Understanding Cyber Extortion: 5 Ways to Protect Your Business

Learn what cyber extortion is and what steps you can take to protect your business reputation. Prepare for hacker attacks!

Cyber extortion is one of the fastest-growing problems in the entire world. Criminals could target your business and completely ruin it. The worst thing is that they don't even have to live in the same country as you to do it.

What Is Cyber Extortion?

Cyber extortion is a general term that refers to an array of cybercrimes. In short, it is the illegal use of threats or force to gain something. So, when hackers penetrate your systems and hijack your website/data requesting ransom, you can consider yourself a victim of cyber extortion.

Cyber Extortion Statistics

Did you know that in 2021, the FBI's ICCC (Internet Crime Complaint Center) received almost 860 thousand complaints regarding malicious cyber activity and cyber-attacks while companies reported almost $8 billion in losses, making cyber extortion one of the greatest concerns for SMEs?

Is Cyber Extortion the Same As Ransomware?

Although ransomware and cyber extortion have similar infiltration methods and share a common goal, they have some fundamental differences. Let's see what's the main difference between these two.

Ransomware is intended to lock down companies' critical systems, whereas cyber extortion's main objective is to steal data. However, although ransomware can enable extortion, it is not a clear form of cyber extortion.

To cut a long story short, extortion uses data against victims, while ransomware utilizes program or machine functionality.

Different Types of Cyber Extortion

Each cyber extortion starts with criminals gaining access to confidential data on your systems, devices, or networks through infected websites, phishing emails, ad scams, etc. So, let's take a look at the most common cyber extortion types.

1. Ransomware

Ransomware is just one of many malware types hackers use to infect your network and lock your files, leaving you helpless and at their mercy. 

They are encrypted in suspicious download links, ads, and email attachments that look completely legit at first sight. Criminals will request you to pay before you can have your files back.

2. Cyber Blackmail

This type of cyber extortion happens in cyberspace. They break into your network to steal customers or intellectual data and blackmail you - hackers will publish what they got if you refuse to cooperate and pay them a ransom.

In short, this sort of cyber extortion can jeopardize your organization's reputation, and you might be forced to pay them to protect your reputation before things hit the fan.

3. DDoS

A DDoS attack (Distributed denial-of-service attack) utilizes botnets to flood a website with a huge amount of traffic until servers become useless and shut down. 

Therefore, if your website is super important for running your business, you might want to give in to their demands. They might even take your website down if you don't cooperate and ruin everything you did in the past.

4. Social Phishing

Social phishing attacks, as the name suggests, refer to attacks executed through social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and others.

The main purpose of these attacks is to gain complete control of your social media account and steal personal and sensitive data.

How to Prevent Cyber Extortion

The only way to protect yourself is to prevent cybercriminals from breaking into your network or system because they have nothing until they do that. So, how can you do it and save your time, money, and effort?

1. Apply Patches Regularly

Cybercriminals are constantly looking for networks with a lot of vulnerabilities that make it easy for them to access data.

This means that you should frequently look for any loopholes in your network and implement security patches to close them up. 

2. Create a Strong Password Policy

Using default or weak usernames and passwords is the worst thing you can do because they are easy to crack. 

Therefore, change all of them and ensure they are complex. Also, forget about using a single password for several accounts and change passwords from time to time.

3. Build Cyber Security Awareness Among Employees

Remember, the strength of your company's cybersecurity completely depends on how much your employees know about cyberattacks and how to prevent them.

This means that you need to train your teams on this topic and show them safe browsing practices. They should learn to identify threats, infection indicators, phishing, etc.

4. Back Up Your Data 

If the worst case scenario happens and somehow you lose all your data, you will completely regret not backing up your files.

Don't wait to become a victim of a cyberattack to realize how backing up your data is important. Back up all your essential data ahead of time so you can have complete peace of mind knowing you can always get your files back.

5. Adopt a Comprehensive Security Approach

The whole point of adopting a complete security approach is to ensure there's no room left for cybercriminals to penetrate your network. You can implement both proactive and reactive practices to improve your security posture.

Proactive security will keep you ahead of problems by identifying them before they even have a chance to infiltrate your systems and reactive removes those threats that are already "living" in your system or network.

Start Prioritizing Your Network Security

Stop thinking hackers won't attack your business because cyber extortion is a game of numbers for cybercriminals. For them, it's all about hacking as many systems as possible to get higher rewards, meaning it's just a matter of time before they will target your company.

If you would like to learn more about how to put cyber security measures in place to ensure your company is safe, you can contact TradeWeb - we would be super excited to help you.

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