When the WannaCry virus hit in May this year, it infected more than 230,000 computers in over 150 countries.
And that was just the beginning.
During its first day, Britain’s National Health Service, Spain’s Telecom - Telefonica, US Delivery Service - FedEx and German rail company - Deutsche Bahn, all fell victim to the cryptoworm.
The cost to business
Over the next two days, the virus sent 12 Australian small businesses into lockdown and still more are expected to emerge.
Worldwide losses have already reached an eye-watering US$4 billion.
A new cyber threat
This week another massive ransomware outbreak is going global fast.
Allegedly a different breed of virus but similar to Wannacry, Petya as it's known, encrypts files and requires payment for the keys to unlock them.
Currently sweeping through Europe, it hasn't hit Australian shores yet, but it's expected soon.
When large-scale, cyberattacks like this happen they’re a huge wake-up call but cybersecurity needs to be front-of-mind all the time.
In 2016, Australian small businesses lost more than AU$2 million to cyber scams, and small businesses are known to be particularly vulnerable because owners may not have the knowledge, resources or time to put safeguards in place.
Find out how you can limit potential damage and protect your profits and productivity.
Here are 4 steps you can take NOW to protect your small business from cyberattacks.
1. Get up to date
Australian Microsoft Regional Director and cyber security expert Troy Hunt, says that if business owners had ensured their systems were up to date, the WannaCry ransomware would have been a “non-event”.
“It’s amazing we’re seeing this problem at all,” says Hunt.
“Organisations had a two-month lead time to patch this exploit.”
After the vulnerability was recognised back in March 2017, Microsoft released a patch for all affected systems urging users to immediately update their software. Those that did were protected.
Windows 10 users are not vulnerable to the WannaCry virus, but older systems (think Windows 8/7/Vista/XP) are.
Mac or Linux-based system have not been hit so far.
2. Back up
According to Hunt, the simplest way business owners can avoid cyberattacks is to regularly back up their systems.
“The whole idea of ransomware is for it to get its hands on every file it can find and encrypt it, so if you can just wipe your machine and restore from a backup, then it’s not an issue,” he says.
Backing up may be a laborious exercise but it can mean the difference between a small loss of downtime and a big loss of productivity.
The easiest solution, Hunt says, is a bulletproof cloud-based backup system that automatically syncs files every day to protect against random attacks.
Cloud backup is exactly what it sounds like.
Your data is stored in an online storehouse where it’s always accessible when you need it.
It works like this: You download a desktop client to your PC, select the folders you want to back up, and that data is uploaded on a set schedule.
Then, if catastrophe strikes, you have a clean, up-to-date copy of your data stashed away safe and sound.
If you want to do it yourself - a good back-up external hard drive that you can plug your computer into every night - can cost less than $150.
3. Educate yourself and your staff
When it comes to cyber security, getting staff on the same page is key.
Almost every week businesses are hit with a phishing email that brings keyloggers into their systems posing as an unpaid invoice.
Reviewing these and educating staff about them can help them alert you to potential breaches.
Make sure that they and you update all your passwords regularly and that they are sophisticated enough to stop a security breach.
4. Get organised
Safeguarding your digital information is just as important as protecting your personnel and physical assets.
Small steps can have big results:
The Australian Government reported resisting 85% of cyberattacks by taking three simple steps:
- Restricting the programs that are run on their computers
- Keeping software updated regularly
- Minimizing the number of people who control key machines.
Get expert help
You don't have to be a cybersecurity expert to have up to date protection.
You can get inexpensive IT support from companies, such as Sucuri that specialize in malware, antivirus software, firewalls and help monitor websites for security breaches and vulnerabilities and fix hacks.
For as little as $20 a month you can get protection from cyberattacks, which is a very small price to stop the chaos and cost that comes with having your computer and systems go down, or worse having client data hacked and losing your customer’s trust.
You can also instal anti-virus software. There's lots on the market, some of which are free.
Choice compared 18 of them recently. (If you want the full comparison you have to join Choice - but the list is great information.)
If you want to invest in cloud based back-up solutions, here are five that have been rated the best by lifehacker.com.au.
Have your devices insured on your Business Insurance
Make sure that your computers and electronic devices are fully covered by your Business Insurance so that if anything happens to them, you won't be left digitally high and dry.