Ransomware can be devastating if it catches you unprepared. If you’re ready to deal with it, however, you can get through even the worst incident without missing a beat. Here’s how
If you stop to think about it, the man who first invented ransomware was brilliant, in a twisted sort of way. An AIDS researcher by the name of Joseph Popp his rudimentary virus – known today as the AIDS Trojan – was distributed on more than 20,000 floppy disks. The ransomware market has come a long way since then, and it’s hard not to think that if not for Popp, someone else probably would have created ransomware eventually.
After all, businesses put a lot of effort into protecting their assets, and unless you already have a buyer lined up, it can be both difficult and risky to sell stolen data. There’s a lot more money – and a lot less effort – involved in just holding critical files hostage. Small wonder ransomware is such a booming industry, to the point that ransomware-as-a-service is becoming a thing.
If that doesn’t scare you, it probably should. The different breeds of ransomware on the market are even more varied than the number of attack vectors used to distribute them. And even the most well-defended systems can potentially fall victim to them.
Unless, that is, you take the necessary steps to protect yourself.
- Update. One of the most important steps in defending against ransomware – really, against any cyberattack – is by eliminating vulnerabilities in your software and hardware. And the best way to do that, nine times out of ten, is to update. The vast majority of cyberattacks target vulnerabilities that are years – sometimes more than a decade – old. That includes ransomware.
- Ensure Everything Can Be Air-Gapped. In the event that a system is compromised, you want to be able to take action immediately. Have something in place that allows you to immediately and remotely isolate that system from your network to prevent the spread of the ransomware to anywhere else.
- Maintain Regular, Isolated Backups. The best defense against ransomware is to ensure you’ll never have to pay the ransom. Keep automated, redundant backups of every critical file and system within your organization.
- Monitor and scan. As an addendum to the above, some savvy criminals have gotten wise to this, and designed ransomware that either remains dormant in a system for a certain amount of time or specifically targets backups. Ensure you constantly monitor your network for any suspicious activity, and perform regular malware checks – you want to catch such an infection before it has a chance to incubate.
- Train Your Employees. Last but certainly not least, teach your staff to recognize the telltale signs of a phishing email. Educate them in cybersecurity best practices so they won’t be played for fools by criminals seeking to exploit their ignorance.
At the end of the day, the trick to surviving a ransomware attack is to prevent the infection from spreading. To make it so difficult to infect your business with their software that criminals have no choice but to go elsewhere. Beyond that, it’s really just like any other disaster – a good disaster recovery plan, responsible employees, and robust backups will get you through relatively unscathed every time.
About the Author
Tim Mullahy is the Executive Vice President and Managing Director at Liberty Center One, a new breed of data center located in Royal Oak, MI. Tim has a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry.