Ransomware attacks are becoming increasingly common and costly. Here, we’ll explain how to prevent ransomware and protect your organization’s success.
In 2021, ransomware cost U.S. organizations nearly $160 billion—a staggering figure that’s only expected to grow over the coming years. Ransomware will affect organizations of all types and sizes, from construction companies and school districts, to nonprofits and healthcare systems, and everything in between.
As ransomware attacks become increasingly prevalent and costly, it’s vital for your organization to understand how these attacks work and to take the steps to prepare your network, your teams, and your devices. Here, we’ll take a look at how you can get started protecting your organization.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a type of malware that infects a device after a user clicks a link or downloads a malicious program. Once a ransomware program has infected a device, it will render files and programs useless by encrypting them, and potentially even damaging the device altogether.
The ransomware will then steal a user’s data, which can then be sold to other bad actors or be exploited to gain access to other sensitive information.
Finally, ransomware will present users with a message instructing them to pay a ransom in order to regain access to their files, data, or device—although there’s no guarantee that paying the ransom will actually restore your access to the encrypted data.
Three Tips for the Prevention of Ransomware
Ransomware can spread quickly through a network, and can create massive problems for an organization’s entire operations before anyone has a chance to stop it. This can lead to lengthy downtime, lost revenue, damage to your organization’s reputation, and serious liabilities. Follow these tips to prevent ransomware from infecting devices at your organization.
Watch Out for Suspicious or Out-of-Network Emails
Phishing emails are the most common way ransomware is spread. What seems like a legitimate email from a news outlet, insurance provider, or colleague could actually contain malicious links meant to wreak havoc on your organization.
To ensure nobody at your organization is the unwitting victim of these schemes, train your team to identify suspicious emails. Additionally, consider including a basic IT security training as a part of your onboarding process so new hires are in the loop from day one.
Keep in mind that no matter how much training your team has, human error is always a possibility. For an added level of security, make sure your organization’s email is equipped with scanning capabilities that assess the safety of links and attachments within emails and warn your team about anything that seems suspicious.
Backup Your Data Regularly
Backing up your data doesn’t necessarily prevent ransomware, but if you are hit with a ransomware attack, having backups available will significantly simplify the recovery process.
If you don’t know where to start with data backups, try the 3-2-1 rule. You should maintain, at a minimum:
3: Backup at least three copies of your data
2: You should be storing copies of your data on at least two different types of storage (e.g.: an external hard drive and in the cloud)
1: Of all the copies of your data, at least one should be stored off-site for an added measure of security.
Make Sure Your Firewall is Strong
A firewall can scan incoming and outgoing traffic and assess whether there’s any malicious content, such as ransomware, within that traffic. For peace of mind, use a next-generation firewall, which not only assesses the traffic, but the data within the traffic.
Keep in mind that firewalls aren’t impervious to all ransomware attacks, and malware is constantly being improved to bypass your security without detection. Therefore, you may want to have firewall penetration testing performed to ensure your firewall and IT security are up to the challenge.
How to Stop Ransomware After You’ve Been Hacked
Ransomware is always—for lack of a better word—improving. Even if you take the most prudent steps to protect your business, advanced ransomware can breach your organization’s defenses, fool your team, and disrupt your operations. However, even when this happens, there are actions you can take to prevent further losses, minimize damage, and maximize the effectiveness of your data recovery.
Isolate The Infected Devices
When a device does become infected, it has the potential to spread the ransomware through WiFi networks and connected devices. To stop this spread from occurring, disconnect the device from wireless networks, Bluetooth, and other corded connections. While this step’s effectiveness may vary depending on the type of ransomware, it may prevent things from getting worse and is therefore well worth the few seconds it takes.
Additionally, if you had any thumb drives or external hard drives connected at the time of the attack, take steps to ensure that they’re not used or connected to any other devices.
Contact a Skilled IT Consultant
As soon as you suspect a device or your network has been compromised, contact a skilled IT consultant who can begin the ransomware remediation process. When you’ve been hit with a ransomware attack, it can be an alarming experience that needs immediate action, but trying to troubleshoot the problem yourself could lead to further damage and loss of valuable data.
Recover Your Data
Finally, once the IT consultants and your team have successfully eliminated the ransomware, it’s time to recover your data. There are multiple ways to do this, each of which has its own benefits and drawbacks, but some of the most common include:
- Restoring your systems from backup: This of course depends on having regularly updated backups that are safely stored to avoid the possibility of being corrupted during a ransomware attack.
- Using a data recovery software: Depending on the type of ransomware, a data recovery software may be able to restore your files if they have been corrupted or deleted.
- Decrypting the ransomware: If your organization has been attacked by a well-known type of ransomware, you may be able to find a decryption tool that will restore your access to the encrypted files. However, these tools are increasingly uncommon as the sheer variety of ransomware expands.
Have You Been Hacked? Realnets Can Help
With ransomware attacks occurring more and more frequently, IT security measures like advanced firewalls, email scanners, and data backups are no longer nice to have, but essential to the security of your organization.
Even when your organization has taken steps to prevent ransomware, you could potentially be attacked, but data backups and other actions will make the recovery process smoother.
If your organization has been hacked, don’t wait or try to solve it yourself; contact Realnets’ team of IT experts to begin the ransomware remediation process as soon as possible.