What is your first reaction when you start the system and notice that it’s running slow? Or, you are unable to access the documents or media files that you need at the last minute. You start cursing the system, we all do that. But can you blame it all on the system? It’s time for a big revelation, sometimes it’s your deeds that cost you a fortune. And this is especially true when, because of the malpractices, your system starts misbehaving. Have you ever thought what the reason behind that error message on your screen is? Or the inability to access valuable data? The hard truth is that you have been infected with ransomware.
Ransomware is a malware that limits user access to systems in one or more ways. The malware encrypts files on your system, making it difficult for you to access the valuable resources. Trust us, decrypting the files on your own is next to impossible even if you are a tech guru. So, what is the alternative for getting your data back? You have to prepare yourself to pay a hefty ransom to the hackers to get the so-called decryption key to access the data. But the question is how you come under the attack of ransomware. When users click on a malicious link or visit a malicious website or download a malicious file, they without knowing come under the attack of malware. Over the past years, ransomware has grown from a small error to a major crisis that affects the daily operations of business firms. Various types of ransomware can affect both individuals as well as large scale enterprises.
• Lock screen ransomware: Due to this type of malware, users are unable to access the system as well as the files stored in it. If you get an error message on your screen asking you to pay a ransom to regain access to the system and data, you have become the latest victim of lockscreen ransomware.
• Encryption ransomware: This type of ransomware encodes the data in the system in exchange for ransom. As a result of the malware, accessing the data files becomes a challenging task.
• Traditional forms of ransomware: The older types of malware ask the users to pay the penalty for doing something illegitimate with the PC. The hackers pose as government officials to extract money from the users. If users want to protect themselves against false claims, they have to gain full knowledge about the ransomware. Awareness and knowledge of tactics used by hackers is the only savior against the harmful ransomware attack.
8 Preventive measures that can come to your rescue
“Prevention is better than cure” – this statement can come to your rescue in case of a ransomware attack. If you don’t want to give your hard-earned money to hackers for recovering your data, you have to create a safe house for data. We all know to restore your data after being hit by ransomware results in the wastage of time and money. So, why not protect your data in the first place only. So, without any further ado, let’s look at the preventive measures that will protect users against ransomware.
1. Give security awareness training to employees: A strong foundation will help firms in achieving their targets and create a mark for their business on the global front. But, can you create a strong foundation when the employees have no idea what all is going on in the company? Awareness and training play a crucial role in ensuring that everyone is on the same platform. The same is true when protecting yourself against the ransomware attack. According to tech experts, the most common way ransomware can enter your network is via a phishing attack. There have been many cases where employees, because of the lack of knowledge about the ransomware threats, click on the phishy links exposing the systems to the malware. To avoid such situations firms should conduct a security awareness campaign and provide proper training to employees to reduce the threat of an employee error leading to ransomware infection.
2. Go for security updates, patches, and configurations: Want to get freedom from paying a hefty ransom to hackers to get your data back? Fret not! By creating proper endpoint security hygiene, you will be able to protect the valuable data from going into the wrong hands. Attackers are always on the lookout for security loopholes they can exploit to gain access to critical data. And the last thing you want is to make the job easy for them. So, the question is what you can do to protect your data from hackers. Ensure that all the devices and systems are regularly updated with the latest security patches. Don’t think you can save your time by going with the default configurations. It can turn disastrous for your business in the long run. Take some time to modify the configurations and disable the features you no longer need.
3. Keep your asset inventory up to date: Do you know what devices are connected to your public and private cloud network? If not, how can you even think you will be able to recognize or prevent an attack? To protect yourself from the potential ransomware attack, have an overview of all the devices on your network and determine what permissions each device should get.
4. Go for continuous vulnerability assessment: Do you know cybercriminals often take the path of least resistance? Ransomware hackers are always on the lookout for the vulnerabilities they can exploit to gain access to the valuable data resources. One way to protect your business against the ransomware attack is by going for continuous vulnerability assessment. Have a security system in place that is up-to-date with the latest revelations in terms of vulnerabilities. Also, cross-check your data within your network to ensure there is no security loophole that hackers can exploit.
5. You can benefit from the real-time traffic monitoring: Are you guilty of making the mistake of only securing and filtering your inbound connections? But what about your outbound connections? Ransomware attacks your outbound connections as well. The malware will gain access and then dial home for further instructions. By blocking the initial outbound attempts to connect to the attacker’s server, you will be able to protect your data from the ransomware attack. Watch out for any suspicious traffic from either direction and if there is any red flag, go for a detailed investigation.
6. Set up file integrity monitoring: Do you wish to get automatic alerts if any critical file is accessed or altered? Your wish will now come true by setting up file integrity monitoring on business-critical data. By doing so, you will be able to spot a ransomware attack more quickly and determine which files are under threat.
7. Go for intrusion detection: For proper protection, have systems in place that will help you to identify the signs of a ransomware attack. Whether it’s communication with a known bad sector, sending data via a covert channel, or disabling firewalls or antivirus software, the secured system will help you to identify the security threats. Suspicious updates to policies, unscheduled scans, and update failures are some other warning signals. Spot these signals in time and you will be able to prevent ransomware from spreading across the entire business network.
8. Log monitoring and analysis: One good news for the business owners is that cybercriminals can’t launch and run a ransomware attack without leaving traces for their activity across the network. So, why not make use of this information to secure your data against a ransomware attack? Set up security information and event management software that is capable of scanning the system log, apps logs, and activity logs to collate and analyze data and create a red flag for unusual behavior.
Apart from the preventive measures, other tips that will help you to protect your confidential business information from the ransomware attack include:
• Do not click on the web pages in the emails. Never open any phishy attachments unless you are entirely sure about the sender of the message.
• Install good quality antivirus software such as the Microsoft Security Essentials.
• Always turn the smart screen on in Internet Explorer.
• Make sure the internet browser contains a pop-up blocker.
• Create a secure backup of essential files in the system. You can create the backup with the Cloud storage service. With the Cloud storage, you will be able to view the history or even archive files with OneDrive, which you can integrate with Windows 8, 8.1, and MS office.
Follow all these preventive measures if you don’t want to lose the business-critical information. One thing we can learn from the previous ransomware attacks is that the malware can attack the system from nearly all sources; hence, having a quality security system in place is a prerequisite for business firms. Instead of crying over the loss of data, follow the safety practices in the first place only. Even after taking precautions, if you come under the malware attack, consult an expert data recovery specialist to recover your data.