Ransomware is an extremely dangerous type of malware that encrypts data to render it unusable and demands a ransom payment from the owner in return for a decryption key. Ransomware is the number one cyber threat wreaking havoc on organizations worldwide, causing millions of dollars of losses on average. This article presents organizations with 5 effective ways to prevent ransomware and secure their data.
1. Ensure Business Continuity with Regular Data Backup
Data backup is widely considered a best practice for protection against ransomware attacks. Backing up does not prevent a ransomware attack, but it keeps the impact of a ransomware infection to a minimum. Organizations can restore their data from backup files without kneeling to the attacker’s ransom demands to get their business back up and running.
That being said, more advanced ransomware gangs have started employing APT-style techniques to not only encrypt files but also steal them. Attackers then threaten victims with leaking or selling their sensitive and important data to force them to pay the ransom. Therefore, backing up your data should only form part of your protection against ransomware and should be combined with other preventive measures and technologies.
2. Prevent Ransomware by Avoiding Suspicious Emails
One of the most common attack vectors (intrusion method) of ransomware attacks is phishing. Phishing attacks use specially crafted malicious emails posing as legitimate emails to fool their recipients. These emails typically contain a link or attachment that attempts to install malware once opened. The malware allows the attacker to operate inside the victim’s environment, such as creating and killing processes and moving laterally across the network, which ultimately leads to a data breach or ransomware infection.
To prevent ransomware and other malware infections, avoid clicking on any links or opening any attachments in suspicious emails. There are several items you can check to verify the email’s authenticity. For example, check the sender’s email address to make sure it is consistent with the displayed name. When checking the sender’s email address, look for spelling errors or suspicious formatting. Adversaries are skilled at making a fake email address look genuine by making minor changes in what is known as email spoofing. Additionally, hover the mouse over any links to check whether the URL looks suspicious, or hover the mouse over attachments to check the file extension. ZIP, EXE, ISO, and PDF files are the most used phishing attachments, especially if they are not consistent with the context.
3. Update OS & Software to Prevent Ransomware Infection
Another common attack vector is operating system and software vulnerabilities. These are flaws in the OS and software that allow attackers to take control of the system and carry out malicious activities. Adversaries are always scanning operating systems and all kinds of software to look for vulnerabilities, and they are extremely fast at developing the tools and techniques to exploit them. Therefore, it is vital to keep your OS and all software up to date to prevent ransomware attacks. Regularly check whether you are running the latest version. Turn on automatic updates to avoid missing the latest patches. And do not ignore those update notifications.
4. Deploy a Honeypot to Divert Ransomware Attacks
In the context of cyber security, a honeypot is a decoy computer system used to deflect cyber-attacks against a genuine system. The data in the honeypot is made attractive enough to lure ransomware attackers into holding it hostage or stealing it. For instance, sensitive trade secrets, personal information, credit card details, and health records. The honeypot will also be set up to contain vulnerabilities like open ports or outdated software to make it look like an easy target. Depending on how the honeypot is deployed, it can completely shield real enterprise systems from a ransomware attack or act as a buffer to give security teams a head start in incident response.
The benefit of using a honeypot is that security teams can examine the actions of the ransomware attackers. Security teams can use this information to harden systems to prevent ransomware attacks in the future.
5. Ransomware Detection with NDR
If all else fails and ransomware attackers manage to infiltrate the network, the focus switches from threat prevention to threat detection.
Depending on the skill of the attacker and the tools at their disposal, their activities can evade the detection of endpoint security solutions like antivirus and more advanced Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR). This is because these solutions run using an endpoint agent, which means that they can be disabled by attackers.
Network Detection and Response (NDR), on the other hand, does not rely on endpoint agents to run and therefore is not at risk of being disabled. More importantly, NDR is an anomaly-based detection solution. With anomaly-based detection, NDR is constantly analyzing real-time network traffic and comparing results with baselines of normal network activity. As sophisticated and evasive as the activities of ransomware attacks are, they do not represent normal business activity. NDR is equipped to detect and make sense of these inconspicuous differences, making it the ideal security solution for protection against ransomware attacks.