Ransomware Attacks Have Doubled in 2019. 5 Ways to Avoid Becoming a Victim
According to antivirus developer, McAfee, Ransomware attacks have risen 118% so far in 2019. Ransomware is one of the biggest malware threats that organizations face, and these attacks often cost them thousands of dollars.
Ransomware attackers target schools, hospitals, municipalities, and businesses of all sizes, there was even one school in New York state that had to delay the start of their school year due to a ransomware attack.
This type of attack mode banks on the fact that the victim won’t be able to easily recover from the loss of their data and would pay a ransom to get it back.
There are a number of IT security measures that can be taken to defend against a ransomware attack, but often companies neglect some of them and fall victim. Catastrophic data loss often causes smaller companies to go out of business, because they can’t recover from the losses.
The average cost of a ransomware attack is $133,000.
How can you build a strong defense against ransomware in your organization? By adopting a multi-layered approach that includes the following cybersecurity practices.
How to Protect Your Business from Ransomware
Ransomware is one of the most malicious forms of malware. It involves an infection of your device or network, typically via a phishing email. The infected code then encrypts all your files, so they’re unreadable.
The attacker will then send a request for a ransom to be sent in bitcoins or some other untraceable method and will promise to decrypt your files (basically releasing them back to you) once the ransom is paid.
How does ransomware get into a computer?
There are a number of entry points for a ransomware infection, these include:
- Malicious file attachment
- Link to a dangerous website that does a drive-by download
- Social media direct messages with malicious links
- Exploiting unpatched software vulnerabilities in computers and web servers
Protecting your network from ransomware involves several cybersecurity best practices that work together to safeguard your entire IT infrastructure.
1. Use a Reliable Backup and Recovery Tool
Data loss happens to companies regularly. Approximately 70% of businesses have experienced (or will experience) some type of data loss and 20% of small to mid-sized businesses will suffer a critical data loss incident every 5 years.
It’s vital that today’s offices to have a backup of all their data, including that in cloud-based platforms. This ensures your company can continue on in the face of a data disaster and it thwarts a ransomware attack by taking away their one point of leverage.
2. Invest in Anti-Phishing & Antimalware Applications with Sandboxing
You want to have two layers of defense when it comes to detecting ransomware and other forms of malware. You want an antimalware application that protects your network at large and an anti-phishing program that acts as an email inbox sentry.
For both these types of technologies, look for sandboxing, which uses machine learning and artificial intelligence. Sandboxing measures give applications the ability to identify threats through suspicious activity rather than just matching them to a known threat database. This allows for the identification of new Zero-day threats that are becoming more common.
3. Use Password Management Best Practices
Login credentials are a hot commodity for sale by the millions on the Dark Web. If a hacker has a legitimate login to your device or network, it means they can bypass your security measures to plant ransomware. By enacting strong password security, you end up addressing the most common cause of data breaches.
Best practices for password security include:
- Use of passwords that are considered “strong,” having at least 7-10 characters and that use a combination of letters, numbers, symbols, and both upper and lower-case letters.
- Adopting a password management application which helps users access all their strong and unique passwords by only needing to remember one strong password.
- Use of two-factor authentication (2FA), which requires another form of authentication at login, such as a code that’s sent via SMS.
4. Automating Your Patches and Updates
Major ransomware attacks and data breaches have occurred due to unpatched software vulnerabilities. For example, the Equifax breach that compromised millions of consumers’ sensitive data could have been avoided if a security update that had come out two months prior had been installed.
When you have several devices and employees at your business, it’s best to use an automated update process, such as one through a managed IT plan, to ensure vital security updates aren’t being put off until later.
5. Training Employees on Ransomware Identification
A common method of entry for ransomware and other malware is via the phishing attack. These emails have become very sophisticated and are difficult to spot, but there are some ways to identify them, such as:
- Hovering over links without clicking them to reveal the true URL
- Viewing the message source code to see where it’s really coming from
- Questioning emails that are out of the ordinary, like POs coming from a customer you’ve never heard of
- Getting a second opinion before you click a link or download an attachment
Doing regular cybersecurity training for your employees will keep them informed of the threats coming into their inboxes every day and help strengthen your overall data security defenses.
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