Ransomware has become one of the top criminal threats in the world, largely because so few of its perpetrators are caught. With no significant deterrence factors in place, you can bet that this problem will only get worse. Since no one can fully solve this problem, most businesses and organizations have to make do with the solutions that do exist. However, it is a relief to know that most ransomware attacks can be prevented.
Who Needs To Worry About Ransomware?
In short, anyone with assets to protect needs to worry about ransomware. Digital assets (or those stored in a digital form) are particularly vulnerable, of course. While certain industries have been targeted more often than others, the targets change a lot from year to year. Thus, we can see that the attackers will strike anywhere they see an opportunity to do so.
Just to give you some sample numbers, this study found that there were a total of 1,112 successful ransomware attacks during the year 2020. of these, 311 were directed at the manufacturing industry, making them the most frequent target. Financial services were #2 on that list, with a total of 136 attacks last year. The other most frequently targeted industries are transportation (84 attacks), technology (73 attacks), and legal/human resources (71 attacks).
Our approach to ransomware protection is based on these 7 principles:
- 1. Education and training to prevent social engineering attacks
- 2. The proper use of an offsite, off-line backup system
- 3. Competent use of network monitoring and related tools
- 4. Keeping all software and hardware updated.
- 5. Using firewall and encryption to create multiple barriers
- 6. The effective use of compartmentalization strategies
- 7. Quick response to suspicious activity
1. Education And Training
Social engineering attacks (like phishing, which is the most common form) are the most frequent way in which hackers and cyber-criminals gain their initial foothold. They don’t have to worry about cracking a password when they can just trick someone into revealing that password. Education and training can do a lot to prevent this kind of thing.
Criminals throughout the ages have always looked for easy targets. When your people are properly educated and better able to spot a potential risk, you become a much harder target. One example of this is “scareware”, a very specific type of social engineering attack. It is a kind of malware that uses fear-based tactics to trick people in various ways. For instance, they might direct you to download a crucial update, saying that your system is at risk. Of course, that download will be the real risk. Like most social engineering attacks, scareware preys upon the foolish and/or uneducated user.
2. A Backup System
Ransomware works by holding your data hostage. However, they cannot do that if you have a recent backup. It is not that hard to back up large amounts of data in a compressed form, and the process can be largely automated. Although your data will still be exposed, you can prevent data loss by deleting everything and restoring the system from the most recent backup. On Windows computers, you can most easily do this by using the “create a system image” tool.
3. Network Monitoring And Related Tools
Network monitoring is another way to prevent an attacker from gaining that initial foothold. No matter what they do, they have to find a way to connect themselves to your network. In most cases, that suspicious connection can be seen and blocked. Unfortunately, most organizations still aren’t making use of 24/7 network monitoring. There is a wide range of network monitoring tools available, and some of them are even free.
This one is pretty basic. Whenever a software/hardware vulnerability is found, the manufacturer will probably issue a patch to correct that problem. However, the issuance of this patch also informs criminals about the presence of a known vulnerability. If you fail to update, they can and will take advantage of that known loophole. Thus, it is essential to keep all your software and hardware updated and running with the latest patches.
5. Firewall And Encryption Barriers
This is also a matter of basic network precaution. Firewalls and encryption are among the most effective cybersecurity solutions, but only when properly utilized. It is not enough to use just one firewall or one layer of standard network encryption. You want to create multiple layers, making for multiple barriers against invasion.
One thing we can tell you right away: You never want to keep everything on the same network! If you do that, an attacker can compromise everything in a single stroke. They just have to figure out how to compromise that one network, and they can theoretically access whatever they want.
Compartmentalization is another highly effective security measure. The most effective way to do this is through the use of virtualization. Virtualization allows you to create virtual machines that can do all the same things a physical one might do. However, they do not communicate with each other in any way. By grouping only those aspects that need to work together, it is possible to separate a business network in this way. Thus, even if someone gains illicit access to one “compartment”, the amount of damage they can do will be limited.
7. Quick Response
Finally, we come to the simplest of these measures. Regardless of how they are detected, it is imperative that security threats are dealt with quickly. This requires monitoring by skilled people who will know how to respond. Some measures can be automated, like auto-blocking of those who are flagged for suspicious activity, but an expert hand is still required for the bigger threats.
Most ransomware attacks happen because of simple security oversights. A program that isn’t properly updated or a single foolish user can serve as an entry point for more damaging attacks like ransomware. However, when these risk factors are managed properly, most ransomware attackers will find too many barriers in their path and will search for an easier target. We hope that this guide will help you to be better protected against all forms of ransomware. If you have any further questions, you can call PCH Technologies at (856) 754-7500.