6 industries most vulnerable to ransomware attacks

Ransomware attacks are one of the most stressful events any company can face. For starters, ransomware is a type of malicious software that blocks access to a company’s systems and data. This is deployed by the so-called cyber criminals in order to attack your company’s valuable data.
ransomware demands and trends
While that is already stressful, consider that the cost of a data breach is significant (and growing). Not giving in to their demands will mean losing your data or, worse, its integrity. This is particularly dreadful for companies that store data for their business operations.

While ransomware attackers target businesses of all sizes and in every industry, some industries are bigger targets due to the value of the data they can steal or the size of the ransom they can demand. If you belong to one of these industries, you better improve your security measures to avoid the stresses of a ransomware attack.

What causes ransomware attacks?

Before we list the industries most vulnerable to ransomware attacks, it pays to know why these attacks occur. Companies that have poor cybersecurity practices often find themselves at the receiving end of ransomware attacks.

Deploying cybersecurity measures to prevent ransomware attacks is not enough. Companies need to invest in a dedicated cybersecurity team to help address this issue or contract with a managed security service provider (MSSP). 

Also topping this list are the company’s weak passwords and access management. This issue is so common that it accounted for 30 percent of ransomware attacks in 2019. Among the bad practices employed by individuals is using the same password for multiple accounts. 

In 2021, the average cost of a ransomware attack was $1.4 million, which would be devastating to many companies. Every company should take steps to reduce the risk of ransomware, but if your business belongs to a highly targeted industry, it’s even more imperative to take action to secure your data. 

Industries vulnerable to ransomware attacks

There are favorite industries by cybercriminals in conducting any ransomware attack. If you fall under the categories below, there is a good chance your business will experience an attack. That is inevitable if you deploy weak anti-ransomware attack mechanisms.

In this age of ransomware attacks, it’s crucial that these companies protect the integrity of their data. 

Academic institutions

NJBIA reports that 56 percent of K-12 academic institutions and 65 percent of colleges and universities suffered a ransomware attack in 2021. This is particularly troubling as these institutions hold a lot of sensitive information. 

With the shift to online learning, the attacks on these academic institutions grow more prominent by the day. This can disrupt the day-to-day learning activities of both the students and faculty members. 

For large organizations like college institutions, improving the cybersecurity efforts of all those involved is highly recommended. Doing so would not only prevent a possible ransomware attack but also promote a culture of cybersecurity for the academic community.

Small businesses

If you think small businesses will be spared because of their size, think again. A ransomware attack on small businesses is costly, both in terms of potential ransom fees and recovery costs, such as notifying the individuals affected that their sensitive data may have been exposed. This fact makes it essential for small businesses to prioritize their cybersecurity efforts. 

Exposing the data of clients will likely result in a loss of trust. By extension, small businesses likewise suffer in terms of sales. In fact, some ransomware attacks cause such financial devastation that businesses are forced to close their doors.

Banking and financial institutions

Like small businesses, larger financial institutions like banks also commonly fall prey to ransomware attacks. In most cases, the ransom demand is more complex for this industry. Even if banks and other financial institutions have settled for the ransom money, their data may still be stolen. 

The amount of data being stored by financial institutions makes it a favorite target among ransomware attackers. But, in fairness to banking institutions, they have also ramped up their efforts to prevent these and other cybersecurity attacks. 

Among these efforts is to elevate the awareness among its clients, who may become victims by falling for phishing emails or other social engineering tactics. Phishing is one of the most commonly encountered ransomware attack methods in the financial industry.

Government institutions

Globally, the United States gets the lion’s share of victims of ransomware attacks. In addition, a large chunk of victims of this cybercrime are government institutions themselves. In 2020 alone, 79 ransomware attacks were directed toward government entities in the United States.

Any ransomware attack on a government institution exposes the sensitive data of its constituents. In some instances, it also disrupts the delivery of services because data is being held hostage.

Government offices that are at the lowest levels of hierarchy are common targets. Experts say this is because the promotion of sound cybersecurity may not a priority among entities at this level. This makes them lag behind their counterparts in the corporate world.

Healthcare facilities

Healthcare institutions like hospitals and clinics have a significant amount of sensitive data in their arsenal. Unfortunately, these data are favorite targets for ransomware attacks. This is because hackers believe that the larger the volume of data, the easier it is to ask for ransom money.

A considerable number of healthcare facilities are victimized by ransomware attacks. In addition, experts point out the lack of effort of hospitals and clinics to improve their outdated security systems.

Hospital administrators must realize that to be a victim of a ransomware attack also means an attack on the confidentiality of patients’ information. Just imagine the consequences that could result if these data get into the wrong hands. 

Retail industry

16% of ransomware attacks in 2021 were directed toward retail industries. Ransomware attackers target companies in the retail industry because they have complex IT environments – including many connected point-of-sale devices – and they store a great deal of sensitive customer data, such as financial information. 

The retail industry became an even bigger focus of ransomware attackers during the pandemic, as companies had to embrace digital transformation practically overnight, introducing new security challenges. Gaining access to a retailer’s sensitive data and networks could give them a door to other companies throughout the supply chain, making them valuable to attackers.  

On this list? Follow these tips

Data privacy is a sacred thing for any organization, and that’s why you need to build a strong defense to prevent a possible ransomware attack.

The first thing to do is to update your software and check for vulnerabilities. Note that this requires an expert. Invest in one or two. If you are a large organization, it also pays to build a dedicated cybersecurity team. If you have an IT group, this may be part of the services they’re providing.

In your working place, it pays to promote a culture of cybersecurity. It’s never too late to teach employees to enable two-factor authentication and create backups of important company data. Purchasing and maintaining quality antivirus software can also help.

Final Thoughts

Hackers are everywhere. Outsmarting them is a logical thing to do among industries to help protect the integrity of your data. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of available solutions to help prevent a ransomware attack. Such tools provided by experts are designed to help you navigate through these possible attacks. Investing in one will fortify your company or organization against the stresses and the costs involved in a ransomware attack.

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