A Look at Ransomware and What to Do About It
There is a lot made about ransomware, for good reason. It is quite simply one of the nastiest cyberattacks out there and it demands your attention. A lot of people understand what exactly ransomware sets out to do, but they don’t understand how it got that far and how to address the situation if they have the misfortune of being put in that position.
How a Ransomware Attack Works
Basically, the ransomware attack can be deployed in any way that malware would get into a network. Most of the time it is deployed through phishing, which is a scam that uses fear to get people to make impulsive decisions and give network or system access to hackers. Once in, it is pretty simple for them to execute malware, including ransomware.
Once run, the ransomware will encrypt and lock down all of the files on a device or even a network and then inform the user that they have been infected. File access is replaced with a notice with a ticking clock: Pay the ransom demanded or else.
What Do You Mean “Or Else”?
Ransomware is one of those rare attacks that can hurt your organization in many different ways. Obviously, holding your files and data isn’t exactly targeted altruism, so that is the first sign that something terrible is happening. The ticking clock telling you that you have only a short amount of time before your files are lost forever isn’t great either. While we never recommend paying the ransom, it might seem like the only viable choice to get back in action following such an incident. This is especially true in more recent ransomware cases where hackers are also threatening to release encrypted data if the victim refuses to pay the ransom. This puts businesses in a difficult situation; do they risk the security of their data as well as the fines that come from the failure to properly protect it, or do they pay the ransom? It’s a lose-lose situation, and one that is entirely preventable with enough precautions.
What Can You Do to Stop Ransomware?
Let’s look at three strategies that you should have in place to help you ward off all types of cybercrime, including ransomware attacks:
Train Your Users to Detect Phishing Messages
Phishing is the #1 attack vector for ransomware and if you train your staff about the signs that they may be dealing with a potential phishing attack, the less likely your business will ever have to deal with ransomware. Some things your staff should be on the lookout for in their correspondence include:
- Messages that ask for sensitive information.
- Messages that use different domains from legitimate sources.
- Messages that contain unsolicited attachments and links.
- Messages that tend to have poor grammar and don’t typically have the elements of personalization that you would expect.
- Messages that try to elicit panic resulting in impulsive action.
A message having any or all of these variables doesn’t automatically make it a phishing message, but the illegitimacy of phishing messages can often be ascertained by the message itself.
Keep Your Software Patched
You will want to make sure that firmware, antivirus software, operating systems and other applications you utilize are consistently patched. New ransomware versions come out of the blue and by the time anyone catches on, the hackers that perpetuated them are counting their Bitcoin. By patching software, you ensure that your software is current and has taken into account the threat definitions necessary to keep malware of any type out of your network. The knowledgeable professionals at Directive have a patch management platform that can save you and your staff the time and effort needed to keep up on all new software updates.
Backup Your Data
Finally, you will always want to back up your data; not only to combat ransomware, but because it could literally save your business. Having up-to-date backups can help you bypass the ransom demand and restore data and applications affected by the hacker’s encryption. Since most ransomware today is sophisticated enough to search for backup files, you will definitely want to keep a backup offsite, so that they aren’t corrupted.
If you would like to ensure that your business is set up to combat ransomware, give the IT experts at Directive a call today at 607.433.2200.