How do you fight ransomware? 5 tips

Every week, ransomware attacks are in the news. In these, cybercriminals lock others' computer systems with hostage software. They demand a ransom from their victims to release the systems again. Even as a small business, you are vulnerable to such an attack. Protect yourself against ransomware with these 5 tips.

On average, a ransomware attack costs a business $1.82 million. This is according to research by British security company Sophos. They surveyed 3,000 organisations in 14 countries. Ransomware affected 66% of these businesses. Although these are businesses with at least 100 employees, this 2022 survey gives a picture of the global impact of ransomware. Dutch entrepreneurs named ransomware as one of the most important cyber threats in 2023.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is software, or malware, that takes your computers and files hostage. Criminals block or encrypt your computers, files, sometimes even entire networks, and only release them if you pay a ransom. According to experts, double encryption is on the rise: the ransomware encrypts your data not once, but twice. You have to pay for both keys.

Files held hostage

Ransomware uses different attack forms. Criminals try to get their malware into your system through links, attachments in e-mail, advertisements. But also through targeted attacks on servers. Once inside, the ransomware spreads itself. The software blocks access to your computer or network, or encrypts your files.


Encrypted computer systems can no longer be used. In the worst case, this will bring your business to a complete standstill. If you want the criminals to give you access to your files again, you have to pay them (in Dutch). The criminals demand a ransom, often in bitcoin or another crypto currency. For example, a library in Gouda (in Dutch) fell victim to ransomware in June 2023. As a result, they could no longer offer all services to their members. The hackers also stole personal data such as members' e-mail addresses and bank account numbers. A cybersecurity company helped the library recover from the ransomware attack. Whether they also paid ransom to the criminals is not known.

Security against ransomware

Prevent criminals from locking down your system with ransomware. Secure your business with these five tips.

1. Make regular backups

Paying to criminals is not the only way to regain access to your system. With a good backup, restore your files yourself. If you can do this, you can get back up and running quickly. With such a backup, the library in Gouda recovered quickly from the ransomware attack. 70% of affected organisations from Sophos' survey were also able to get back to work partly because of their backup.

2. Install a good antivirus programme

Only with a good virus scanner that also recognises ransomware will you be protected. The risk of infection is lower with such a virus scanner. But beware: even the best antivirus software can never stop áll malware.

3. Update your software

Cyber criminals exploit vulnerabilities in software to infect your system with ransomware. Make sure you fix vulnerabilities in time with software updates.

4. Have a plan B

With a plan B, you can get back to work faster after a cyber attack. Your plan B tells you what to do if everything comes to a standstill. How to restore a backup of important data, for example. Or who to call to get your computers up and running again. Be well prepared for a cyber incident.

5. Stay alert

People are a weak link in the security of IT systems. It is easy to click on a malicious link. Or you unknowingly open a malicious e-mail attachment. So be careful with that. Distrust e-mails from strangers. Also, make sure that any employees do not receive private e-mail via the business e-mail address.

More advice

Dutch resources for if you are based in the Netherlands:

  • The Fraudehelpdesk (Fraud Help Desk) can advise you in the event of an attack and, if necessary, refer you to another organisation.
  • The Digital Trust Center (DTC, in Dutch), set up by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, provides further explanation about what you can do if your computer system has been held hostage by software.
  • The National Cyber Security Center (NCSC), established by the Ministry of Justice and Security, combats cybercrime in the Netherlands.

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