The number of ransomware attacks  on businesses and individuals has risen exponentially in recent years. Increasingly, small and midsized businesses are vulnerable to these malware attacks. Their data is essentially locked up, or held hostage, and cybercriminals demand a ransom in exchange for releasing computer files and business documents. The numbers are staggering. The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that ransomware attacks cost victims about $209 million in the first three months of 2016 alone.
This pressure on businesses of all sizes means there is a bright spotlight on data protection. A backup and recovery strategy is cited again and again by industry analysts as the best way to say no to cybercriminals — and avoid paying ransom at all.
What Happens to Organizations without Backup?
In 2016, many businesses, hospitals, schools and other organizations learned the hard way that a solid backup strategy is the best protection against ransomware. Back in February, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center  was forced to pay $17,000 following a ransomware attack that paralyzed important medical equipment and blocked access to patient files. The medical center ultimately regained access to its IT systems, but not before incoming patients had to be diverted to different area hospitals.
Small businesses are proving to be highly attractive — and lucrative — targets for cybercriminals as well. A recent Ponemon Institute survey of 618 respondents from small and midsize businesses revealed that about half had been hit with ransomware in the last year — and about half of the victims paid the ransom because they lacked a proper backup strategy. The average amount of the ransom request was $2,500.
Alternatively, organizations that take backup and recovery seriously emerge from ransomware attacks largely unscathed. In another ransomware case that grabbed headlines in 2016, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency refused to pay a $73,000 ransom demand — and proceeded to recover all of its files from backup.
Protect your Business from Ransomware in 2017
IT industry analysts and cybersecurity experts agree that backup is the best defense against ransomware. Just ask white hat hacker David Kennedy , the founder of cybersecurity firms TrustedSEC and Binary Defense Systems.
“I think having a good backup strategy is probably the number one thing that you should focus your efforts on,” said Kennedy, “because that ultimately is going to save you on the day of a disaster.”
But there are also some important steps a business can take to avoid getting hit with ransomware in the first place. For starters, be sure to invest in firewall and antivirus software.
It’s also important to educate yourself and your employees about how to avoid a ransomware infection. On FightRansomware.com , and on our regular podcast , we feature lots of content that’s focuses on user education.
Norman Guadagno is Chief Evangelist and Senior Vice President of Marketing at Carbonite , a provider of cloud backup and recovery solutions for small and midsize businesses.
Ransomware  Photo via Shutterstock