A cyberattack can cause serious harm to a company’s trustworthiness, reputation, and valuation. It is important to have prevention, preparation, response, and recovery strategies. Ransomware encrypts files or data so the victim cannot access them. It is most often used against small and midsize businesses.
As more sensitive information moves to the cloud and we do more business online, cybercriminals seek ways to get into organizations and wreak havoc. Ransomware is one way they do this. It is a low-cost and easy-to-use tool that has become the weapon of choice for many attackers. Ransomware typically accesses an organization through a single entry point, such as a phishing email attachment or exploiting a known security weakness. From there, it reaches out to a command-and-control (C2) server for instructions and downloading exploitation tools. Once the infection is in place, it encrypts all files in its attack path. This creates unreadable files that can only be decrypted with the key held by the attacker. Security experts and law enforcement agencies strongly advise against paying the ransom. Paying can only encourage hackers to continue their criminal activities, and it doesn’t guarantee the return of any encrypted data or the restoration of systems. A company can greatly reduce its attack risk by ensuring the right ransomware solutions are in place. This includes a solid backup and recovery strategy, focusing on keeping all backups off of the network and in an offline location. It also means educating employees about the threat of ransomware and providing a security framework that gives them the tools to report suspicious emails, logins or other actions. The right solution offers a comprehensive approach to prevention with its layered Zero Trust approach to cybersecurity, including data-centric technology for granular detection, reporting and analysis, and endpoint discovery and response solutions powered by actionable intelligence.
Ensure your organization is well-prepared to mitigate attacks with a comprehensive strategy that includes preventative measures and an incident response plan. Ultimately, this will help your business save time and money, reducing the impact of an attack and optimizing recovery when an adversary successfully penetrates your defenses. During an attack, your priority is to contain the infection and isolate affected systems. This reduces the risk to your larger network and minimizes the effort required to restore access to critical data and systems. Infected machines can be isolated by identifying and disconnecting them from networks and locking shared drives to prevent further encryption. It’s also important to understand how attackers gain access to encrypted files. This information can help you identify what strain of ransomware attacked your system and how to recover from it. Many cyber actors target larger businesses that can afford a high ransom, but small “mom-and-pop” companies are increasingly at risk. Some hackers are now asking for cyber tools—codes and software—instead of money, which could be used to exploit victims further or to develop similar malware variants. It’s also important to remember that paying a ransom may not provide a lasting solution, and it can encourage bad actors to attack more often.
Once ransomware enters your systems, it cannot be easy to eliminate. That’s why having a preparedness plan is critical. The first signs of ransomware are typically a notice that files have been encrypted or locked and a message stating that a ransom must be paid by a certain date to unlock the data. However, several other symptoms can also indicate that ransomware is present. These may include slowdowns of systems and applications, redirected Internet traffic, suspicious attachments to emails, or other anomalies. Regardless of how the initial detection occurs, security teams should act quickly. Isolate impacted devices and disconnect them from the network to prevent malware from spreading. Evaluate the attack and determine the type of ransomware. Use forensic tools to analyze logs and determine the scope of the compromise.
In some cases, security researchers may have already discovered flaws in the encryption of certain ransomware variants and have released decryption tools, deciding to pay less likely if the right tools are available. Despite the best efforts to mitigate risk, all businesses can become ransomware victims. For this reason, every business should have an incident response plan in place. This should outline how the company will respond in the event of an attack, including what to do when an attacker demands a ransom payment.
After attacking a victim’s system, ransomware contacts a command and control (C2) server to get more instructions and download additional exploitation tools. This is called lateral movement. During this stage, attackers start to identify valuable data and exfiltrate it. This could be anything from login credentials to customers’ personal information and intellectual property that attackers can use for double extortion. The final stage is the most costly, as attacks wreak havoc on your business operations, resulting in downtime and lost revenue. In addition, it takes weeks or even months to regain your full operational performance. Large organizations can struggle with these remediation efforts as they work to rebuild systems, reimage affected machines and restore backups. Invest in a cybersecurity solution that includes continuous data protection (CDP) to protect your business. This will ensure you can roll back the system and recover files encrypted by ransomware. In addition, granular reporting and analysis will help support forensic investigations that can help you understand how the attack occurred and what steps to take to prevent it in the future. Effective preparation is the best way to avoid disruption and costly attacks making headlines. Leading security experts predict that a ransomware attack will occur every two seconds by 2031. By implementing a strong cybersecurity and disaster recovery plan, you can limit damage, keep your employees productive, your customers happy and your operations functional.