Financial Services

Mortgage Companies Beware: Ransomware Attacks are on the Rise

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Financial Services

Mortgage Companies Beware: Ransomware Attacks are on the Rise

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Here’s what you can do to protect your company’s data

Imagine someone taking over your home, stealing the keys, and demanding you pay hundreds, even thousands, of dollars if you ever want to enter and have access to your belongings again. 

While it might sound like a movie plot, this is the reality mortgage firms face when ransomware compromises sensitive files, documents, photos, customer data, financial information, and holds them hostage. 

According to a recent report by IT security company Sophos titled "The State of Ransomware 2021," more than a third of the 5,400 companies surveyed said they experienced a ransomware attack. To have their data released, mid-sized companies reportedly paid an average of $170,404. 

But the damage goes well beyond the ransomware payment — it can take weeks, sometimes months, to recover from an attack, leaving critical systems down and businesses unable to serve customers. And the organizations who choose to pay the ransom got back an average of just 65% of their encrypted files, leaving more than one-third of their data still inaccessible. 

All in, the approximate cost of recovering from a ransomware attack, including lost productivity, device repairs, network costs, lost business opportunities, and of course the ransom payment, is valued at a whopping $1.85 million.

Because ransomware attacks seek out private and confidential consumer data, retail lending and mortgage finance companies are prime targets for hackers. 

The mortgage industry: An attractive target for ransomware attacks

In July 2021, we saw the degree of mortgage data vulnerability. A major cloud hosting company for the lending industry found itself the victim of a highly sophisticated ransomware attack. As a result, customers lost access to crucial real estate, legal, and financial files, as well as software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications maintained in its cloud. 

The attack left the cloud provider unable to restore the data for weeks, leaving many of its customers without any way of doing business and preventing many loans from closing. The incident demonstrates just how crippling ransomware attacks can be on the mortgage industry and the people who rely on their services. 

Five ways to protect your data and avoid ransomware attacks 

When it comes to the mortgage industry, it's not a question of if ransomware will happen, but when. We’ve put together these five steps companies can take to protect their data and their customers' information: 

1. Back up data with active archiving

Ransomware threats are less compelling if your firm routinely backs up data and files. Active archiving continually copies critical data to a separate storage facility, saving files as they are accessed and keeping them readily available for your team. 

2. Keep a golden copy

Hackers are patient. They often work through your systems for months in advance to infect backups, archives, and current workflow systems. Your firm's security specialist can set up processes that regularly generate a series of "golden copy" backups that have been screened for infection. These copies should be held offline in a storage system that is physically separate from your working IT infrastructure. That way, you always have clean, uninfected data for ransomware recovery. 

3. Diligence about regular updates

Ransomware doesn't always have to rely on employees clicking infected emails or fake program installation links. When firms haven't updated software or installed patches, they sometimes leave security holes that attackers can penetrate. For the best prevention, deploy ongoing updates to your users' systems, specifically for antivirus software, operating system patches, browser software, and any browser plug-ins.

4. Implement employee education programs 

Train your staff in cybersecurity topics, such as how to recognize phishing emails and how to avoid letting malware infect their computers. Knowing what to look for and avoid online can help prevent targeted attacks on unsuspecting employees. 

5. Delegate your data protection to professionals

With ransomware attacks becoming increasingly more complex, firms can find it challenging to keep up with new threats. Luckily, there are professional systems, services, and software to help protect your data, so you don't have to go it alone. Including the services of a professional can help keep your ransomware protection updated and prevent untold costs, frustration, and — possibly worst of all — the reputational risk associated with attacks.

Work with a leader in ransomware protection

Not all data protection services are costly nor require heavy IT lifting. 

Mortgage financing companies can get state-of-the-art data protection from Iron Cloud Secure Offline Storage (SOS), a low-cost, fully managed solution for inactive cloud data. It keeps data offline and offsite in a completely separate, climate-controlled vault, disconnected from the network for enhanced data protection and security.

The additional Vault Lock feature enables multi-factor authentication, giving you control over who has access to your data, both regularly and when recovering from a ransomware attack. 

Iron Mountain is on the front lines of ensuring data protection. Our customers can rely on us to protect what they value and help unlock its potential. Learn more about how Iron Cloud SOS and Vault Lock can help keep your data safe here

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