Ransomware is one of the biggest cybersecurity threats in the world today. Scam artists tend to gravitate toward methods that have a higher chance of success, and ransomware fits that description. It’s a threat that many people are not prepared to deal with, and that allows criminals the chance for an easy payday. However, as bad as they are, ransomware attacks can be countered. In most cases, they can be prevented from even occurring in the first place. Here are some practices and policies that will help you to do just that.
Once The Attack Happens, It Is Probably Too Late
This is the first thing you need to understand. Prevention of ransomware is all about proper precautions. Once the attack happens, it is probably too late. To understand this, we just have to consider the basic nature of a ransomware attack. Ransomware is a special kind of malware that uses encryption to lock you out of your device or network. Ordinarily, encryption is used to lock a system against unauthorized usage, but ransomware turns that idea around and uses it to lock out legitimate users.
Having done this, the attacker can then offer the password in exchange for a ransom payment. Depending on the size of your company and the greed of the attackers, those ransoms might be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few million. So, you might be wondering: Can I decrypt the system?
Encryption would be useless if it were easy to decrypt. However, some ransomware attackers are just ignorant criminals looking for an easy score. People like that will probably be using an inferior type of ransomware, and that might be a good thing for you. There are certain tools that can decrypt low-level ransomware because security professionals have already deciphered their encryption keys. However, this cannot be done in most cases. Only the most amateur or ransomware attacks can be decrypted after the fact.
What Are Your Options?
We already know you can’t decrypt the affected system, so what are the other options? One option is to pay the ransom and then hope for the best. There are several good reasons to avoid this course of action. First of all, you don’t want to encourage criminal behavior by allowing them to profit from such behavior. This will embolden them and make them feel more confident in attacking other companies. And, of course, there is a good chance that they will target you again because you’ve already paid them once.
You can call the police, but they probably won’t be able to help you very much if you were caught unprepared. They might be able to gather some evidence and maybe even determine who is responsible. However, most of these scams are conducted across national borders, making prosecution difficult at best. Also, even if the attackers are somehow brought to justice, that won’t restore your data. As you can see, there are no good after-the-fact options for this kind of situation.
How To Prevent A Ransomware Attack
Having given you some background information, let’s talk about how you can prevent a ransomware attack before it is even attempted. We will focus our discussion on five specific points. Here is a quick list of the things that must be considered:
- 1. Data backup
- 2. Employee education/control
- 3. Network Monitoring
- 4. Data Segmentation
- 5. Ransomware Drills
1. Data Backup
A criminal cannot hold your data hostage if you have a backup copy: It really is as simple as that. Of course, you will have to take some time to wipe all affected systems, change any passwords/settings that may have been compromised, and preserve a backup of the affected system for forensic analysis. You should also alert the proper authorities, as you are legally obligated to do so in most places. However, after that is done, you can just re-install the whole system from the most recent backup.
2. Employee Education And Control
Most ransomware attacks begin with a social engineering trick: In other words, most of them use old-fashioned con artistry. This might take the form of a phishing attack, an in-person deception that relies on impersonation, or any number of other dirty tricks. However, all social engineering attacks can be prevented by awareness and education. These kinds of scams rely on people who don’t have the knowledge to see them coming, so make sure none of your employees fall into that “easy mark” category.
3. Network Monitoring
Internet traffic consists of many small files called “packets”, which deliver the internet in small bites to avoid overloading servers. Thankfully, there are special types of software that can monitor the flow of these packets and keep an eye out for anything suspicious. This kind of thing is best handled with outside help because it takes a dedicated expert for the best protection.
4. Data Segmentation
You should definitely avoid keeping all your data in one place, as it’s kind of like putting all your eggs in one basket. You need multiple data storage locations, and all of them need to be isolated from one another. Needless to say, this requires you to sort and categorize your sensitive data according to just how sensitive it might be. Bear in mind that the only secure backup is one that is stored offline or in an encrypted offsite server.
5. Ransomware Drills
As a final point, you should make sure that your IT workers are well-prepared for a ransomware attack. You can use virtualization to simulate a ransomware attack with no risk to your real network, and this will allow your people to be trained properly in a realistic environment. These drills should always include data recovery, as lost time equals lost money. The sooner they can get that final step done, the sooner things can get running again.
Protecting your business from ransomware is incredibly essential, and so all businesses should consider these things. It might seem overwhelming, but the cost of negligence can be staggering. If you need help implementing any of the ideas and solutions presented here, we would recommend that you call PCH Technologies at (856) 754-7500.