We are living in the era of the internet and businesses are seeking growth through online presence. In the past few years and mostly after covid 19 pandemic, most businesses have come online. Their online presence is not only beneficial to themselves but also to their customers. But with this, many online threats are also being observed for the companies. One among the many is the threat of ransomware. So, with the advancement of technology, cybersecurity practices should also grow.
The average cost of ransomware recovery is nearly $2. Ransomware attackers mostly target companies that are likely to pay this amount for recovery. Hence, ransomware is of more concern for bigger companies. It’s quite imperative that data and information is of huge significance for individuals as well as companies
What is a Ransomware?
Ransomware is a malicious software that targets a computer, infects it and accesses the personally identifiable information or sensitive data on that device. It encrypts the system (in order to lock it) and doesn’t return access until a ransom or fee is paid. The start of this process takes place by infiltrating an organization’s network by some tricks, such as sending phishing emails that somehow try to find out the passwords. In severe cases, attackers trick the installation of ransomware on multiple IT assets, this results in taking over the entire network or data center.
In recent years, increased reliability on digital infrastructure across all sectors of society has led significantly to such attacks. From online portals for government services to online education, from eCommerce remote work to telehealth, businesses are heavily dependent on digital infrastructure. Attackers seek to block access with ransomware and below are some of the widely used ways they use to infect devices:
- Sending phishing emails
- Causing system as well as network vulnerabilities
- Making RDP (Remote desktop protocol) attacks
- Tricking businesses and individuals to download infected file extensions and
- Tricking them to visit corrupted websites
Now it’s time to look into the ways that can be used to accomplish protection against ransomware infection.
Backing up of data (be it text or image or anything) is one of the many popular things we do frequently. It’s always a wiser decision to migrate the data to some hard device or back it up on a cloud server. So, whenever a ransomware attacks a device all the data on the device can be cleared entirely without worrying about the loss of any data. The frequency of backup may depend on the organisation but ideally the most important segments should be backed up at least once a week. In addition to protecting the data through backup, there are also chances that attackers can exfiltrate the data before encrypting the files.
Ransomeware spreads quickly throughout a network. This needs to be controlled by limiting the spread as soon as the attack occurs. The concept behind network segmentation is all about dividing the network into sub-networks thus preventing the ransomware from spreading on other systems. Each subsystem can implement their own ways to prevent the ransomware getting to the targeted point. Network segmentation prevents lateral movement between different zones. So, if an attacker bypasses the perimeter, network segmentation will prevent it from moving into other zones thus protecting the endpoints against encryption. Network segmentation has an additional benefit of providing sufficient time to the security team to identify and fix the threat.
As stated earlier, the most common entry points of the ransomware into a network is through email. This is what email phishing is. In Phishing, email contains an Excel attachment that acts as the transporter of a remote access trojan onto the targeted device. Email scanning and filtering is thus important as it can help in identifying and filtering out dangerous emails before they are accessible to the employees. Care should be taken when you receive emails from unknown senders. You can also opt for an automated solution that manages your email by using the power of machine learning.
Antiviruses are very good softwares to defend any irrelevant software and thus a ransomware too on a device. They have the ability to scan, detect and fix many types of cyber threats. But antiviruses are not always helpful since they are designed to work only at the internal level. So, to overcome this problem firewalls are used. Firewalls are the first on the list of defending softwares that deal with the external attacks. They have the ability to detect both software as well as hardware attacks and defend them. They function pretty similar to antiviruses, the only advantage being they can deal with both internal as well as external attacks. Additionally, we’d like to take your attention to fake virus detection alerts. There are many fake alerts that seem to be from the antivirus software, they are mostly shown through emails or as website pop-ups. Such fake alerts should not be clicked onto until you directly verify them from your antivirus software.
Viruses, malwares and ransomwares are evolving and making new variants that are advanced enough to bypass outdated security features. Nowadays these attacking softwares are capable of entering your network somehow. This may include the activity of entering the network through ports, IP addresses, applications and configurations. So, keeping your system and softwares updated is immensely crucial. Furthermore, the monitoring should be done well enough to get into the details of what’s going on inside the network as in spite of protecting the first layer, there are chances of possible ransomware attacks. Effective and timely patching helps in detecting vulnerabilities in time. This further prevents the attackers from exploiting those vulnerabilities.
Endpoint security has more to do with growing businesses. When businesses grow and expand, their end users increase in number which further leads to increase in the number of endpoints. Now more the number of endpoints, more will be the need to ensure security. Huge number of endpoints gives the attackers easy access to the main network. Endpoint security can be handled by installing endpoint protection platforms for all network users. Endpoint protection platforms are implemented for endpoint detection and response by allowing system administrators to secure all the remote devices. They function by making use of the various tools such as the antivirus, anti-malware,..etc and techniques such as intrusion detection, data encryption, data loss prevention and many more.
Compromised credentials are a great way to restrict initial intrusion into the networks. Access privileges to the network should be done in a controlled manner, there’s no requirement of giving permission to the data they don’t need. By limiting the access, you can restrict the ransomware from spreading within the systems of the company. In some cases access to some segment of the data can be given but that too with limited resources or functions. This is decided on the basis of a role based access control policy. Least privilege strategy doesn’t trust any internal or external user and so if someone wants to access confidential data then he/she will have to give the identity verification at every access level.
A Security Information & Event Manager or simply SIEM is a centralized tool used for getting into the insights of cybersecurity by gathering, correlating, and analyzing data from various applications in your IT environment. SIEM tools give detection and response capabilities to security professionals against ransomware attacks. We depicted many ways that should be made in order to avoid or prevent such attacks but what if you get haunted by the attacker? In that case also you can follow certain steps to defend it. These include, isolating the infected systems, identifying the source, reporting the attack to authorities and also not paying the ransom. An attack can be best dealt with by establishing clear and quick emergency communication and response procedures in advance so that the users can cooperate when an attack occurs. started far before any attacks could take place.
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