Ransomware is a form of malicious malware that holds a targeted device hostage until a fee is paid. In some cases, systems become stripped of all their data with no point of return and the perpetrators continue to request large sums of money.

The most important rule is to never pay the ransom.

Ransomware is crippling for businesses of all sizes, and it is not just the ransom amount that can be costly and damaging, but the time spent trying to recover and repair systems. The loss of important data and personal information can be especially damaging due to recent data privacy laws and regulations. Ransomware has now become the top cyber threat for businesses, last year attacks had risen by 250%.

WannaCry ransomware attack on the U.K.’s National Health Service costed more than $1 billion even though $100,000 bitcoin was paid as ransom. In a report released by Cybersecurity Ventures, they predicted costs related to ransomware would exceed $5 billion in 2017. The financial loss can also come with a damaged reputation and their clients trust in the organization. Companies can no longer afford to ignore the potential of a Ransomware attack.

Here are the top 5 ways you can protect your business against Ransomware:

1. Do not pay the ransom – It becomes easier for an attacker to alter the code of the malware to deploy it another time. Paying the demanded ransom before they unlock the machine is no guarantee that information will be returned.

2. Back up files – If data is backed up regularly to an external source, a computer system can be reset, and the backup files can be reinstalled, which would wipe the ransomware from the system. Ensure that backups are not always kept on the network and kept offline because it would expose them to encryption and destruction.

3. Keep systems patched and up to date – Apply latest software patches and ensure antivirus databases are kept updated. Regular patching significantly reduces the attack surface and makes it more difficult for the attacker to get in.

4. Invest in a data protection solution – It is beneficial for businesses to invest in data protection plans to protect against vicious ransomware by having continuous data backups and having their firewalls managed and monitored.

5. Never open or download spam emails – Attachments and suspicious links might carry malicious malware. If you do not know the sender, the hyperlinks and attachments are likely not safe.