There are many threats that continue to pose cyber security risks to organizations of all types and sizes. As attackers continue to get more clever and develop evolved threats, security must be able to adapt and stay ahead. One type of threat that has continuously lurked in the modern landscape is ransomware. The prominence of ransomware and its associated attacks has increasingly skyrocketed every year. In fact, ransomware was able to extort various organizations for around $1 billion total last year. Attackers continue to create and deploy this type of threat simply because it is easy to launch and it is highly successful. With the increasing prominence of these types of attacks, it is important that organizations learn how to properly defend themselves and stay ahead of them.

What is a Ransomware Attack?

Ransom malware, or ransomware for brevity, is malware which is able to encrypt a portion of data and extort the owner for the return of it. It will essentially lock up a segment of data and display a screen requesting that the owner pay an amount in exchange for the decryption key. It will also often have a time limit, and the typical motivation is that the data will be destroyed if the owner does not pay the ransom within the allotted time.

User Education

One of the largest factors that ransom malware and most cyber attacks, in general, rely on is user error. A majority of cyber attacks and hacks are successful simply because of human interaction and error. For instance, many ransomware campaigns are launched through phishing attacks. Phishing is when an attacker sends out waves of emails purported as legitimate businesses or individuals, with the end goal of getting the recipient to click on malicious links or attachments. Phishing attacks rely completely on human error, otherwise, they would not be successful. This is why user education is so important. Organizations need to ensure that every employee, executive, owner, and any other personnel are properly educated upon the indicators of ransomware and phishing attacks. This way, if one of these emails comes in, the recipient can immediately report the email to IT staff, rather than opening it and unknowingly infecting the system. This also includes continuing to update the staff of new campaigns, as methods can change. Ensuring employees will not fall for these types of attacks is a vital first line of defense.

Comprehensive Security Implements

Of course, another large factor is ensuring that all security tools and components are in place. This includes proper web filters and blocks, firewalls, antivirus, intelligence, monitoring, etc. All of this is necessary to ensure that an organization:

  • Is Informed of Older, Extant, and New Campaigns and Methods
  • Can Detect Unauthorized Access
  • Is Able to Mitigate or Expel Attempted Attacks
  • Can Prevent Breaches and Infections

Thorough Data Back Ups

One factor that results in many businesses losing massive amounts of funds or data from ransomware attacks is their lack of proper data backups. Every single organization should have their digital data and assets properly backed up in an offsite location. This backup must not be connected to the usual network, as this allows for potential infection of the backup as well. When an organization ensures that they perform regular and thorough backups, a ransomware attack becomes more of an inconvenience, rather than a potential for loss. Using their backups, they will be able to rapidly wipe infected systems and restore the affected data. This avoids them having to pay a ransom for the return of their data, or the potential loss of their data if they cannot afford the ransom.