Ransomware has become one of the most prominent kinds of malware on the internet, with ransomware attacks increasing quite drastically ever since 2017. While many famous cases have affected large companies or key government branches, there is also the very real threat of them turning up on a personal computer.
While there are ways to react to ransomware attacks, the best way to prevent damage to your data is to be proactive. Stopping a ransomware attack before it happens is one of the best security tools in your arsenal, and you have a lot of ways to protect your system.
Understand a Ransomware Attack
Ransomware can be hard to understand until you actually encounter it, and being prepared is the best way to stay safe. This not only makes early detection much more likely but can make it harder to install malware accidentally or let it into the network undetected. If you understand what you are trying to fight, then you can avoid showing any obvious weaknesses.
Ransomware can have multiple choices of attack vector, with the top attack vectors being simple methods like email attachments or downloaded programs. However, it is important to remember that not all ransomware will use a top attack vector - some can be hidden away in obscure tools or even embedded in a word document.
Phishing attacks are often common, with phishing messages easily hitting remote-working employees. If you notice any issues, alert users and employees - security awareness is always the first step towards protecting your data.
Ransomware is made to ransom off your data for money. This means that it mostly focuses on forcibly encrypting data and making it almost impossible to access until you pay the creators, who may not even make the data accessible anymore after they get the money. As such, ransomware can be a major problem for anybody that it hits since it can completely 'brick' a device.
Stay Up to Date
If you practice proper patch management and keep tools up to date, you can ensure maximum security in almost all cases. Publications like the Cybersecurity Insider Newsletter strengthen this point, whether you are updating individual tools or entire operating systems.
If a tool you use has an update and security report released Tuesday, you want to update it that same Tuesday if possible. The between-patch downtime period enables malware to make use of exploits or weaknesses in the tools themselves, which can give them easy domain access or more ways to disrupt your devices.
Back Up Critical Data
Most ransomware attacks thrive on holding vital and vulnerable resources hostage, only releasing the sensitive data in exchange for money. If a ransomware attack targets primary data that has no backup systems, then it is a very real threat - you could lose all of your business data if you do not pay, or even if you do.
Setting up tools with backup and restore capabilities, or even just manually backing up vital data each day, can remove plenty of security vulnerabilities. If ransomware can't swallow up or exfiltrate critical data, then it has no real hold on your devices, so you can simply wipe them clean.
Cloud platforms are a great choice here. These internet-facing systems can't be 'contaminated' with ransomware in your files, so you can back everything up and re-download it once the threat is dealt with. You can even place encrypted data in the cloud without breaking its encryption.
Isolate Sensitive Data
Many groups, including security provider Thycoticcentrify, suggest that you protect data in a more direct way. Cyber threats need connections: even low-security budgets can allow for straightforward security defences, like disconnected servers or better employee security policies.
If the malware can gain access to your computer but can't ultimately locate your most critical data, then a successful ransomware attack will be much less effective. You do not need incredible security technologies to do this: many organisations ignore such tools and instead rely on cloud platforms, data backup servers, or even offline storage devices.
It can also help to perform surveillance on key data - which means regularly scanning, checking, and backing up any important data. The more you know about your own system and data, the more control you have over its safety, so isolating some data from the rest of the system can make it a much easier 'space' to monitor.
Restrict Privileged Access
Accounts with privileged access, management tools, or ways to obtain account credentials can be major targets for ransomware attacks. Exploiting privileged access accounts allows ransomware threats to get much deeper into your system than expected, leading to stolen data and lost revenue in ways that you can't even monitor.
If you want to prevent ransomware issues, then you can use Privileged Access Management tools to build multiple layers of protection. Such accounts and systems can be great for preventing initial access to your data, which allows for far more security without needing to spend much extra time or money on new software.
Even simple additions like multi-factor authentication can prevent attackers from being able to bypass security policies with stolen account credentials. If done correctly, this can also minimise user disruption, making it a safer method of security that is also just as efficient.
Encryption is a great way to cover for vulnerable endpoints. Human errors can leave endpoint protection open or create a new attack surface for malware to use, but having encrypted files ensures that nothing can be stolen and read by malicious hackers.
Many business decision-makers will want their information completely accessible, but encryption does not actually stop this from being an option. A strong decryption key has given many organisations a way to enforce Least Privilege Access (giving employees the minimum access needed to do their jobs) without overhauling their entire security system.
There are countless ways to encrypt information, and the one you choose depends purely on how you want to approach the problem. There is no ideal way to encrypt data, and many businesses use different security methods for different kinds of information to bolster their security even further.