The internet has revolutionized the way we communicate and do business. Unfortunately, it has also created opportunities for thieves to steal and scramble data, disrupt systems, and demand exorbitant ransoms. Just last week, the largest ransomware attack in history occurred, targeting a software supplier and crippling hundreds of U.S. companies.  

Businesses of all sizes are vulnerable; In fact, up to 70% of all ransomware attacks are perpetrated against small businesses. The average ransom paid by small businesses in 2020 was $6,000. At the other end of the spectrum was the world’s largest meat processing company, JBS, which just made an $11 million ransom payment to cybercriminals.  

As part of DLBA’s mission to preserve and cultivate a healthy and safe Downtown, there are several cyber tips for local businesses to safeguard data resources and protect their investments in the community. 

Cybersecurity has become an urgent priority for the City of Long Beach. Its Technology and Innovation Department (TID) is working to secure the City’s digital infrastructure, devices, and networks. 

The Department has also partnered with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other regional agencies to exchange cyber threat intelligence and notifications of attacks. Danielle Mitchell, Communications Officer for TID, has relayed federal ransomware protection guidelines (see below) to local businesses, with one additional tip: “If you are a business that provides guest WiFi for your customers, make sure your guest WiFi network is separate from your business/financial network. Your Internet Service Provider can help you to partition the network.” 

The U.S. government regards ransomware hacking as a serious threat to national security. In an executive order issued last month, President Biden outlined the five best practices to help reduce the growing threat of cyber attacks: 

  • Back up your data, system images, and configurations, regularly test them, and keep the backups offline: Ensure that backups are regularly tested and that they are not connected to the business network, as many ransomware variants try to find and encrypt or delete accessible backups. Maintaining current backups offline is critical because if your network data is encrypted with ransomware, your organization can restore systems.
  • Update and patch systems promptly: This includes maintaining the security of operating systems, applications, and firmware, in a timely manner. Consider using a centralized patch management system; use a risk-based assessment strategy to drive your patch management program.
  • Test your incident response plan: There’s nothing that shows the gaps in plans more than testing them. Run through some core questions and use those to build an incident response plan: Are you able to sustain business operations without access to certain systems? For how long? Would you turn off your manufacturing operations if business systems such as billing were offline?
  • Check Your Security Team’s Work: Use a third-party pen tester to test the security of your systems and your ability to defend against a sophisticated attack. Many ransomware criminals are aggressive and sophisticated and will find the equivalent of unlocked doors.
  • Segment your networks: There’s been a recent shift in ransomware attacks – from stealing data to disrupting operations. It’s critically important that your corporate business functions and manufacturing/production operations are separated and that you carefully filter and limit internet access to operational networks, identify links between these networks and develop workarounds or manual controls to ensure ICS networks can be isolated and continue operating if your corporate network is compromised. Regularly test contingency plans such as manual controls so that safety-critical functions can be maintained during a cyber incident.

Click here to get more prevention tips from the U.S. government’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.