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How to prevent and recover from a ransomware attack? – Digital Transformation News | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware


By Abhishek Srinivasan

Ransomware attacks are at an all-time high. A recent study shows that only 16% of the organizations attacked by ransomware were able to recover without paying a heavy ransom1. This stark statistic paints a picture of inadequate defenses against a catastrophic threat.

Ransomware is a crime where cybercriminals infiltrate networks, encrypt vital data, and demand a hefty ransom for its decryption. However, paying the ransom isn’t the solution. It financially empowers criminal actors and offers no guarantees of data recovery, leaving organizations vulnerable to further attacks.

Why is ransomware on the rise?

Ransomware used to be a threat only skilled hackers could conduct. However, the emergence of Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) has lowered the barrier to entry, allowing even the most novice hackers to conduct such attacks. These online platforms equip hackers with the tools and infrastructure required to conduct catastrophic attacks at scale, leading to a surge in attempted breaches.

Another factor contributing to the rise of ransomware attacks is the adoption of AI in crafting seemingly legitimate emails or communication content, encouraging users to download infected files or open malicious links via email, SMS, or other channels. Furthermore, AI facilitates automated targeting that scans vast datasets to identify potential targets based on vulnerabilities that hackers leverage to focus their efforts on the most lucrative targets.

How to recover from a ransomware attack?

Ransomware attacks can devastate businesses, encrypting vital data and disrupting operations. While prevention is key, having a well-defined recovery plan is crucial for minimizing damage and getting back online quickly. Here’s a step-by-step guide for recovering from a ransomware attack:

  1. Isolate the infected files and devices

The first and most crucial step in mitigating a ransomware attack is containment. This involves rapidly isolating infected devices and networks to prevent further spread and minimize damage.

Furthermore, all connected devices, such as ethernet cables and Wi-Fis, should be unplugged to prevent malware spreading. Finally, take precautions by turning off or isolating devices that might have interacted with the infected systems. This includes shared storage devices, printers, and other network peripherals.

  1. Implement the incident response plan (IRP)

In the face of a ransomware attack, the pre-defined incident response plan (IRP) becomes the roadmap to recovery. This critical document outlines the steps to take, roles and responsibilities, and communication channels involved in mitigating the attack and restoring operations.

  1. Recover from backup

Backups serve as the cornerstone of any ransomware recovery plan. However, simply having backups isn’t isn’t enough. Effective data restoration demands meticulous planning and swift execution.

It’s important to conduct selective data restoration to avoid unnecessary restoration of potentially infected files, minimizing the risk of reintroducing threats. Organizations should verify restored data for malware and corruption before integrating it with their systems.

  1. Contact law enforcement authorities

Organizations should report the incident to their local cybercrime authorities to report the crime and get the legal guidance to recover from the attack.

How to prevent ransomware?

The ransomware event is always distressing for businesses, impacting business continuity and hurting customer trust. Paying ransom isn’t an ideal option either, as this only encourages hackers to conduct further attacks and doesn’t guarantee data decryption. Therefore, here are five preventive measures every organization must take to mitigate ransomware threats:

  1. Regularly backup data

A well-defined backup strategy enables organizations to stay composed and focused in the face of an attack, knowing they have a reliable path to data recovery.

The key lies in identifying the ideal solution for your organization based on the volume of data, compliance, and other factors. Finally, testing data restore processes should be conducted continuously to ensure data indeed remains accessible in times of need.

  1. Employ cybersecurity hygiene practices

Preventing cyber threats in today’s day and age requires a proactive approach, including practicing cyber hygiene. Cyber hygiene is a set of practices that keeps data secure and prevents threats.

Some of these include implementing multi-factor authentication (with passwordless second factor), controlled user access, employing a zero-trust policy, fortifying network security, and strengthening application security with next-gen web application firewalls.

  1. Duplicate data offsite

One fundamental defense against ransomware is maintaining secure, regularly updated copies of your data offsite. This ensures this set of data remains unaffected by the infected system, and a swift recovery becomes possible. Remember, safeguarding these offsite backups is just as crucial as protecting your primary data.

  1. Ensure endpoint protection

Investing in robust endpoint protection and response (EDR) solutions continuously monitors incoming traffic and system activity for suspicious behavior and potential threats. These solutions swiftly isolate any malicious traffic detected, contain the attack, and alert the cyber security team.

  1. Employee awareness training

Lastly, educating employees on how such attacks can be conducted remains of utmost importance. With the use of highly sophisticated AI tools, even novice hackers can infiltrate networks to inject and spread malware, leading to demanding ransom for it.

Regular training ensures employees are aware and can take appropriate steps during the incident to mitigate threats.

Conclusion

Ransomware poses a clear threat to organizations of all sizes. The combination of data encryption and extortion demands can lead to severe disruptions, financial losses, and eroded customer trust. While the threat may seem overwhelming, taking preventive measures and implementing an incident response plan equips businesses to take the right steps to prevent adversity in the face of incidents.

The author is director product management, Array Networks

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