Many government and non-government entities have already been affected by ransomware attacks.
Malicious software used by cybercriminals to encrypt important information from computers and hold it for ransom has significantly evolved over the years. Ransomware, as it’s known, has become a lucrative industry for cyberthieves and continues to intensify as a problem for individuals and organizations alike. Hackers swoop in, encrypt files, and ask for a significant payout in exchange for a decryption key, which may or may not work.
As one of the most potent online threats, ransomware affects many governments and non-government entities and demands billions of dollars every year. What makes this nefarious malware especially damaging is its ability to lock, corrupt, or destroy its victim’s files. Once the malware has infected a device and compromised information security, all the sensitive information in it is at risk of theft and exposure.
Ransomware finds its way into a device or system by tricking one into installing it or taking advantage of the system and/or software vulnerabilities. To stay safe, you need to understand how to protect your organization from becoming a victim and the steps to take in the event of a ransomware attack.
Keep Your Software Up to Date
As annoying as software update notices can be, they should never be ignored. Computers running with outdated software are more prone to an attack. To defend your devices against the relentless creation of new ransomware strains, make sure that all systems and software are up-to-date at all times.
While most programs will update automatically, check for updates frequently to further ensure your systems are protected. These updates involve security patches that are important to preventing malware from infiltrating your devices.
Educate Employees on Ransomware Prevention and Threat Identification
Ransomware often infects a system through web browsing, downloads, and email attachments. For instance, an attacker may pose as a trustworthy contact or as the IT department with requests for an employee to open certain links, install software, or disclose sensitive information.
To help ensure information security and compliance with regulatory requirements, employees should undergo regular information security awareness training that covers topics including phishing, malware, clean desk policy, secure passwords, vishing, shoulder surfing, and more. Email phishing exercises are a great way to reinforce information security concepts and test employee awareness and response to email phishing.
Conduct Regular Data Backups
Make sure that you regularly back up your files offline or in the cloud so they cannot be accessed through your network. While this is not a ransomware prevention method, it will come in handy in terms of damage control.
Save all your valuable and vital files to physical storage devices and to cloud storage services. This way, if you get hit with a ransomware attack, the damage will be significantly less and you won’t have to deal with the hackers to get access to your content. Importantly, verify the data backup process just to make sure that all necessary data is being captured and can be easily accessed and restored.
Responding to a Ransomware Attack
While these preventative practices are effective, there’s no foolproof way of completely protecting your organization from ransomware attacks. If you’ve fallen foul of a ransomware attack, consider the following data breach response steps:
- Trace the attack: If malware is detected quickly, it’s likely that it will only affect one machine. You need to identify the machine that was initially infected and quickly disconnect it to prevent the ransomware from spreading and accessing more data.
- Block network access: Block access to any command-and-control servers used by ransomware. Attackers will be blocked from encrypting data if they do not have access to the servers.
- Don’t Pay the Ransom or Try Negotiating with the Criminals: Apart from encouraging the cyber-hijackers to continue targeting others and likely launching new ransomware strains, paying a ransom does not guarantee that you’ll get your file back.
- Inform the Right People: Make sure your IT security team and employees are aware of the breach. If there was personal employee or customer data taken, you need to contact the affected individuals and inform them that there has been a breach, what it means, and what you’re planning on doing. Of course, you’ll also need to inform authorities to help with investigations ad save the reputation of your company. SCA’s Breach Notification guide is a great resource to help understand what your state’s breach notification law requires.
Getting rid of ransomware and recovering your data is difficult since cybercriminals are constantly developing new, more complex ransomware strains. While government entities and law enforcement continue to find new ways to tackle this problem, employing best security practices can help keep ransomware off your device.
Protect Your Vital Information by Working with SCA for Ransomware Prevention
Rather than expecting your team to use their own judgment for fully understanding threats and vulnerabilities to your data or to avoid malicious links, downloads, and pop-ups, you can rely on Security Compliance Associates (SCA) to provide the ransomware prevention advice your company needs. Through performing a risk assessment, vulnerability assessment as well as preventative and responsive measures, we can help make your organization more resilient and minimize the effects of a ransomware attack. Contact us today to schedule a no-cost consultation and download your free Data Breach Response Guide to learn about data breach laws in your state.