can get your files back. One of the first approaches you can take is to do a system restore. System restores are affordable; however, the downside is that you can leave traces of ransomware behind.


With a system restore, you juggle the risk of opening yourself to another attack and having to start from step one. It's essential to ensure that your business has an excellent backup plan so you can use third-party resources to get your systems back up and running.


When you have an excellent backup plan, you can restore your data for a certain period and make copies to transfer them to another device. With this approach, you can find comfort in knowing that your data is clean and safely stored without the risk of ransomware. The only downside is that you will have to pay for it, however, it's well worth the investment if you consider the amount of financial losses you have if you don't.

5. Decryption Options

If your business finds itself without a backup plan, there's still a way for you to get your files back. There are many decryption keys you can find online to get your data back. If you find a decryption key that fits the ransomware, you can use the decryption key to get your data back.


In the event you find a free decryption key, you’ll still have hours of lost time while you work to get back up and running.

6. Cut Your Losses

In the event you don’t have a backup plan, or you can’t find a decryption key, you may have to cut your losses and start new. Rebuilding your business can be costly, but if you don’t have any other options, it’s all you can do. 

How to Prevent a Ransomware Attack

It's easy to fall victim to a ransomware attack, especially if you're new to the business and still becoming familiar with your network. However, if you fall victim twice, well, it's essential to take the steps to ensure that it doesn't happen again. Here are some of the top ways you can prevent a ransomware attack.

Identify the Cause of the Breach

When you have recovered from a ransomware attack, you must ensure that it doesn’t happen again. While cleaning your systems is the first step, you need to identify the cause of the breach and how the attacker managed to access your data.


With endpoint detection and response solutions, your business can monitor all traffic to stay alert of potential attacks. If you detect ransomware, EDR will seclude your device so the ransomware can’t spread. Endpoint detection and response solutions will track every incident leading up to a ransomware attack.


With this ability, you’ll be able to view what data the attacker accessed, where the attack began, and how it continued. With this essential information, you can prevent a ransomware attack from occurring again.

What to Do if You Detect Ransomware: FAQ


1. How is ransomware detected?

To detect ransomware, you can use signature-based detection and compare it to other data that is running on a machine. An attacker can create new versions of ransomware with each attack. 


2. How do you know if you were attacked by ransomware?

You’ll know if you were attacked by ransomware by having unauthorized access alerts. You can also create an email system to make your business employees aware of an attack.


3. Can ransomware be detected by an antivirus?

Yes, many antivirus programs can track many threats of ransomware attacks and other threats.


4. Can Windows 10 detect ransomware?

In Windows 10, you can green-light your controlled folder access to protect your essential documents from ransomware and other threats.

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