he digital boom has brought with it a new type of threat – ransomware attacks.
Businesses are beginning to rely heavily on digital systems for their day-to-day operations. As a result, it has never been more vital to be vigilant about preventing and mitigating ransomware attacks. The financial repercussions are devastating, especially for organizations. In 2019 alone, companies in the United States lost over $3.5 billion due to ransomware attacks.
Now, exactly what is ransomware? It is a type of malware that uses asymmetric encryption to render critical data stored on the host computer inaccessible. A “ransom” is then demanded in exchange for a decryption key for the encrypted data.
Think of it like this – your organization’s data and applications will be locked behind a digital door. The people responsible for the attack will attempt to extract money from you in return for the key to this door. While it seems complex, different ransomware attacks are fairly common, with over 6000 attacks occurring every day. Therefore, business owners need to take precautionary and preventive measures to protect themselves from ransomware threats.
This guide will provide you with a 7-step action plan to prevent ransomware and protect your business from data breaches.
1. Install antivirus software and keep it up to date
Antivirus software is developed specifically to detect, prevent, and shut down any malware on your computer. For example, various types of ransomware infections can enter a computer through trojan horses like malicious software, downloading damaging email attachments, or phishing emails. Antivirus software can help reduce these risks.
Companies tend to overlook this step with their computer systems, mostly due to the misconception that is merely using the internet cautiously can protect your computer from malware. However, having antivirus software installed on company computers can help reduce the risk of threats.
You should also periodically ensure that the antivirus software installed is up to date, as this software is regularly updated to combat the latest ransomware threats.
2. Set up email scanning and filtering
Email scanning and filtering security software can check inbound emails for potential threats, like malware or suspicious links containing malicious code.
While major email providers have inbuilt spam filters, it is still advised that business owners check these filters’ efficiency to ensure that employees do not accidentally click on malicious emails.
In fact, this is the most reliable method to protect your company from phishing attacks and ransomware by ensuring these emails do not reach your employees.
3. Create a secure backup of your company’s most vital data
Data backup can serve as insurance in the event of ransomware attacks. Have a strict schedule to periodically create a secure backup of your company’s most essential data. These backups can aid in the restoration of data from an earlier point in time to help your company remain functional in the case of a new ransomware attack and prevent the loss of critical data.
It is crucial to back up data at regular intervals to minimize data lost between scheduled backups.
4. Train your employees to spot suspicious activity
Suppose your employees can recognize cyberattacks like phishing attempts and other suspicious activity. For these cases, they will be able to prevent serious threats from occurring or at least effectively respond to threats. This is especially important for larger organizations with complex hierarchies and extensive payrolls, where the constant monitoring of employee activity is complicated.
Educate your employees about the types, nature, and dangers of ransomware attacks for both their mobile devices and computer operating systems.
Develop a company-wide action plan to instruct employees on the steps they need to take if a ransomware attack does occur.
5. Avoid any unsecured and public connections
Companies should take stringent measures to ensure that employees do not access company resources and data through unsecured connections or public networks. These networks are not encrypted, making your company exponentially more vulnerable to ransomware threats and cybercriminals.
If employees do need to access the company’s resources remotely, employers should provide them with secure remote access through File Transfer Protocol [FTP,] Remote Desktop Protocol [RDP,] Secure Socket Shell [SSH,] or Virtual Private Network [VPN.]
These precautions will help protect your business’ resources, even if they are accessed using an unsecured connection.
6. Enable multi-factor authentication
Multi-factor authentication requires users of a network or an application to provide two or more verification methods to access data or a resource, effectively decreasing the probability of a malware attack.
This method is particularly effective because static usernames and passwords can be obtained by third parties relatively easily. In addition, the added barrier of multi-factor authentication can protect sensitive data.
Multi-factor authentication usually consists of three components:
- Password or PIN
- Badge or unique electronic device
- Biometrics, like fingerprints or facial recognition
Companies may also require different levels of authentication for employees to access different portions of the company’s data, based on the sensitivity of the data.
Another useful strategy that companies can adopt is risk-based authentication. This adaptive multi-factor authentication method uses contextual clues to determine the risk involved in a login or access attempt. For example, these clues could include information about the user’s location, the time of the attempt, the device used, and the connection used.
7. Don’t pay the ransom
Ransomware attacks are often driven purely by financial motives. Paying these ransomware attackers will only validate their attempt to leverage encrypted files or data for money.
On top of that, there is no guarantee that you will retrieve your data after the ransom payments. It also cannot protect your company from future ransomware variant attacks or data leaks.
In fact, several cybersecurity companies and law enforcement agencies, like the FBI, discourage companies from giving in to extortion attempts because it only encourages attackers. If people stop paying the ransom, the number of ransomware attacks is sure to decrease these scams.
Companies should invest time and capital in developing a strategy to protect their data and resources from ransomware attacks. A ransomware attack can be an incredibly volatile situation, so it is always best to know what to do to prevent the attack from taking place rather than responding to the attack once it has already occurred.
If a ransomware attack does occur, companies must report it to law enforcement immediately, so the source of the attack can be identified and thoroughly investigated.
Speak with Wright Business Technologies today to see how you can protect your organization from ransomware.