How to Protect Your Business from Ransomware Attacks

A laptop keyboard, with screen displaying scripts. Ransomware, how to protect your business from ransomware

Protect your business from ransomware by having a robust backup plan in place. Ransomware is a type of malicious software that encrypts the files on a computer or network and demands a ransom for their decryption.

Ransomware attacks can cause significant damage to businesses of all sizes, disrupting their operations, compromising their data, and harming their reputation.

There are an average of 19 attacks per second. In the first half of 2022 alone, there were nearly 237 million ransomware attacks worldwide. This is a staggering increase from the previous year, when there were only 150 million attacks.

If this trend continues, ransomware is expected to cost its victims around $265 billion annually by 2031

Fortunately, there are some best practices that you can adopt to protect your business from ransomware attacks. In this article, we will share some tips and resources that can help you prevent, detect, and respond to ransomware incidents.

What is ransomware? Protect your business from ransomware
“We’ve your files! Pay now or lose them…” | STOCK PHOTO FOR ILLUSTRATION OF RANSOMWARE

Tips: How to Protect Your Business from Ransomware

The best way to protect your business from ransomware is to prevent it from infecting your systems in the first place. Here are some prevention measures that you can implement:

Backup Your Data Regularly

You should backup your critical data frequently and store it in a secure location that is separate from your network.

This way, you can restore your data in case of a ransomware attack without paying the ransom or losing your data.

Implement an awareness and training program

Because end users are targets, employees should be aware of the threat of ransomware and how it is delivered. Educate them on how to recognize and avoid phishing emails, malicious attachments, and suspicious links.

You can also use simulated phishing campaigns to test their knowledge and provide feedback.

Enable Strong Spam Filters

Strong spam filters help to prevent phishing emails from reaching employees. They do this by filtering out emails that come from unauthorized senders or that contain suspicious content.

Spam filters can also be used to authenticate inbound email using technologies like SPF, DMARC, and DKIM.

SPF (Sender Policy Framework):

SPF is a DNS-based authentication system that allows a domain to specify which IP addresses are authorized to send emails on its behalf. This helps to prevent emails from being sent from unauthorized sources, such as phishers.

DMARC (Domain Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance):

DMARC builds on SPF by providing a way to control how emails that fail SPF authentication are handled. For example, a domain can be configured to reject all emails that fail SPF authentication, or to quarantine them for further review.

DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail):

DKIM is a cryptographic authentication system that allows a sender to add a digital signature to an email. This signature can be used to verify that the email has not been tampered with since it was sent.

Additionally, scan all incoming and outgoing emails to detect threats and filter executable files from reaching employees.

Update Your Systems and Software

Keep your operating system (OS), applications, antivirus software (AV), firewalls, etc. updated with the latest security patches and updates.

Ensure you configure firewalls to block access to known malicious IP addresses.

Further, set anti-virus and anti-malware programs to conduct regular scans automatically. Make sure that your security software is up to date and can detect the latest ransomware variants.

Most importantly, patch operating systems, software, and firmware on devices. Consider using a centralized patch management system. Keeping your systems updated can fix security vulnerabilities that ransomware attackers may exploit.

Manage the use of Privileged Accounts Based on the Principle of Least Privilege

No employees should be assigned administrative access unless absolutely needed. And those with a need for administrator accounts should only use them when necessary.

Configure access controls—including file, directory, and network share permissions— with least privilege in mind. If an employee only needs to read specific files, the employee should not have write access to those files, directories, or shares.

Disable Macro Scripts from Office Files Transmitted via email

Consider using Office Viewer software to open Microsoft Office files transmitted via email instead of full office suite applications. Macros are often used by ransomware attackers to run malicious code on the victim’s computer.

Implement Software Restriction Policies (SRP)

Implement Software Restriction Policies (SRP) or other controls to prevent programs from executing from common ransomware locations.

These locations include temporary folders supporting popular Internet browsers. They also include compression/decompression programs, such as the AppData/LocalAppData folder.

Disable Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)

Consider disabling Remote Desktop protocol (RDP) if it is not being used. RDP is a tool that allows remote access to a computer. But it can also be abused by ransomware attackers to gain access to your network and spread the infection.

Implement application Allow-listing

Use application allow-listing, which only allows systems to execute programs known and permitted by security policy. This can prevent unauthorized or unknown programs from running on your systems, including ransomware.

Execute Operating System Environments or Specific Programs in a Virtualized Environment

This can isolate them from the rest of your network and limit the impact of a ransomware infection.

Categorize Data Based on Organizational Value

Categorize data based on organizational value. This means identifying the different types of data that an organization collects and stores, and then classifying them according to their importance to the organization.

Implement physical and logical separation of networks and data for different organizational units. This means isolating different parts of the network and the data they contain, so that a breach in one part does not affect the others.

This can reduce the exposure of sensitive or critical data to ransomware attacks and limit the damage they can cause.

How to Detect Ransomware Attacks

Even with preventive measures in place, you may still face a ransomware attack. Therefore, you need to have a way to detect it as soon as possible and contain it before it spreads further. Here are some detection measures that you can implement:

  • Monitor your network for any suspicious or anomalous activity, such as unusual file modifications, network traffic spikes, or unauthorized access attempts. You can use tools such as intrusion detection systems (IDS), security information and event management (SIEM), or endpoint detection and response (EDR) to help you with this task.
  • Implement a backup strategy that follows the 3-2-1 rule: have at least three copies of your data, store them on at least two different media types, and keep one copy offsite or in the cloud. Backups are essential for recovering your data in case of a ransomware attack, but they also serve as a detection mechanism. If you notice that your backups are corrupted or inaccessible, it may indicate that you have been infected by ransomware.
  • Conduct regular audits and reviews of your systems and data to ensure that they are functioning properly and have not been tampered with. You can use tools such as file integrity monitoring (FIM), checksums, or digital signatures to verify the integrity of your files and detect any changes.
  • Establish a reporting mechanism that allows employees to report any suspicious or unusual activity on their devices or in their email accounts. Encourage them to report any signs of a ransomware attack, such as ransom notes, file encryption, or system lockout.

Responding to a Ransomware Attack

If you detect a ransomware attack, you need to act quickly and decisively to stop it from spreading and minimize its impact. Here are some response measures that you can implement:

  • Isolate the infected devices from the network and disconnect them from the internet. This can prevent the ransomware from communicating with its command and control server, downloading additional payloads, or encrypting more files.
  • Identify the source and type of the ransomware infection. You can use tools such as ID Ransomware (link is external) or No More Ransom (link is external) to help you with this task. Knowing the source and type of the ransomware can help you determine the scope, severity, and potential recovery options of the attack.
  • Notify the relevant stakeholders, such as your management, IT staff, legal counsel, law enforcement, customers, and vendors. Inform them of the situation, the actions you are taking, and the potential impact on your business operations and reputation.
  • Do not pay the ransom. Paying the ransom does not guarantee that you will get your data back or that the attackers will not target you again. It also encourages them to continue their malicious activities. Instead, try to restore your data from backups or use decryption tools if available. You can check the No More Ransom website (link is external) for a list of free decryption tools for some ransomware variants.
  • Analyze the incident and learn from it. After you have contained and recovered from the ransomware attack, you should conduct a thorough analysis of what happened, how it happened, and what you can do to prevent it from happening again. You should document the lessons learned, update your security policies and procedures, and implement any necessary improvements.

Final Thoughts on How to Protect Your Business from Ransomware

Ransomware attacks are a serious threat to businesses of all sizes, but they are not inevitable. They can cause significant losses and damages that can be hard to recover from.

Therefore, businesses should take cybersecurity seriously and adopt a proactive and comprehensive approach to protect themselves from ransomware attacks.


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