How Cybercriminals Extort Small Businesses
Small businesses are increasingly becoming targets of cybercriminals who seek to extort data from them. It is crucial for small business operators to understand the methods these threat actors use to obtain sensitive information and how they can use this data against you. Still, from our experiences, most small business owners don't seem to understand just how this works. DCS feels they must understand what is often common knowledge to the tech community but not to the folks who run and manage small businesses.
Threat actors, also known as cybercriminals, can extort businesses in several ways:
- Ransomware attacks: As mentioned before, ransomware attacks involve encrypting a business's sensitive data and demanding payment in exchange for the decryption key. Threat actors use the threat of data loss and disruption to the business's operations as leverage to force the victim to pay the ransom.
- DDoS attacks: In a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack, the threat actor overloads a business's website or network with traffic, rendering it unavailable to users. The attacker then demands payment to stop the attack and restore normal service.
- Data breaches: Threat actors can steal sensitive data, such as customer information or confidential business records, and threaten to publicly release or sell it on the dark web unless the victim pays a ransom.
- Business email compromise: This type of attack involves impersonating a trusted sender, such as a business partner or executive, and tricking the recipient into transferring money to a fraudulent account. The attacker then threatens to reveal the scam to the recipient's employer unless a ransom is paid.
- Phishing scams: Threat actors use phishing to steal sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial information, and then threaten to use this information for malicious purposes unless a ransom is paid.
In all of these cases, the threat actors use the threat of harm to the business or its customers as leverage to force the victim to pay the ransom. Therefore, small businesses need to be vigilant and proactive in their Cybersecurity efforts to reduce their risk of falling victim to extortion attempts. This includes regularly backing up their data, keeping software and operating system security patches up-to-date, and utilizing cybersecurity awareness training employees on how to recognize and avoid phishing scams and other types of cyber attacks.