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How to stop ransomware?

The astonishing rise in ransomware attacks since the onset of the pandemic has made the procedure of defending one’s network more critical than ever before. Despite all the security measures that organizations take, the number of attacks has increased manifold, and, in many cases, new and innovative methods are used by cybercriminals. Attackers have targeted sectors ranging from large corporate and government organizations to small businesses, from food and utility supply chains to Managed Service providers (MSP).  

The victims of these attacks often have been paying the ransom amount demanded or negotiated by the attackers. They believe this is the most prudent way to get their critical data back and continue the business operations. Each day of downtime costs a business millions of dollars of loss, not to mention the loss of reputation of the company and the fear of data being sold on the dark web by the attackers that could be used in the future for further attacks.   

These practical considerations make the victim pay. The reality is that attacks will not end anytime soon or in the future, as attackers keep changing their identities and often operate as nation-state actors as they operate from foreign lands. The attackers are innovative each time in their deadly pursuits. They have also been taking ransom money in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Monero, etc., to avoid leaving behind any trail. 

The downside of paying up to the attackers will not only encourage them but also fund them to carry out a more sophisticated attack in the future with different variants and new sectors left untouched until now. The costs will rise as research statistics have predicted that ransom attacks will cost the global economy around $ 6 trillion in 2021 alone. 

Ransomware attacks- Vulnerabilities

  • The physical hardware used is obsolete and no longer state-of-the-art.
  • The hardware has outdated software
  • Operating systems and Browsers not patched for latest updating and better security.
  • No proper Cybersecurity policy is in place 
  • No proper Identity Access Management in place 
  • No training for employees to follow hygiene practices when using the internet 
  • Insufficient attention to cybersecurity management and no backup plan in place in the event of an attack
  • How to protect against Ransomware?

    Many organizations are not fully-equipped to tackle cybercrime. The reason is a lack of resources, money, time, and awareness. Today organizations are outsourcing their IT system management. Having a dedicated department managing a computer network can have high operating costs, including the risk of system crashing, leading to business losses. MSP solutions have been the norm for quite some time now, with third-party vendors known as "Managed Service Provider" handling the IT infrastructure, managing data backups, maintaining inventory, and cybersecurity, including patching any gaps from time to time.  

    This arrangement works fine as they are done on a contract basis and has much lower operating costs. An MSP who works with multiple clients has to manage and administer hundreds of computers, users, passwords, virtual servers on a cloud platform, and much more. It is impossible to handle all systems manually, and MSP automates the process by simultaneously controlling their lients' networks through a single Remote computer. 

    Protecting against Ransomware

    While one cannot stop malicious attackers from their activities, there are many ways to protect oneself from ransomware. Some of the methods one can ensure to implement in their organization includes 

    • Training your employees to follow caution when operating the system—for example, not clicking on unsafe links in spam messages or on unknown websites. Automatic downloads happen when one clicks on these links, and the computer gets infected. One should not open email attachments from unknown senders as ransomware often finds its way into the system from this activity. If one is not sure of who the sender is, check the email address properly if they are trustworthy or not. 
  • Avoid disclosing personal information to text messages, emails, and calls. Cybercriminals masquerade as customer executives from banks, credit cards, service providers and try to collect personal information which they can use for phishing. 
  • Never use a USB stick or any other storage media if one is not sure about its source. Cybercriminals often place it in a public place and entice users to use them.
  • Ensure regular updating of operating systems and software to protect from any malware lurking in the system. Ensure renewal of software licenses, and the service provider must provide the latest security patches. These activities make it difficult for attackers to exploit any vulnerability in the system.  
  • Downloading from trusted sources can minimize risk. Genuine websites are identifiable by their trust seals. Address those sites which have HTTPS:// instead of HTTP. Be careful when downloading anything on a mobile device. One can trust the Google or Apple Appstore. 
  • The use of secure VPN services while working remotely protects networks from attacks.
  • Using Cloud technology is a better option these days. They have an advantage over on-premise systems as hackers find it more difficult to exploit any vulnerability in a cloud-based architecture. Also, cloud storage solutions allow one to restore older versions of files. It means that during a cyber-attack, attackers encrypt data and demand ransom money to decrypt them. The data is encrypted by ransomware. One can return to an unencrypted version using cloud storage without succumbing to paying any ransom to the attackers.  
  • Installation of the anti-ransom software that uses virus scanners and content filters on the mail servers helps prevent the ransomware from attacking the system. This software also reduces the risk of spam with malicious attachments or infected links reaching the mailbox.
  • Ensuring regular backups of critical data and delegating and communicating responsibility. 
  • Conclusion 

    Installing the right software and following best practices when working on the system is a big step. The next step is regular updates of the internet security solution helps to install the latest security patches and improve protection against ransomware. Despite all the precautions, one must have a backup plan to deal with a ransomware attack. Having backups of critical business data and store in external devices helps to minimize the damage.

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