Ransomware is becoming a more serious threat to companies all around the world. This guide from Touchstone Security will define what ransomware is and why the proliferation of ransomware is placing many businesses at risk. This increased risk isn’t due to an especially dangerous modern variant of coding. Instead, it’s because ransomware is now much more available than it has ever been before. However, with the right tools and training protocols, you can help prevent ransomware from infecting your business.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a form of malicious software, also known as malware, that encrypts the files of the victim’s device. It prevents them from accessing critical information before the hacker is paid a ransom. Unfortunately, the hacker will often refuse to release the encrypted files even after the ransom is paid. As a result, law enforcement agencies like the FBI warn against paying the ransom demands. Ransomware may cause an organization’s operations to be disrupted, resulting in the loss of confidential files and consumer information. However, if you pay the ransom, you may not get your files back, and you would be supporting criminal activity.
How Does Ransomware Infect a Network?
The vast majority of active ransomware attackers use phishing emails to spur a ransomware outbreak. In fact according to one source, phishing emails that included ransomware rose by more than 95% in a year. Ransomware is distributed through a link, attachment, or extension download. These attachments are known as malicious attachments. They use social engineering techniques to dupe unwitting people into clicking on malicious links. Malicious actors use phishing emails in a variety of ways to mount keyloggers, get people to wire money, purchase gift cards, or download malicious files. Email attachments that seem to be harmless may be the source of a cyberattack. Phishing attacks are perhaps the most common way for ransomware to spread. Users are usually persuaded to download a file containing ransomware, which then runs automatically.
Spear-phishing is a form of phishing attack that is intensely focused. The bulk of phishing emails are sent to hundreds of thousands or even millions of individuals. Spear-phishers, however, take the time to research the company they’re targeting which enables them to impersonate key personnel. These attacks can be much more difficult to spot. Spear-phishing attacks can range from simple to highly complex and make their way around your security infrastructure.
Typosquatting happens when malicious entities register domains that are remarkably similar to those that are regularly accessed. Unsuspecting users then visit these domains and inadvertently enter confidential information or download malicious files that allow unauthorized access to encrypted data. These downloads are often in the form of “drive-by downloads,” in which malicious code is downloaded without the user’s knowledge and only executed on their machines. Although less common than phishing, typosquatting is still a common vector for ransomware.
Due to the prevalence of cyber-threats, many people overlook the physical aspect of information security. Malware attacks and ransomware can easily be distributed via tools like physical media devices such as USB drives. Several high-profile ransomware infections have occurred through this method. In one instance, attackers mailed USB sticks to random households hoping that people would be curious enough to plug them in and see what was on them.
Hopefully, you should now have a reasonable understanding of what ransomware is and how it is distributed, so let’s move on to how you can prevent yourself from becoming a victim.
Ransomware Prevention – How to Prevent Ransomware?
Tools for Employee Training
Employee preparation includes conducting live and online training workshops with the company’s staff regularly. Employee security awareness training should include lessons on modern cyber threats and delivery mechanisms in these training sessions. Teach end-users to avoid clicking on links, attachments, and file extensions in emails. Don’t allow users to connect to public wi-fi with company devices. These are easy ways hackers use ransomware to infiltrate your network. Training end-users on detecting and stopping phishing emails should be prioritized to prevent ransomware and other cyberattacks from spreading in your organization.
Advanced Endpoint Protection Security Software
The reality is that antivirus software no longer suffices to protect your network. Your company should use advanced endpoint defense to reduce the possibility of a major security breach significantly. Advanced endpoint security continuously scans computers, servers, and desktops for malicious code. It would then either block or warn the protection staff about the malicious code.
Clear Policies and Procedures
Your company’s compliance protocols and practices should be crystal clear and transparent. Some companies make the error of assuming that these practices are a waste of time or “paperwork.” They are the polar opposite. In the case of a data breach, cyberattack, or ransomware attack, policies and procedures provide essential guidance to the organization. Consider implementing a policy that states employees are not to open email attachments from possibly malicious emails, or employees may not connect to public wifi on work devices.
Routine Vulnerability Patching for Threat Detection
Make sure your software programs are up to date. To exploit a business, ransomware operators often rely on unpatched servers or endpoints. Computer providers issue security patches regularly to fix bugs, rendering the enterprise substantially safer. Be sure you’re communicating with the sysadmin to guarantee you’re following patching best practices. Regular patching is your best defense against ransomware and the many different ransomware variants circulating today.
If you would like to build a proactive cybersecurity program, Touchstone Security can help. Our staff has helped many organizations ranging from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies build effective security solutions that can reduce the risk of suffering from a ransomware attack.
How Do You Recover From a Ransomware Attack?
Unfortunately, you can do all you can to avoid the threat of ransomware attacks and still end up with one. Perhaps a third-party contractor inadvertently leaked you, maybe an employee failed to receive proper instruction, or perhaps the IT department could not apply a Microsoft Security upgrade. Whatever the situation might be, you’ve been compromised and are now a ransomware victim; what do you do now?
Isolate Infected Systems Quickly
The first and most critical step is to separate the compromised networks from the rest of your network. Disconnect from the network as soon as possible, and start shutting off the computer. For some forms of malware, the last thing you want is for the ransomware to spread to other computers, causing more disruption and confusion. Train your employees and security team to respond quickly and follow the written procedure for an event like this.