Among all the malware that attacks people’s data, ransomware happens to be one of the worst! Its impact is immediate and can result in a difficult and painstaking recovery process. Beyond all, it can cripple a flourishing business. So, what is ransomware?
A ransomware attack is an attempt to extort an organization by denying it access to its data or by permanently removing or erasing it. Ransomware is malware, a collective term for all forms of malicious code, including computer viruses and worms.
This malware doesn’t just target businesses. In 2019, there was a high profile ransomware attack that infected a majority of Baltimore’s government computer systems, thus holding the city hostage. Therefore, it is a serious threat, and your business should do all it can to prevent ransomware attacks.
This article will touch on some of the most important things people have to know about ransomware attacks, ransomware recovery, and so much more.
How does ransomware attack work?
As mentioned, a ransomware attack is a form of malware that attacks people’s sensitive data. It works by decrypting encryptions to access users’ private and discreet data, then locking them out.
Ransomware can spread through phishing emails, spam, websites, drive-by downloads, social engineering efforts, etc.
Let’s give you a practical example of how ransomware can infect an IT system.
- Imagine you open a phishing email, click on a spam email, or visit an infected ransomware website, and your system gets infected.
- Once your system is infected, ransomware malware decrypts your encryption to access the user’s sensitive data.
- It then encrypts the data with strong encryption, locking users out of their data.
- Finally, it sends a ransom to the user, asking that they pay a ransom (most times in Bitcoins).
- If the user pays a ransom, the malware restores the user’s IT system to full operations, enabling ransomware recovery.
- If users don’t pay the ransom, they have to have a strong IT team that can decrypt the malware or be willing to let go of the data.
This is a dumbed-down version of how malware can infect a regular IT system.
How to mitigate the risk of a ransomware attack?
Ransomware is so crippling for IT systems that it is better to prevent them at all costs by practicing simple cyber-hygienes. The below points can reduce the risks of being attacked by ransomware;
1. Backup your data and put recovery in place
Backing up your data is always a good place to start when dealing with sensitive data. While backing up your system won’t prevent ransomware from attacking your system, it will, however, ensure that should your data be held hostage, you can always recover it with your backup. Here are a few tips to ensure you back up and recover properly;
- Set an allocated time to backup your system regularly.
- Ensure you are regularly testing your backup and recovery to ensure you quickly recover from any incident that may occur with minimal loss as possible.
- Make sure you are consistent in monitoring and testing your recovery data.
2. Make use of two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication is a security step where users provide two varying authentications to verify their identity before accessing their data.
This authentication process is beneficial because it reduces the risk of your data being susceptible to ransomware.
Most email providers and websites provide the option of two-factor authentication to their users. And we suggest that if you are trying to mitigate a ransomware attack, you ensure that you have it.
It is free, gives you extra protection, easy to set up, and can save you a lot of money in lost revenue. There is no reason you shouldn’t have two-factor authentication set up to protect your sensitive data.
3. Engage an MSSP
An MSSP is a managed security service provider. They work by crafting detailed security plans for the organization. The programs usually include;
- A disaster recovery plan to fit your business needs.
- Areas where your organizational security is weak or needs improving.
- A ransomware assessment of your company to ascertain the risk your company faces. This assessment includes(among other things) the information your company needs on how to decrease your organizational risk and improve your security.
There are a lot of MSSPs you can use to improve your company’s security. It is essential to use an MSSP to lower your company’s risk of getting attacked by ransomware by using their firm security services, simulated phishing attacks, prevention systems, network monitoring, etc.
4. Use end-user security training
Another way you can mitigate risk is by training your employees on security awareness. When people know what ransomware is and how it attacks, they will avoid the usual tricks ransomware uses to access people’s data.
End-user security training is another cost-effective way to reduce your chance of falling under a ransomware attack.
An information security training will teach employees never to download any file that looks malicious instead of hoping that the company’s antivirus program will catch the malware.
5. Patch your device
If you are unaware of a patch, it is a set of changes a computer program makes to its supporting data design. These changes can include updates, fixes to flaws, and improvement in the system or network.
If you are anti-ransomware, you need to ensure your systems and networks are updated with the latest patch and updates.
Getting a system patch is easy; all you have to do is download it from the company’s official website (Windows, Microsoft, etc.).
6. Add content filters to your email server
While most email service providers filter content by default, there are, however, some content filter software that can help you filter your content. A content filter is important because it protects users from being victims of phishing emails. It does this by filtering out spam from the rest of their emails.
7. Use endpoint security to mitigate a ransomware attack
Another way to stop malicious attacks is to make use of advanced endpoint security. You see, regular antivirus software isn’t perfect in preventing ransomware attacks. That is why strong endpoint security is essential.
With the use of advanced endpoint security, you have access to machine learning and AI. These can help you identify and tackle ransomware threats before they happen.
8. Advocate for incident reporting
An organization should ensure that they encourage their employees to report any potential security incidents without fear that they may lose their jobs. Some employees may not feel comfortable alerting their manager about any security issues that may arise. This might be because they are scared of the outcome of admitting they might be the cause of a breach or some other reason.
So, encourage your employees to do this. Create policies that encourage reporting potential incidents.
By doing this, you save time by allowing you to isolate ransomware infection if it has already occurred. And it helps you prevent ransomware from spreading through the system.
9. Create and implement security policies and procedures
Any company that doesn’t have set policies and procedures are doing themselves a disservice. Anti ransomware security policies save your company from falling victim to ransomware.
While security procedures you organizations know the right steps to take in case a ransomware recovery is needed.
Some policies and procedures your organization should set up include;
- Ways to prevent employees from engaging in personal businesses on their company laptops or desktop.
- A list of approved software vendors you can download software from when on your company network.
- The procedure your employees should take when reporting suspected or real malicious incidences.
- A set of clear guidelines on cybersecurity that everyone in your company should adhere to.
10. Use regular penetration testing
Lastly, carrying out regular penetration testing will help you mitigate ransomware attacks. Penetration testing is the process of having a white hacker try to breach your system in a bid to test for vulnerability.
By carrying out penetration testing, you are aware of the weak spots you have in your system. You are, therefore, able to fix your weak areas before any attempted malware attack happens.
If you have come to the end of this article, you will have gained a ton of knowledge of how to mitigate ransomware attacks. The best way to handle a ransomware attack is to avoid them entirely. But while you set up security measures to avoid them, also back up your data so that you aren’t left stranded if anything happens.
About the author: Melissa Mauro is a freelance writer who creates quality and original content. She is working for the companies as Best Writers Online and Online Writers Rating writing services review in the translation department and wants to find new platforms for professional growth. She believes that creativity and improvement are things, which distinguish a good writer.