Organizations hit by ransomware attacks can suffer several types of losses. They can lose access to sensitive customer or financial data that may not be recoverable. They can lose money paying the ransom or trying to recover from the attack. And they can lose the faith of customers or users who may shy away from working with them again.

Ransomware can threaten any type of organization from small to large. But SMBs (small- and mid-sized businesses) can be particularly hurt by these types of attacks. A report released Tuesday by Infrascale illustrates how SMBs are faring at defending themselves against ransomware.

SEE: Ransomware: What IT pros need to know (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Should you pay the ransom?

Based on a survey of more than 500 C-level executives at SMBs, Infrascale’s report found that 46% of the respondents have already been hit by ransomware attacks. Among those, 73% admitted to paying the ransom in order to recover their data.

But the cost of acceding to the demands of cybercriminals can be high. Among those who suffered a ransomware attack, 43% said they paid between $10,000 and $50,000 to try to get back their data, while 13% shelled out more than $100,000.

SEE: Cybersecurity: Let’s get tactical (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Some 26% of the SMBs said they’ve never paid a ransom but would consider doing so. Among those, 60% said they’d pay to recover their files quickly, while 53% said they’d pay to protect their company’s public image around data protection and recovery efforts.

However, criminals aren’t exactly a trustworthy lot, so paying the ransom doesn’t guarantee that you’ll regain your data. Among the respondents, 17% who paid the ransom demand said they were able to recover only some of their files.

Be prepared for a ransomware attack

Most of the SMBs (83%) said they do feel prepared for a ransomware attack. But this left 17% who admitted to not being prepared. On this front, time and resources are the two biggest constraints. Some 32% of SMBs said they have limited time to research ransomware mitigation solutions. The same percentage revealed that their IT staffers are already stretched so thin that their companies don’t have the necessary resources to address ransomware threats. Further, a quarter of all respondents said they don’t have a plan in place to mitigate a ransomware attack.

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“Ransomware is not a new phenomenon,” Infrascale CEO Russell P. Reeder said in a press release. “However, it is surprising how many businesses are unprepared for a ransomware attack. It is shocking that during a time in which the world should be coming together in the fight against COVID-19, criminals are preying on unsuspecting people and organizations for personal – usually financial – gain. And, in many cases, these bad actors are actually benefiting. With appropriate strategies using preventive measures like internet security and education, and protection measures like data backup and disaster recovery, you should never have to worry about paying ransomware.”

How to remediate an attack

To help SMBs protect themselves against the effects of ransomware, Reeder stressed that backup and disaster recovery are of paramount importance.

“Picking up on a potential attack in advance is ideal to prevent it from happening,” Reeder said. “However, if an organization is compromised, near-immediate remediation is top priority – and it shouldn’t be in the form of paying a ransom. With appropriate backup and disaster recovery in place prior to a compromising event, an organization can quickly restore its data or spin up its operations to restore service.”

Among the more than 500 C-level executives surveyed for the study, CEOs represented 87%, while the remainder was split between CIOs and CTOs.

Image: Vladimir Obradovic, Getty Images/iStockphoto