Ransomware is one of the fastest-growing malware threats, and it targets all types of users from the corporate network to the home users. According to statistics, an average of over 4,000 ransomware attacks occur daily which is a 400% increase in 2019 when compared to the average of 1,000 malware attacks back in 2015.
Cybercrime related damages are also expected to hit the $6 trillion mark by 2021. Ransomware targets government networks, businesses, and home users and can lead to permanent or temporary loss of proprietary or sensitive information, high financial losses incurred during system restoration, disruption of regular operations, and also harm to the reputation of an organization.
What is a ransomware attack, and how do cybercriminals execute them?
Ransomware refers to a form of crypto-malware often used by hackers for cyber extortion. This malware holds the files or computers of the victims’ hostage through encryption while demanding ransom in exchange for releasing the devices or decrypting the files. Generally, ransomware spreads through phishing attacks that contain infected program, malicious email attachments or links to compromised websites.
Once the files are encrypted, the computer becomes locked, and the system becomes infected, the user cannot use the required features of their device. When users first try to use an infected device, a pop-up window will appear, notifying users that they must pay a ransom to reclaim the machine and associated data. Ransomware attacks have currently evolved to target organizations and businesses, encrypting files or an entire network of computers and bringing normal operations in a business to a halt until the ransom is paid.
Tips for ransomware protection
Ransomware has currently become a lucrative technique for cybercriminals, and no business or organization is immune to this malware threat. Ransomware is incredibly insidious, and while malware usually travels through phishing emails, it also takes advantage of vulnerabilities and backdoors in a business. Here are some ransomware protection controls you can implement to avoid falling victim and being locked out of your data files.
1. Educate employees
Educating your staff is the first line of defense against malware attacks. Since ransomware is mainly introduced through email links and attachments, arming your staff with the necessary knowledge they need to practice secure browsing, and email habits can prevent a lot of malware attacks.
Teach your workers on how to identify phishing attacks and the best practices like not clicking pop-up windows, not checking link URLs, and not opening links or attachments in emails, especially from unknown senders. Training should not be a single session but an ongoing practice to ensure that your staff maintains secure habits and keeps up with the new threats.
2. Control access to essential data
Identity and access management or IAM allows businesses to control access to critical information. Companies utilize technologies and tools to monitor user activities, change the role of a user, generate reports on activities, and create and enforce business policies.
Compromised credentials might develop an entry point into your business network and its data. Therefore, you should carry out a security assessment regularly to identify the rights every user should have, and eradicate the risk by including an additional layer of protection utilizing IAM systems to implement consistent user policies and roles throughout your organization. Enforcing Identity and access management in ransomware attacks can easily protect your company assets against the growing threats of hacking, phishing, and malware attacks.
3. Backup your systems
To ensure the security of your business’s critical information, you should back up your systems both offsite and locally. Backing up your systems will keep your data safe in a place where cybercriminals are less likely to access, but it’ll also make it pretty easy to wipe out your old files and repair using backup data in the event of an attack. For instance, you can utilize a cloud-based solution to protect your business systems. Backing up your information in the cloud will keep it safe from ransomware infection and add a layer of protection.
4. Implement strong password security
To keep your data safe, you need to use a password management approach that includes best password security practices and an enterprise password manager. According to a research study by Instant Checkmate, three out of four people utilize the same password for several sites while one-third use extremely weak passwords. To ensure information security, utilize multiple strong passwords, particularly for sensitive information.
5. Run regular scheduled security scans
If you are not running weekly scans on your mobile devices and computers, then all the security software applications installed on your systems may not be effective. These scans act as the second layer of protection in your security software. They usually detect threats that a real-time checker might not be able to capture.
6. Apply OS and software updates
Effective vulnerability management and regular software and hardware systems patching is among the easiest ransomware response practices you can use to avoid cyber-attacks. Malware normally takes advantage of bugs and security loopholes in software applications or operating systems. Therefore, to succeed in ransomware prevention, it is vital to install the latest patches and updates on all mobile devices and computers.
Should you pay ransom to get your data back?
When your data files are encrypted, or your devices are locked, you might become tempted to pay the cybercriminals the ransom to get your information back. According to Coveware, the average ransomware demand amounts increased to a whopping $84,116 in the last quarter of the year 2019. Coveware states that the highest ransom payment reported was 780,000 dollars for a big company. Paying ransom is a bad idea because only 47% of companies or individuals who pay the requested ransom get their data back, according to a recent Symantec ransomware report.
Every time an individual or organization pays the ransom, cybercriminals gain more confidence and are more likely to keep hurting businesses and organizations. Although, you can not be sure that they’ll free your data or computer after paying, they might still utilize your information and ruin your business reputation in the long run even if they release your data files.
Any organization, from local governments, financial institutions, and healthcare providers, down to medium and small businesses, is struggling with the increasing risk of ransomware attacks. Therefore, businesses must remain vigilant in this era of malware attacks and data breaches. Knowing the different ransomware attack methods and the proper steps to assist in preventing, detecting, and recovering from them can reduce the overall impact on your organization. Hopefully, the tips discussed in this article will help you keep the information assets of your organization safe and halt a ransomware attack right in its tracks before it succeeds.