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Threat from ransomware attacks extends to small businesses

Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 7:30 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Businesses are increasingly fending off attacks on their IT systems. While the focus recently has been on the ransomware attacks on large corporations, mom-and-pop shops are also under threat.

The FBI said last year, cybercrime cost the U.S. economy about $2.7 billion. Small businesses are being seen as lucrative targets for their data and because they often don’t have the IT protection in place that’s seen at larger organizations.

Speaking with Friends University’s Cybersecurity Program, a critical piece of advice is to constantly be on the lookout. Cyberattacks are ever-present in a largely connected world.

“(It) does seem like that we’re seeing a lot of attacks right now in the news and there are attacks that are ramping up, when, in reality, all we’re doing is seeing visibility on attacks. We’re seeing larger organizations being breached,” said Friends University Executive-in-Residence for Cybersecurity Education David Evenden said.

A recent ransomware attack in Wichita targeted Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church and School. A spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita said they’re still working to assess the impact on the church’s systems and to restore them, but these kinds of attacks are routine.

“It happens all the time,” Evenden said.

In addition to his work with Friends University, Evenden runs a cybersecurity firm. He said when businesses look at cybersecurity and protection, they often think large.

“The initial access or the initial breach as sort of their hot button. They need to identify ways they can mitigate vulnerabilities,” he said.

Evenden advised it should be more focused.

“Identify what really the most valuable asses in the organization actually are. Start there (and) work your way backward,” he said.

Building robust protections, Evenden said, is easier for larger corporations than small businesses.

“Organizations are really quite vulnerable and unfortunately, the reason that’s the case is because access to cybersecurity professionals. Can you afford to hire a full-time professional,” he said.

He said that’s why businesses and employees need to be on alert and cautious, taking a similar strategy when approached by a stranger.

“You know when things are not right,” Evenden said. “This person seems a little bit weird, (you) probably don’t want to be talking to them. In the exact way, somebody sends you an email, there’s no difference.”

When a business suffers a ransomware attack, Evenden said the advice is not to pay. He said you never know here that money is actually going and it could be used to fund other criminal activities. He said that’s why businesses should be taking precautionary steps. This includes backing up data regularly so they can restore their systems if they experience a breach.

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