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Ransomware costs businesses and public institutions billions of dollars every year. In 2020 alone, cybercriminals used ransomware malware to extort over $20 billion in ransom payments from businesses according to Pentest.
Cases of high-profile ransomware attacks make the news every day. However, millions of other attacks go unreported because many victims are left with no options but to pay. As communication technologies become sophisticated, so does malware. Ransomware is particularly damaging because cybercriminals access data or computer resources and hold them hostage. This cripples operations and limits data access until the client pays the ransom.
Is there a way ransomware can be stopped?
Like every other threat, ransomware can be stopped; however, the best way to stop ransomware is to prevent it from infecting your computer or network in the first place. If your business can invest time, effort, and money in proactive protection against malware, you can have the peace of mind that your business and data are safe.
Ransomware is a sophisticated cyber attack and one of the most severe threats that businesses face today. Ransomware has grown from uncoordinated attacks hackers used to disrupt services a decade ago into a multi-billion-dollar industry that has even roped in states and organized criminals.
Cybercriminals that use ransomware are often indiscriminate on who they target. They attack businesses in all industries and all types of organizations. Their primary motivation is to make money and develop malware specially designed to target a business or organization.
The malicious software that contains the ransomware code is often downloaded onto an endpoint device, such as a laptop computer with network access or smartphone. Criminals may also gain access to the network by sending phishing emails with attached malware to staff. Once the code is downloaded onto the computer and run, it quickly seeks out memory, and network devices replicate and spread out.
Ransomware can cause irreparable damage to a business. A business that suffers from a ransomware attack may lose a lot more than its files and data. Productivity will be lost, customer data may be compromised, and resources and infrastructure may be rendered unusable.
This malware that targets critical elements of a business works. Ransomware code may take over critical network storage devices and system processes within seconds of infection. It may then leverage system resources to encrypt all the files it can find and find and erase any local backups within the system.
Ransomware does not stop there. It will also infect any removable storage devices such as thumb drives and network storage devices connected to the host machine or network. Once the encryption is done, the malware will generate a ‘cyber blackmail’ note with a ransom price and a way to pay with cryptocurrency.
While it is highly recommended that victims do not pay the ransom, most organizations and businesses that do not prepare for such an eventuality may be forced to pay. Unfortunately, when it gets to this point, a victim has few options and may be forced to pay the ransom.
Most attackers leave a communication channel through which the business can negotiate the ransom amount or request special considerations such as more time.
The key to stopping ransomware is to understand how it spreads. Ransomware malware spreads in two main ways:
Phishing and spam emails trick recipients into downloading attachments with malicious code.
Exploit kits that install the ransomware code onto the computer from an infected site.
Every business needs to have proactive security that ensures protection from ransomware malware. The best form of security should protect the computer system and network devices from the malware that may infect the system from different endpoints such as smartphones and removable drives. More importantly, it should make it possible for admins to monitor system security and quickly single out compromised or suspicious devices on the network.
Here are the five most effective solutions to stop ransomware.
1. Powerful Antivirus Security
Antivirus security should be your business’s first line of defense against ransomware. Strong security, preferably with an in-built firewall and real-time analysis, would be best to prevent malware. The antivirus software should continuously monitor all devices for malicious code and scan all downloads. Note, however, that antivirus is not always 100% successful against cybercriminals and new malware. This is why it is essential to update the software continuously.
2. Robust Email Security
Ransomware is most commonly delivered via email. Email security is critical to preventing malware sent as email attachments or download links from infecting a computer. A secure email gateway with intelligent analysis should help identify and sandbox threats before a user can access them. The right email security should also use Post-Delivery Protection technologies to provide users with some level of protection from phishing emails.
3. Data Backup and Recovery
Ransomware typically targets data stored in local systems. A ransomware attack is a success when the attackers access and encrypt valuable data in a computer system. One way to mitigate the losses resulting from a potential attack is to keep a copy of the data in a remote location to restore quickly in case of an attack. Today, it is standard practice for businesses to store real-time copies of their data in multiple locations, including local disks and the cloud.
Aside from these measures, it is also important to include security awareness training in a business’s ransomware security strategy. Attackers often exploit human weaknesses to gain access to a system. These may include appealing to emotions to get them to click a link or tricking them into revealing a password. Therefore, training staff to detect phishing emails and how to stay safer on the internet is critical to minimizing the chances of falling prey to ransomware attackers.
Ransomware is an industry on its own, presently wreaking havoc in the business world, but it is profitable. It is safe to say we will see more cases of businesses and organizations paying the huge price of ransomware.
You should stop ransomware from bringing your business down by learning more about the malware, the people behind them, and what tools you can use to protect your computers. Talk to the cybersecurity experts at Virtual-IT today to learn more on how to protect your business.