Ransomware is similar to abduction in several ways. To keep data hostage, an assault locks down sensitive systems and information. In the same way as a kidnapper would attempt to extort money from a hostage, a cyber attacker demands a ransom in return for the victim’s data and the ability to resume operations. Most of the time, it just takes a moment of employee inattention, procrastination, or even communicating with the incorrect email link or attachment to compromise an organization’s cyber security posture.
At the end of 2019, the global cost of ransomware was projected to be $11.5 billion.
So, how do you avoid being a victim of ransomware?
The good news is that you don’t have to spend millions of dollars to defend your company from ransomware. We’ll go through five free (or at least low-cost) ways to protect yourself from ransomware attacks in this post.
Best Ransomware Protection Method 1: Deploy a Robust Backup System
In terms of getting back up and running after a ransomware attack, backups are the best way to protect yourself or your company.
A hacker took down Baltimore’s main city government servers and online services in May 2019. They requested $76,000 in exchange for the machine to be restarted. The mayor and the city council took the high road and declined to pay. They did not, however, have a backup of the majority of their records. As a result, restoring the infrastructure on their own cost them $18.2 million!
Since they don’t have adequate backups of sensitive data, most ransomware victims incur significant financial losses. Otherwise, depending on the amount of data they’d need to retrieve, they’d be able to quickly restore all of it and get back to work in minutes or hours.
You can’t depend on the backups provided by your hosting provider. They store data on servers, which are the same servers that hold your original data. As a result, if an intruder gains access to the original data, they will automatically gain access to your backup files as well!
This is why it’s important to secure your backup data on a different third-party cloud platform with a product like CodeGuard. Backups that are automatic, encrypted, and can be restored directly from the cloud platform’s dashboard are the most efficient.
Best Ransomware Protection Method 2: Increase Your Email Security Through Best Practices and Training
Email is one of the most popular ways for ransomware to spread. This is why cyber awareness training and instilling email protection best practises in your employees is critical.
Teach Cyber Awareness
Teach your workers how to tell the difference between a real and a fake email. This involves assisting them in recognising common phishing email characteristics and instilling in them the importance of not opening any links or attachments in suspicious emails. Inform them that they can only open attachments in emails from people whose identities they are certain of. Also, remind them to run a secure malware/anti-virus scan on the attachment before installing it.
Help Them Learn to Read and Understand Email Headers
Always search the sender’s email address is another best practise for workers to note. Genuine businesses typically send emails from official email addresses that include their domain name. (For instance, firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Take a look at the two phishing emails I recently got as examples. They’re both designed to appear as if they came from the Apple Store. The show titles were “App Store” and “Apple Store.” However, you can tell the difference between a fake and a real email address by looking at the senders’ email addresses.
Ensure Macros Are Disabled
Email attachments should not have macros enabled. When you run the macro, the malware takes over the operating system and all of the data on the computer. What’s the good news? Macros are disabled by default in recent versions of Microsoft Office. This means that users would have to manually turn on macros in certain situations in order for them to run.
Best Ransomware Protection Method 3: Download Only from Trusted, Reputable Sources
Always exercise extreme caution when uploading files from the internet. The malware executes on your machine as soon as you download it and does whatever it was designed to do.
Software can be downloaded from reputable websites, vendors, and publishers. Check out the user reviews if they’re open.
When you’re downloading something for free, take extra care. Free games, antivirus programmes, digital licences, plugins, themes, models, apps, songs, videos, books, TV shows, and more abound on the internet. To trap potential victims, attackers often build fake free software programmes and applications.
Teach the staff how to spot the telltale signs of a legitimate website.
Best Ransomware Protection Method 4: Perform Regular Updates to Keep Systems and Programs Up to Date
Update all applications, operating systems, computers, themes, plugins, and apps on a regular basis. Updates are in place for a reason. In most cases, software publishers discover bugs in older versions of their software, repair them, and then release new versions, upgrades, or patches.
Attackers are still on the lookout for such flaws; all they need is knowledge of the insecure areas of old software, as well as the people who are still using it, to exploit them! As a result, if you don’t upgrade your system as soon as a new version is released, attackers will be able to take advantage of the old version’s flaws. So, when it comes to updating, always be methodical.
Best Ransomware Protection Method 5: Restrict Employee Access
Employees have instant access to the company’s most confidential information. In several ransomware cases, attackers use stolen login credentials from targeted workers to gain access to databases and systems that store sensitive data. In other cases, workers steal and encrypt their employers’ data or grant outside attackers access to their systems in return for money.
Consider the case of Asurion, which was hit by ransomware. Asurion, a leading phone insurance and tech support provider, was hit by an insider threat ransomware attack in August 2019, in which Nicholas Burks, a former employee, stole 100 terabytes (TB) of confidential data. As a result, Asurion agreed to pay a $300,000 ransom to the kidnappers.
Such examples demonstrate the importance of limiting employee access to bulk data. Employees may only have access to the limited amount of data they need to fulfil their job duties. The data must be secured and securely stored as soon as their work is completed.
Final Thoughts on Ransomware Protection
Organizations are often crippled in today’s digital age, and workers are unable to perform their everyday tasks if they do not have access to necessary data — even for a short time. Ransomware attacks aren’t going away anytime soon because attackers are well aware of this reality.
To protect your data, you must take all necessary precautions. However, if a ransom attack occurs, the safest policy is to refuse to pay the ransom. Even if it seems to be the simplest route out, it can end up being more risky in the long run. Even if you pay the ransom, there’s no assurance that the hacker can recover your data access. Furthermore, if you pay, other attackers will regard your company as a “soft target” and will be more inclined to target it for potential cybercrime.
Don’t be afraid to enlist the assistance of the local police department or even the FBI if necessary. Cybercrime is usually handled by a separate agency in most jurisdictions. As previously mentioned, creating backups on a third-party cloud platform is the safest way to defend against ransomware. You should also be aware that some paid and free ransomware decryption software tools are now available on the market.