Ransomware: What Independent Grocers Need To Know

Mar 29, 2023

Did you know the average ransomware attack costs businesses an average of 15 days of downtime? Small, local grocers with busy management, slim margins, and often outdated and vulnerable technology systems are particularly susceptible to a ransomware attack that can shut down the POS and other essential systems and cost thousands — or even hundreds of thousands of dollars — to resume business.

During a session at The 2023 NGA Show, IGA CEO John Ross and Millennium Digital Technologies (MDTech) President Ken Andrews explained why and how cybercriminals target independent retailers, and what simple steps you can take to protect your business in as little as a week. MDTech is IGA’s Cybersecurity partner.

While hackers have gone after hospitals, schools, and police departments, grocery stores are vulnerable target due to their small tech support resources. “I’m afraid for our community, I’m afraid for my IGA retailers, I’m afraid for the industry in general,” Ross said.

Watch the full presentation from  IGA CEO John Ross and Millennium Digital Technologies President Ken Andrews

Key Takeaways

Where is the ransomware industry today? Why should grocers be vigilant? Andrews explained.

  1. A company is hit by a ransomware attack every 11 seconds. “It is a very pervasive problem that is growing,” Andrews said.
  2. Email is the delivery method for 94% of malware.
  3. Ransomware kits can be purchased online for as little as $50.
  4. The average ransomware payment in 2022 was $228,000, according to Andrews.

Ransomware & AI

Ransomware will only continue to get more sophisticated, thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI). And Andrews was quite candid on what he fears.

“These are two rapidly evolving technologies that are converging. And they have not converged yet. And what keeps me up at night right now is when those two converge. When that happens, the people who aren’t prepared are screwed...

The power that these tools have together is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.”

Pair this with ransomware attacks being aggregated into bigger pools — teenage hackers who want to cause disruption for fun, foreign government-sponsored ransomware — and it’s a recipe for disaster. Andrews also mentioned business owners need to be prepared for social engineeringthe tactic of manipulating, influencing, or deceiving a victim in order to gain control over a computer system, or to steal personal and financial information.

Public capabilities of AI have increased exponentially in the past 12 months. “I can’t stress the significance of that enough. Because where we’re at right now is literally like wagons on the prairie. But the technology is super powerful and we’ve just scratched the surface,” Andrews said.

“So you give this another year or two of these exponential increases in the power of technology, we’re frankly not ready for what’s coming. And when you tie that kind of power with ransomware and malware…we’re in trouble in being able to protect ourselves.”

What does that mean? It means these tools will be misused to create next-generation malware and ransomware attacks that will blow our minds, according to Andrews. Today, AI Language Model Chat GPT can already help someone write a ransomware letter, a phishing email, and malware code.

Preventative Measures

It’s not all bad news though, as there are things that business owners can do today in the fight against ransomware.

  1. Employ AI to protect your systems
    The specific tool you need is an EDR, an endpoint detection, and response (EDR<> Anti-Virus). “Unlike your traditional antivirus, which is all signature based…this is an AI-driven behavior-based model,” Andrews said. “AI runs on your machine, and it knows what good user activity looks like, and it knows what malicious user activity looks like and separates that out. Think of it as antivirus on steroids.”
  2. Back up frequently
    In the event that a ransomware attack is successful, restoring systems from your backups may be a viable option. New ransomware strains are becoming cloud-aware so you need to consider restoring your cloud content as well. Test your backup periodically to ensure they are working as expected. Review your backup plan periodically to cover changes to your tech footprint.
  3. Hire a cybersecurity professional
    If you have an IT team, they are probably overloaded. The cost for a cybersecurity professional is less than you may think and it's the cheapest insurance you can get.
  4. Manage your network and firewall
    A managed firewall provides the core for a secure network and is likely one of the first systems that will detect and alert on a potential infection. The firewall can be used to segment your network so that sensitive equipment is broken out in separate networks protecting them from less secure networks.
    Be sure to scan your network internally and externally. This will help you detect and resolve issues that could be exploited by a hacker.
  5. Train Your End Users
    Train your users on what to look out for and encourage them to report suspicious activity. Ensure your end users know how to use multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all of their accounts both business and personal. Make sure they know it's okay to make a report if they think they may have made a mistake.

Take Action Now

The ransomware industry is just getting started and is rapidly evolving. You will not be able to stop this without technology on your side. The cost to fully equip the average independent grocer is less than $2,000. Taking action now to protect your business is the cheapest insurance you can buy against an attack.

Want to dig in more on the topic? You can also click here to learn about IGA's ransomware protection  or take these Cybersecurity courses offered by the Retail Learning Institute: 

Cybersecurity 1 - Ransomware

The retail industry has been one of the top targets for malicious ransomware attacks. The growing threat posed by ransomware to organizations big and small is only getting more frequent and more costly. Often these attacks rely on unknowing assistance from someone inside an organization to be effective. The best safeguard against these types of attacks is to be more educated on the techniques used and how to identify them. In this course we will learn what cybersecurity is and its importance. We'll also learn about ransomware and phishing, two types of harmful and fraudulent attacks. Finally, we will discuss ways to protect yourself and identify from future cybersecurity threats.

Cybersecurity 2 – Physical Cyber - Attacks

A physical cyber-attack causes computer hardware or data availability to be disrupted, damaged, or destroyed. If the cyber-attack is successful, cybercriminals will be able to steal financial information such as bank account numbers, payment card information, causing significant damage to the organization as well as a potential loss of millions of dollars. Take a look at how store employees, managers, and supervisors may safeguard their business against physical cyber-attacks.

Cybersecurity 3 - Social Engineering

Social engineering is a deceptive method that uses human error to get sensitive information, access, or assets. It can be used to collect financial information such as bank account numbers and credit card information, causing significant damage to the organization and potentially resulting in a loss of millions of dollars. This course will look at how retail employees, managers, and supervisors can safeguard their organizations from social engineering attacks.



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