Ransomware Attacks – What You Can Do to Protect Your Studio

ransomware threat to hair salons hair loss clinicsThe recent high profile ransomware attacks on Colonial Pipeline and other major infrastructure companies have raised awareness of this type of catastrophic cyber threat for businesses of all sizes, including small businesses across the nation.

Compromising and holding ransom critical business financial data, ransomware also affects sensitive customer data, including credit card information, social security data, and countless other areas of personal identity information.

Ransomware is a specific type of malware that hold your critical company information hostage until you pay the ransom to get it back – more often than not by means of bitcoin or similar digital currency operating outside normal banking channels. Ransomware is critical in another way: it is easily downloaded and installed on your office or personal network by means of infected emails and compromised websites – often websites you have come to rely on and trust, including websites belonging to vendors and colleagues with whom you interact regularly.

Small Businesses. Big Money.

When ransomware makes the news, it’s usually about big businesses at the national and international level. But malicious ransomware distributors don’t care what size business you are. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable since they have minimal computer security and oftentimes limited network firewalls in place. Network servers in small businesses are particularly vulnerable since backups are few and far between, and security patches are months out of date.

And once you’ve been the victim of a ransomware attack, the cost of downtime and lost data can be crippling. Many small businesses have “gone under” as a result of ransomware attacks and the lack of an adequate response plan.

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When you have become the victim of ransomware, you basically have two choices: either restore your computer server and network using recent clean backups, restoring your network data to the date of that backup, or paying the ransom and praying that you actually get your data back.  And if you do get your data back, you still face the expensive task of cleaning up your infected file server and network computer workstations.  Because after all, they are still infected.

Hackers love small businesses simply because they have few or no security practices and systems in place.

An Ounce of Prevention or a Ton of Cure

Studio and salon owners have two steps they can take to easily protect their business and customer data from hackers, malware, viruses, and ransomware.

Owners and employees should take the time to become adequately familiar with and be able to quickly spot phishing emails which are one of the most popular vehicles for delivering ransomware. A phishing email is specifically designed to look like it comes from someone with whom you have a trusted relationship.  It pay purport to come from your bank, PayPal, Microsoft, or other well-known or lesser-known but recognizable company.  It may come from a friend or colleague you know who caught the malware or virus from somewhere else and the virus replicated itself on their computer and email everyone on their contact list.

A phishing email invariably looks like a legitimate request for you to click on a link in the email. “Please verify your password, click here.” Or, “Your mailbox will be disable, click here.” Or, “Your payment is in question. Click here.” Or, “I saw this great thing on Facebook. Click here.”  You get the idea.  But beyond that, it asks you for your login details – user name and password – and then steals that information knowing full well that chances are that you use the same username and password on multiple sites, including your salon’s office network.

In the vast majority of cases, simply clicking on that link will download, install, and run malicious code on your company’s network.

The second way you can protect your studio from malware and ransomware is to make sure you have an up-to-date backup system in place. Most companies are familiar with using disks, tapes, or cartridges to back up their data. But in the event of a system failure or ransomware attack, the backup may be infected or compromised as well. Current backup technology includes cloud backup with ransomware protection built into the system that prevents a nightly backup of infected or compromised data from overwriting the previous night’s good backup and sending you an alert.

One such excellent small business data backup solution comes from a company called BackupAssist which offers the ability to perform protected cloud backups of your server data, as well as rapid server recovery. Remote backups can ensure that your server files remain intact even if your entire office network is hopelessly crippled by a cyber-attack or your studio is destroyed by fire, flood, or other disaster.

Secure Your Data. Protect Your Business.

Ransomware, more often than not, targets the big business of small business. Salon owners are entrepreneurs who are experts at what they do. But they rarely are experts in computer and network security. It is critically important to keep your studio’s data secure from malicious cybercriminals since any downtime most definitely affects daily business operations and absolutely affects your bottom line.

Take a few moments to make sure that up-to-date systems are in place to protect your studio from cyber-attacks. This includes making sure automatic updates (Windows or Apple OS) are in place and running regularly.  More than anything else, a reliable backup and data recovery system will keep your system intact.