One aspect of cybersecurity that deserves your attention is how to protect your company from ransomware. This type of malware acts just like the name implies – it holds your files for ransom. So how does it work? How do you protect your business and team from these types of attacks? We’ll explain that and more below.
What Exactly Is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a catchall term for a type of malware that locks you out of information or devices for a ransom. It works by encrypting files, applications, data, and databases so your team is no longer able to access them. If you want to get access back, they will demand you pay a ransom.
Anyone can be a target of ransomware, from businesses to cities to individuals. The Colonial Pipeline in mid-2021, for example, was required to pay a $4.4 million ransom to get access to critical operations. Major cities, including Baltimore and Atlanta, have been (successfully) attacked by ransomware over the years.
Failing to protect your organization from ransomware can prove to be extremely expensive, and that’s not including the ransom. Businesses will often lose out on money due to the fact they can’t service customers and continue normal operations while their files are encrypted by the hackers. And even if you decide to pay the ransom, that doesn’t mean the hackers will automatically supply you with a working decryption tool. They could disappear with your money and your system still locked.
How Are Organizations Targeted by Ransomware?
Ransomware can creep into your business in a number of ways, from realistic-sounding emails to remote access tools.
One of the most common ways ransomware targets a business is through phishing emails. In the past, these messages would often be rife with grammatical and spelling errors, making them easy to identify. However, in recent years, criminals have gotten much better at making the emails sound realistic. For example, they may be requesting a quote from your company or asking for other sensitive information.
These malicious emails will often contain an attachment or link that, if downloaded or followed, will install malware onto a device.
Drive-by downloading works in a similar way to emails. Websites can appear legitimate, but that’s not always the case. If a user visits one of these ransomware-infected sites, they could be unknowingly downloading malware or “exploit kits.” These exploit kits target vulnerabilities in your system or cybersecurity protocols. Even just looking at the page can cause the ransomware to be downloaded.
Remote Access Holes
Especially with the switch to remote and hybrid work, many businesses have holes in their remote access systems. Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), for example, is a popular tool of many companies that allow full access to a Windows computer over the internet. Yet some companies only have a simple-to-guess password that protects their RDP or other remote access tools, making it very easy for hackers to get in.
If a hacker gets through one of these remote access holes, it could prove easy to download malicious content onto one’s computer.
Why Do Businesses Fall Prey to Ransomware?
Even if an IT department knows what to look for when it comes to ransomware and has security features in place, malware can still slip through. Why? Because all it takes is one mistake. These are a few reasons ransomware continues to be successful:
There’s a Lack of Employee Training
One of the biggest reasons ransomware gets through cybersecurity protocols is a lack of employee training. Your IT department may know what to look for – but do each of your employees? It only takes one team member to accidentally let ransomware into the system.
They Contain Intimidating or Realistic Messages
Even trained employees can have a momentary lapse of judgment when it comes to malware attacks. Hackers are getting better at social engineering. Emails can often contain realistic-sounding messages that request you look at the attached document and supply a quote. Downloaded malware can also contain sentences like “Your computer is infected. Run a scan.”
These messages are designed to sound as normal as possible or instill panic. If an employee is tired, going through the motions of work, or simply alarmed at the intimidating message, the ransomware can slip through the cracks due to a single mistake.
Hackers Are Becoming More Sophisticated
Messaging has evolved, but so has hacking software. Hackers no longer need to be completely tech-savvy to initiate an attack. Ransomware products have become much more common and easily accessed. These are often known as Exploit as a Service or EaaS programs.
There Are Holes in Network Security
Other cybersecurity holes can lead to ransomware sneaking onto devices. These could include:
- Poor backup strategies
- No disaster recovery strategy
- Failing to update software and hardware
- Unnecessary user permissions
- Poor password management
- Failing to have an adequate cybersecurity strategy
What Can Businesses Do To Protect Themselves?
There are plenty of steps that businesses can take today that will help better protect them from malware and ransomware. Businesses should be:
- Updating their applications, software, and hardware as soon as possible
- Developing backup and disaster recover strategies
- This includes taking advantage of the cloud and similar tools
- Your plan should include what to do in the event of a ransomware attack
- Training employees on cybersecurity, ransomware, and malware
- Training should happen regularly to ensure team members are retaining the information and not becoming careless
- More vigilant about unsolicited emails or attachments
- If you have to open a JS file, for example, open it in Notepad.
- Keeping track of administrator rights and external network access
- Updating remote and hybrid work security protocols
- Developing a solid password management strategy
- Taking advantage of the latest tools in cybersecurity
- Working with IT services to elevate their cybersecurity and ransomware strategy
Nutmeg’s Network Security Services Make a Difference
When it comes to ransomware, you need an IT service provider that can keep an eye on your network, understands what to look for and how to react to a ransomware attack. That’s us. Nutmeg Consulting can help your organization develop strategies that keep ransomware at bay, and also work to train employees on the latest tactics and security features.
Our proactive approach allows your endpoint software, security operations center, and firewall to all communicate. In the event of a ransomware attack, AI and experts can detect the problem and cause the endpoint to isolate, protecting the rest of your devices and company.
We understand that it only takes one mistake to let ransomware into an organization’s doors. With both proactive and reactive strategies, though, Nutmeg Consulting can help ensure your business keeps operating even in the event of a malware attack.