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Ransomware and Small Businesses


Ransomware has become one of the biggest cybersecurity threats small-business owners face today. Criminals use this malicious software to hold business computers hostage, preventing a user from accessing any files. When a business has been infected with ransomware, employees see a message that says their files have been encrypted and cannot be accessed unless they pay a ransom within a few days. And, despite the best efforts of cybersecurity professionals, this malware can be extremely difficult to remove once it’s infected a device or network.


When it comes to safeguarding your digital property, and preventing costly disruptions to your operations, it’s essential to understand how this malware works and how it can affect your business.


Types of Ransomware

There is an ever-growing variety of ransomware designed to target different systems and exploit specific vulnerabilities. In general, they fall into these categories:

  • Scareware – This isn’t technically ransomware, but it appears this way to the user by causing frequent or hard-to-close pop-ups. The messages on these pop-ups are designed to scare the user into paying a fee to have the malware removed.
  • Lockers – This ransomware locks the screen of every affected computer, cutting off access to all files and programs until a ransom is paid.
  • Encryptors – This malware targets and disables specific files using a sophisticated encryption algorithm.


Ransomware is a favorite tool among cybercriminals. Thanks to sophisticated algorithms and anonymous payment collections using bitcoin, ransomware attacks are easy to commit and carry minimal risk for the perpetrator.


Impact on Small Businesses

Thousands of ransomware attacks strike businesses each year, and the risk is especially great for small businesses, which lack the financial and technical resources that help larger companies cope. According to Osterman Research’s Second Annual State of Ransomware Report, a ransomware attack “can be crippling” for small businesses.


Paying the attackers’ ransom may not take a large toll on your cash reserves – more than half of ransom demands are for $1,000 or less – but the potential damage to your assets and business activity can be severe. After all, while many desperate businesses end up paying the ransom, there’s no guarantee the encryption will be lifted.



Whether the compromised computer files contain valuable business information or months of hard work, the consequences for your operations can be severe. While an attack on a single device may not prove disruptive, many businesses that experience a networkwide infection must halt all business activity until the issue is resolved. This downtime can range from a few hours to several days.


For a business with limited cash reserves, the loss of revenue due to downtime or damaged files can be devastating. For this reason, it’s essential to invest in the right security technology and backup solutions while educating your team about cybersecurity threats like ransomware.

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The information contained herein is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal, or business advice.