Ransomware is considered to be one of the most dreadful cyberattacks. It is a type of malware that threatens to unleash confidential data or block access to personal information through encryption until a ransom is paid.
According to Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency CISA, US citizens registered 2,474 Ransomware incidents in 2020. It was a massive jump from the previous year with a 225% increase in the ransom demands.
This has led to many organizations taking specific measures for ransomware prevention. The cost doubles if these prevention methods are not dependable. Businesses pay on security measures and spend on data recovery, increasing the costs.
According to the Corvus Risk Insights Index report 2021, breach response costs take up to 52% of the overall expenses due to Ransomware attacks. So, there is no denying that organizations need robust prevention and protection methods to avoid such attacks.
So, here we are with a guide on different protection and prevention methods for such attacks. But, before we dive into the preventive measures, let us understand the anatomy of ransomware.
Anatomy of a ransomware
Every ransomware attack has six stages which include,
It is a stage where attackers leverage campaigns to exploit target environments. They employ different methods to exploit web servers and remotely use websites for the attack. For example, attackers use emails as a weapon to launch ransomware attacks.
It is sent to users in disguise to influence click action. Once the user clicks on a specific link or downloads a target file, attackers may gain access to credentials.
Users allow the malicious code to be executed on clicking a link, leading to the infection stage. Further, it provides control of the system to the attacker.
At this stage, the ransomware is embedded in the system. Further, it starts communication with the command and control(C2) server. These servers have encryption keys that get compromised due to malicious code.
Scanning & encryption
Malware scans the infected host to find specific files with credentials. Next, it will encrypt the files with encryption keys from C2 servers. Before the encryption, it will analyze the access permissions and other restrictions needed for reading write operations.
Lastly, attackers have all that is needed for the final payday. They have ransom notes deposited in specific parts of an environment with payment demands. If a user fails to meet the demand, the results are catastrophic.
Now that you know the anatomy of a ransomware attack, it is time to secure your systems against it.
Top ways to ransomware protection
Knowing the anatomy is not enough, and you need security measures to improve ransomware protection.
#1. Backup, backup, backup
Data backups are your biggest failsafe when it comes to a ransomware attack. First, however, you need to backup data into safe storage. The anatomy of such attacks suggests that attackers exploit different sections of an environment. So, if you do not store data backup in a secure environment or offline storage system, attackers gain access to it.
Here are some tips for secure data backups:
- Create a security strategy for data backup
- Generate multiple copies of backup located at a different physical location
- Restrict the access to physical data backup
- Prioritize safe networking policies
- Encode your data backup with 256-bit encryption
Having backup does help in reducing the risk of attackers taking your credentials for ransom. Because you have a second copy, you may avoid undue public exposure without ransom payment. One of the critical aspects of data backup is to have a secure network, and there are some ways to do it efficiently.
#2. Securing the network
Securing the network is not an easy task with several elements to consider. First, there are servers, nodes, endpoints, and data packets in a network, and securing these elements need strong policy execution.
Some of the tips that you can use to secure the network in your systems are,
- Use firewalls and antimalware tools for endpoint security
- Monitor the network’s event logs for data access and unusual activity.
- Perform regular risk assessments to ensure there are no security lapses
- Conduct security audits and penetration testing
- Have a robust internal network for critical infrastructure
Another way to ensure no ransomware attacks is to keep the system upgraded with the latest security updates.
#3. Security patches
Security patches help your system stay updated with new configurations and cope with evolving cyberattacks. However, adding security updates can be a tedious job. This is where automation can help you save time and effort on adding new patches.
Here, you can use trigger functions to update the security patches. These functions get activated whenever an element in the system has outdated configurations. Security patches do help to maintain your system’s integrity against ransomware attacks. However, you need access management to ensure that sensitive data is not exposed.
#4. Access management
Imagine the president of the United States offering you free Bitcoins! Sounds absurd? However, this is what precisely occurred on Twitter in July 2020. The social engineering attack inside the internal network of Twitter led to the compromise of several official accounts. Data access management is key to preventing such attacks on your system.
Ransomware attack execution needs social engineering practices. This is why it is essential to have an access management policy. One way to ensure that data access remains secure is by using the active directory to configure the access controls across the system.
Another way to ensure better access control in your internal networks is by using multi-factor authentication. It will allow you to authenticate each data access through a personalized passcode or pin on the user’s device.
#5. Training modules
Most ransomware attacks take place due to one common mistake-clicking an unknown link. So, if you are planning to improve the security of your systems, employees of the organization will need proper training. Create training modules that help employees avoid clicking on unknown links or getting involved in social engineering practices.
Ransomware attacks may not just go away with all of these practices employed, but you can certainly reduce them. This is why it is important to prioritize security protocols, configurations, and access management. The first part of executing these protocols is to analyze your systems. Then plan the security measures according to the specific need of the system. Lastly, monitor each aspect of the system for better performance and enhanced protection.
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