What You Must Do to Avoid a Ransomware Attack
Ransomware is big business for cybercriminals, and business is growing. Cybercriminals have access to more powerful tools than ever before and are using them in increasingly sophisticated ways.
According to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the cost of global cybercrime will reach $6 trillion in 2021. A significant portion of that increase will be due to ransomware, which has established itself as a highly lucrative enterprise for cybercriminals.
Increasingly complex corporate data infrastructures make it easy for cybercriminals to target enterprises and institutions. A single malicious email, opened by a careless employee, can lead to millions of dollars of damages.
To properly defend yourself against ransomware, you must understand the methods cybercriminals use to gain illicit access to victims’ systems and find out what your vulnerabilities are. You can then address those vulnerabilities and strengthen them towards the riskiest threat vectors.
The key to implementing comprehensive ransomware protection in your business is knowing how it works, and what its attackers do to trigger the attack. There are ways to effectively protect yourself from the threat of ransomware, but you must deploy these defenses before you are victimized.
How Does Ransomware Work?
Ransomware encrypts critical files and demands victims pay for the key that unlocks the files. In order to do this, an attacker needs to gain administrative privileges of the victim’s system.
Whereas in the early days of ransomware, hackers would write their own code for achieving this, modern-day cybercriminal enterprises rely on off-the-shelf ransomware toolkits, professionally coded and sold by black market software vendors. These products make extortion easier and more intuitive – less hacking expertise is needed for the scheme to work.
Before an attack can take place, hackers need to convince victims to download the ransomware application. Email phishing remains the most common and productive method for achieving this.
For example, in a typical ransomware situation, an entry-level mailroom employee might receive an email that appears to come from the CEO or upper management. The email demands the employee rectify some (fraudulent) mistake made a few days ago in an outgoing mail spreadsheet.
The offending spreadsheet in question is compressed in a .zip file, and the mailroom employee is likely to download that file and open up the spreadsheet. The spreadsheet itself could easily be fabricated – it doesn’t matter what its contents are. What matters is that the attacker has successfully introduced a small, invisible application into that particular employee’s computer.
Over the next few weeks or even months, the application will gain access to network-connected devices and install itself on any equipment connected to the compromised system. Once it has infected a significant number of computers, the attacker will trigger the ransomware, encrypt the company’s data and demand payment for its release.
Preventing Ransomware Starts with Policy and Procedure
Different types of ransomware operate in different ways, but all variants need an unsuspecting victim to agree to download the malicious file. Crafting a cybersecurity policy that informs employees what to do with suspicious emails and how to deal with urgent email requests provides a stable foundation for ransomware protection.
Beyond this, there are key ransomware hack patterns that cybersecurity experts can detect. Remember that ransomware almost never triggers the moment you download a malicious file – the attackers want to spread the infection far and wide before clamping down and asking for payment.
New ransomware applications randomize and slow down the encryption process in order to avoid detection, but cutting-edge cybersecurity tools like Datto are capable of detecting unusual behavior before it’s too late. There is a tradeoff to this new approach – slowing down the encryption process gives victims more time to act.
Implement a Policy and Deploy Protection
Preventing ransomware is much easier than navigating an extortion scheme as it unfolds. Effective, consistent prevention will keep your business safe.
Beyond adhering to a cybersecurity policy that keeps your employees vigilant when dealing with digital correspondence, you need to use professional tools to verify network traffic and to raise flags when unusual activity occurs.
Protecting your company’s physical, virtual, and cloud infrastructure is vital. Having a solid disaster recovery and business continuity plan that involves easy-to-deploy backups of critical data is a must. Enjoying the expertise of a security professional when planning your defense is the best way to ensure your business resists attack.
Learn how to secure your business from ransomware attacks with the help of a professional cybersecurity expert. Contact us today to get started.