The New Year’s Eve ransomware attack on foreign currency firm Travelex was a stark reminder of just how vulnerable today’s businesses are to determined cybercriminals.

Even a successful global enterprise like Travelex, with 1,200 branches in 70 countries, can have its IT systems hijacked and its online services brought to a total standstill. The gang threatened to publish huge quantities of clients’ personal data – social security numbers, dates of birth and payment card information – unless it received a $6 million payment.

Frightening stuff. But what’s almost more frightening is that hackers aren’t just targeting big international businesses, they’re just as likely to attack your business – and mine!

And while Travelex has the scale and resources to fight back and recover, most SMEs do not. Remember, SMEs are the victims of 43% of all data security breaches, with some forced to close as a result of a ransomware attack. The loss of core IT infrastructure, essential data and business confidence forces clients to go elsewhere – never to return.

What is ransomware?

There are two types, usually delivered through a phishing attack. The first type encrypts the files on a computer or network. The second type locks a user’s screen. Both types require users to make a payment – the ‘ransom’ – to be able to use the computer normally again.

However, there’s no guarantee that the key or password, to ‘unlock’ the computer, will be provided once the ransom has been paid. In fact, you should assume that making a payment is a fruitless exercise and plan your business continuity on that basis.

That being the case it’s far better to take sensible cybersecurity measures to prevent a ransomware attack from succeeding in the first place. The Government’s National Cyber Security Centre provides great online advice to protect businesses from cybercrime but my advice would be to ensure that you’re covering the basics, which, for me, includes:

  • Regular security surveys and testing – to identify and manage vulnerabilities
  • Internet firewall protection
  • Managed antivirus services – ensuring your protection is always working correctly and up-to-date. Out of date or failing AV software is as good as no AV protection
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) – in addition to usernames and passwords when logging in to web-based systems
  • Data encryption – keeping data safe if your computer or smartphone is lost or stolen
  • Always updating software – because hackers target older systems first
  • Employee training on safe working – for example how to identify a phishing attack
  • Controlling how employees interact with the internet – to minimise browsing risks.

Although, of course, prevention is far better than cure, we can also help you to recover in the event of a successful attack, by, for example, ensuring you have robust back-up procedures in place.   For an informal chat about your approach to cybersecurity and how we can help, call us on 03300 886116 or email

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group