Ransomware: One of Symantec’s Small Biz Threats for 2013

Symantec released its SMB Information Protection Predictions for 2013, and the news looks grim for small businesses that play it fast and loose with IT security.

Dan Nadir, senior director of product management of small business and Symantec.Cloud, says that small and midsized businesses should brace — or better yet, prepare — for a range of new threats that will make small business IT experts long for the days of Internet worms and hacked servers. Not content to infect PCs or steal information, some malware scammers now hold their victims’ computers hostage.

Ransomware, a type of malware that locks down a computer until the victim pays up, is on the rise, says Nadir. “The scale of the threat is growing,” he tells Small Business Computing. Ransomware hits small businesses the hardest because a PC typically pulls double (or triple) duty.

Like many entrepreneurs, a small business PC typically wears many hats and acts as the lynchpin to several business processes. A single system may run a company’s accounting software, CRM, social marketing apps and productivity suite, for instance.

Getting bit by the ransomware bug can bring small business productivity to a screeching halt, according to Nadir.

Computers Held Hostage

Symantec’s research sheds some light on why scammers are continually flooding the Internet with ransomware. “Three percent of the people that get hit by ransomware actually pay,” says Nadir. And where there’s money to be made, online fraudsters swarm like sharks.

Nadir recommends that small business owners invest in some sort of PC security. More importantly, he urges small business owners to back up their data so that they don’t have to suffer the indignity of forking over their hard-earned funds to get their own data back. With reliable data backups, a ransomware infection becomes an annoying inconvenience, not a business killer.

Symantec also calls attention to the cloud. “More and more small business are moving their servers or relying almost entirely on the cloud,” says Nadir. Attackers have taken notice, so — when it comes to account access and control — strong passwords and diligence are critical to keeping malware scammers at bay.

In 2013, small businesses should also be wary of getting caught up in cyber conflicts between nations or organizations, the proliferation of mobile adware and cloud outages. SMBs are also advised to keep a close eye on their social media accounts to prevent damage to their brands. Symantec recommends establishing policies governing the use of social media to avoid “spear phishing” attempts.

The full list of threats and recommendations is available on Symantec’s official blog.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Internetnews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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