The ransomware threat is still active: Here’s what you should know | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

Several years ago, institutions everywhere were wary about the ongoing threat of ransomware attacks. This sensational coverage has died down slightly, but ransomware is still a very active and very real threat.

What should the average person and business know about ransomware to effectively guard against it?

Threats and Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is important for every individual and every business. No matter who you are, or what you do, you almost certainly rely on technology in at least some critical capacities. You store sensitive information on local drives. You use computers on a daily basis. You take advantage of cloud-based software platforms. You require internet access, and perhaps constantly.

If you’re using technology and are connected to the web, millions of people have the opportunity, remotely, to attempt crimes and schemes against you. They can attempt to steal your sensitive information, disrupt your business, or put themselves in a position where they can steal real assets and money from you. Cybersecurity is the only realistic way to prevent these threats from affecting you.

What Is Ransomware?

Ransomware is one of the most common types of cybersecurity threats in the modern era. Essentially, the goal is to use a piece of malware to deny access to an important piece of technology, or sometimes, an entire network. Cybercriminals lock down these important assets, effectively grinding a business to a halt or preventing people from accessing their most important files and information.

These criminals will, according to their own claims, release their grip and reallow access in exchange for the payment of a ransom, usually in untraceable cryptocurrency. If you pay the ransom, you may get access returned to you, but this is far from a guarantee; you’re dealing with nefarious criminals, so you can’t afford to trust this implicitly.

Why Ransomware Is Still a Threat

Why is ransomware still a threat after all these years?

  • Accessibility. First, it’s a highly accessible form of cybercrime. If a person is looking to profit from taking advantage of technological vulnerabilities, ransomware is a way they can feasibly do it. Even if they have no technical knowledge, they may be able to place a piece of ransomware on a laptop using social engineering or other low-tech methods.
  • Vulnerabilities. Ransomware is also appealing because it can take advantage of countless different types of vulnerabilities. Hardware vulnerabilities, software vulnerabilities, and even the gaps created by absentminded people can all be exploited in this pursuit.
  • Potential payoffs. Additionally, the potential payoffs of ransomware are enormous. If you’re able to take down an important network run by someone with deep pockets, you could easily make six figures or more with a single attack.

How to Protect Against Ransomware

Ransomware isn’t going away anytime soon, and a single attack has the potential to disrupt your business or render your technology inoperable indefinitely.

So how do you protect against ransomware?

  • Create consistent backups. The best thing you can do is create consistent backups for all your most important systems and information. This way, if you’re ever hit with a ransomware attack, you can simply revert back to a previous version and avoid disruptions. It might be an inconvenience, but it’s much better to have backups in this situation than to not have them.
  • Upgrade and update. Developers frequently offer patches to repair potential vulnerabilities that cybercriminals may exploit. However, to take advantage of these, it’s on you to keep your technologies upgraded and updated.
  • Use antivirus software. Antivirus software isn’t a perfect method of defense, but it does have the potential to allow you to detect and eliminate malware before it destroys or corrupts anything. Use it on a regular basis to perform scans.
  • Restrict permissions. The less information and control a user has, the less damage that user account can do if it’s ever compromised. Accordingly, you can guard against ransomware by restricting permissions as much as possible.
  • Be wary of suspicious files and drives. Sometimes, ransomware is installed on a network from a single email attachment or a foreign hard drive. Always be wary of suspicious emails, and never attach suspicious hardware to a company device or other important device.
  • Educate and train employees. Your company’s security is only as strong as its weakest link. Accordingly, it’s important to educate and train your employees to be wary of potential ransomware threats.
  • Create a response plan. Hopefully, your business will never have to endure a ransomware attack. But if it does, you’ll need to be ready. Create a response plan, proactively, so you can fight back against a ransomware attack in progress.

There’s no such thing as a foolproof cybersecurity strategy. There will always be vulnerabilities and weaknesses that cunning ne’er-do-wells will be able to exploit. However, with greater awareness and proper planning, you’ll be in a much better position to resist and eliminate ransomware threats.

This article was written in cooperation with Craig Lebrau


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National Cyber Security