Ransomware is, in simple terms, a form of malware that aims to block a victim’s access to their data in order to extort a costly ransom.
In recent years ransomware has become the go-to tool for high profile criminals looking to exploit cyber security weak spots and make a hefty profit. More threat actors are being introduced to this quickly expanding field due to ransomware gangs rolling out additional affiliation programs to foster operations. Ransomware continues to thrive and be perceived as ‘successful’ by threat actors due to the huge potential for profit, minimal risk and the vast selection of vulnerable targets.
There are two common forms of ransomware: encrypting ransomware, which blocks access to operating system files via sophisticated encryption algorithms and allows attackers to demand payment for the key to decrypt the victims data, and locker ransomware which functions by locking victims out of their operating systems so that desktops, applications and files are impossible to access, so a ransom can be demanded in exchange for the infected systems being unlocked.
There is no single fool-proof solution to the ever-evolving problem of ransomware attacks, but there are ways to mitigate potential risk.
In this article we’ll explore 5 of the best ways we can boost overall security and help prevent these attacks from occurring.
5 Tips To Help Prevent Ransomware Attacks
Implement Strong Email Security
Email security refers to the variety of cybersecurity measures available that help us to secure the access and content of an email account or service. Email communication is often used to transfer sensitive or valuable information, so having proper email security in place to help combat the threat of phishing attacks, spear phishing, and email spoofing is vital to avoid falling victim to unauthorized access, loss or compromise of one or even several email addresses.
The best email security solutions are multi-layered. Constant Edge provides strong email security at the gateway, which filters all incoming and outbound emails containing any malicious content, including spam, malware, malicious URLs or attachments, including ransomware. We also provide internal email security, which secures against email threats inside the email network, looking for malicious emails that lurk inside the inbox, waiting for a chance to spread malicious content, such as ransomware.
Maintaining strong email security is very important because email is perhaps the most popular medium for spreading ransomware and other cyber threats. Ransomware is commonly distributed through emails that encourage recipients to open a malicious attachment, often with attackers going so far as to conduct extensive research of their target in order to create a credible email or appear believable. The ransomware may be deployed immediately upon opening the attachments, or attackers might choose to bide their time and wait days or even weeks after the infection to encrypt the victims’ files, giving them time to collect useful sensitive data undetected. These malicious files can be delivered in a range of different formats. Including PDF, a ZIP file, word documents, Excel spreadsheets and more.
Implement Phishing Protection
Phishing is a form of cyber-attack that involves tricking users into doing something they shouldn’t, such as clicking a malicious link that might download malware or send them to a dodgy website. Phishing can be conducted through text message, social media, even by phone, but typically the term refers to attacks that are delivered by email.
In a phishing attack, hackers send out communications designed to look like they are from a legitimate or trusted source, which they do to lure recipients into a false sense of security. This sense of security may lead users to mistakenly reveal sensitive information such as bank account numbers, social security numbers, passwords, or credit card information. Phishing attacks rely on human error which is one of the easiest areas to exploit, so having a solution in place designed to support employees and help keep them - and the organizations at large – safe, is a worthwhile investment.
More than 90% of ransomware attacks are delivered via phishing emails, so implementing some good anti-phishing technology designed to identify and block phishing emails would go a long way towards defending organizations against ever-evolving email phishing scams.
To protect against phishing attacks, we recommend implementing email security inside the email environment. Our solutions use machine learning algorithms to detect indicators of phishing attacks, and automatically remove these emails from user inboxes, according to admin policies. We also enable ongoing phishing simulation – which leads us on to the next section.
Provide Security Awareness Training
Security awareness training is used by IT and security professionals to support and protect one of the most vulnerable aspects of any organizations – its people. With 52% of security and data breaches and some of the most devastating cyber-attacks having human error as their root cause, it is clear that no matter how many barriers you put in place the risk of human error will always be something to keep on top of and invest in preventing.
One of the best ways to prevent ransomware is to be proactive, and security awareness training is an excellent way to do that. This training is designed to help users and employees to recognize potential security threats and understand the role they play in mitigating security breaches. A successful ransomware attack relies heavily on human error to get its foot in the door of the organizations being targeted, so arming users with enough knowledge to recognize when something is off and know what to do about it will go a long way in nipping potentially devastating ransomware attacks in the bud.
Constant Edge provides ongoing simulation of phishing emails, helping to train your users as to what phishing attacks look like, and how to report them.
Invest In Endpoint Security
Endpoint security refers to the practice of securing endpoints or entry points of end-user devices (including laptops, desktops, and mobile devices) from being exploited by cyber criminals. An endpoint security system works to protect these endpoints on a network or in the cloud, acting as a barrier between important endpoints and the malicious actors and campaigns that come their way.
Protecting endpoints is a vital component of all security strategies, due to their being such a prime target for those looking to attack. Cyber criminals often aim to exploit the upheaval and uncertainty of difficult times, and the abrupt shift to remote and hybrid working since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example; the pandemic created additional challenges and more complicated environments, which leaves more room for errors and resulting breaches. Endpoint protection solutions work to protect devices from ransomware, investigate security incidents and alerts, and make it easier for admins to manage devices and respond to any potential breaches.
Be Proactive With Data Backup And Recovery
One if the first rules of ransomware – don’t pay the ransom. Paying up can feel like the only way out when you feel backed into a corner, but all this does is fix the problem short term (if you’re lucky) and put an even larger target on your back as attackers realize that you can be extorted successfully.
It isn’t always possible to prevent a ransomware attack, but you can always take steps to mitigate the impact. That’s where data backups come in; with a proper backup strategy in place, you can recover your backed up data and avoid costly downtime, which significantly reduces the pressure to fold and pay the costly ransom. Once attackers know that you are prepared and cannot be so easily extorted, you will be a significantly less attractive target.
While simply recovering a machine is no deterrent to prevent ransomware attacks from occurring in the first place, it may help by stopping your organization from being entirely at the mercy of the attackers in the event of a data breach.
Chances are high that you will face a ransomware attack at some point. As these attacks become more common and more sophisticated the best thing we can do is be prepared, and invest in ways to defend ourselves and recover. By taking the above advice you improve your organizations security posture and significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to a devastating ransomware attack.
If you are interested in learning more about ransomware attacks and how to protect your organizations against them, contact us today.