Ransomware has been a growing concern for businesses of all sizes for many years. While there are many ways to prevent the threat from negatively impacting your business, one of the best strategies to follow is to educate your employees on the dangers of ransomware.

IT security professionals have been warning their clients about malicious software for years. Even federal agencies have been monitoring the growing threat of ransomware. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has observed an increase in ransomware attacks worldwide. More recently, the FBI issued an alert on how ransomware is impacting U.S. businesses and organizations, highlighting the techniques of hackers.

Cybercriminals relying on ransomware to commit cybercrimes are becoming more sophisticated with their attacks. They’re constantly changing their techniques to avoid detection and increase the likelihood of targets unknowingly installing malware by opening malicious links or email attachments. For hackers, the less knowledgeable employees are on cybersecurity best practices, the better.

Employees don’t need to become experts in the ever-expanding cyber threat landscape, but they should — at the very least — be aware of how ransomware can infiltrate their systems and networks; what they can do to mitigate risks and monitor how businesses respond to ransomware attacks.

How ransomware infiltrates systems

Stick to the basics when educating employees about how ransomware infiltrates systems.

Ransomware, a form of malware, makes it possible for cybercriminals to hold your files hostage until you pay a ransom.

More than likely, the employees you’re training aren’t in technical roles, so keep things simple for them. They don’t need to know the granular details. Only provide them with what they need to know.

For example, when reviewing ways in which ransomware can infect networks, highlight common methods for ransomware attacks (sending phishing emails, exploiting remote desktop protocol vulnerabilities, etc.), but don’t get into the technical details of various strains of ransomware, especially if you’re not a cybersecurity expert.

After your employees understand what they need to know about ransomware, move on to educating them about how they can better protect themselves from cybercriminals using such attacks.

Review cybersecurity best practices with them as often as possible

After educating your employees on what ransomware is and how it infects systems, review cybersecurity best practices with them.

First and foremost, remind your employees about how important it is to back up data regularly. Remember: Backups should be stored offline and on separate devices.

Of course, updating software and operating systems with the latest patches is necessary to secure networks properly. If you don’t, hackers can easily exploit your systems.

Also, highlight the obvious: Never click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails. It seems simple enough, but many employees need to be reminded of this often.

Even though teaching your employees cybersecurity best practices is an absolute must, there are times when putting the ever-expanding cyber threat landscape into perspective is the way to ensure your employees comply with your requests.

Keep your employees in the loop

Keeping employees up to date on the latest happenings in the ransomware space shouldn’t be difficult, especially with the number of attacks increasing and hackers targeting organizations of all sizes, including hospitals, public school districts, and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

Nearly every week — sometimes every day — media outlets are reporting the details of a ransomware attack. When you come across a new story about an organization falling victim to ransomware, share it with your employees as soon as possible. Highlight what you believe went wrong and how they can better protect themselves from cybercriminals.

Like it or not, your employees are your first line of defense against ransomware attacks. The more you invest in education, the better off your systems and networks will be.