What Is Ransomware and How Can I Protect My Company from It?
In today’s mobile-first, all-digital environment, people and businesses are entirely dependent on technology for accomplishing even the most basic tasks. Anyone who has had to go without their mobile phone for a day or two knows the strange feeling of disconnectedness that follows.
When it comes to someone losing their telephone for a day, the ultimate cost is usually no more than mild discomfort and a few missed calls. But multiply that effect out to impact an entire business, and the cost sharply increases.
Downtime costs 24% of businesses an average of between $301,000 and 400,000 per hour. When something causes a company-wide system failure, it is a crisis of the highest order – and one that many victims never truly recover from.
Apart from power outages and natural disasters, there is one root cause of company-wide system failure that stands out. Ransomware has the power to paralyze an unwary organization from top to bottom, leaving it completely unable to use or access any of its equipment.
What Is Ransomware Exactly?
Like its name suggests, ransomware kidnaps victims’ IT systems and holds those systems ransom. Cybercriminals may be located anywhere in the world, and will often automate much of the process so that they can operate at high volume. A ransomware attack typically follows a distinct pattern:
- Phishing. Cybercriminals use email phishing to convince employees to click on malicious links. These emails often impersonate other members of the organization, or high-authority vendors and partners.
- Infection. Once an employee downloads ransomware, it begins to launch child processes that move laterally throughout the organization. Ransomware can spend weeks or months attempting to infect anything and everything associated with the company.
- Encryption. Once the ransomware has sufficiently propagated itself throughout the victim’s network, it begins the process of encrypting all the files, documents, and applications it can. Even relatively lightweight 128-bit encryption is virtually impossible to break, but many variants like the famous WannaCry ransomware use even stronger 2048-bit encryption.
- Attack. Encrypting the victim’s files is just one half of the ransomware attack. The other half is the ransom note. Every infected device will show a note directing the victim to pay an anonymous cryptocurrency wallet, usually bitcoin, in order to retrieve the key that will unlock their systems.
- Profit. Ransomware typically operates with relatively low payment amounts. Most ransoms are between $500 and $2,000, which encourages victims to simply pay without considering the repercussions. Since cybercriminals automate most of the ransomware processes, they can infect hundreds of victims at once.
How to Prevent Ransomware from Infecting Your Systems
There are three critical steps in the ransomware attack strategy where a robust, secure network can successfully protect itself. There many types of ransomware in the wild, but they tend to hinge on common tactics that organizations can predict and prepare for in three main ways:
- Employee Education. The majority of ransomware attacks begin with employees clicking on malicious emails. Educating employees on how to identify these emails and giving them a safe forwarding address for suspicious emails is critical to keep cybercriminals at bay.
- Multi-layered IT Security. No organization can rely entirely on email security. Eventually, a clever hacker will find a way through and gain entry to the system. Multi-layered security frameworks ensure that a compromised system prevents lateral movement. Secure networks quarantine compromised systems in order to minimize the potential for damage.
- Instantly Recoverable Backups. If an organization has up-to-the-minute backups that are instantly recoverable on all of its systems, the encryption-ransom attack strategy is useless. All the organization has to do is recover from a point before the attack and go on with business as usual. This process can take mere seconds with a high-bandwidth disaster recovery solution in place.
Once these solutions successfully thwart a ransomware attack, ransomware removal is simple. During the removal process, cybersecurity technicians gather data from the attempt and use it to help other organizations protect themselves from similar attacks in the future.
Ransomware Protection for Commercial Organizations
For small businesses, enterprises, and everything in between, the ability to identify, quarantine, and study ransomware attacks is critical to ensuring robust ransomware protection for everyone. Cybersecurity professionals share databases of “attack signatures” that allow antivirus applications to stop known ransomware variants in their tracks.
Managed network services offer organizations an affordable and accessible route of access to this software. With a reputable vendor managing cybersecurity, each network’s systems administrator is constantly up-to-date on the latest types of ransomware in the wild and the best ways to mitigate the effects of an attack.
Ransomware is going to become a bigger problem as cybercriminals develop more sophisticated ways to attack organizations. Protect your business with the help of Kelley Connect specialists today!