Top Best Practices for Ransomware Prevention In 2022
April 25 , 2022
08 mins 10 seconds
Despite the many dangers on the internet today, Ransomware strikes greater fear into the hearts of Internet users and IT security professionals. Cybercriminals may view your organization as a vulnerable target if they see your network is infected with Ransomware. Ransomware can shut down network entry points or operations, damage your reputation with customers and employees, and invite further attacks.
A ransomware breach is a massive problem that even the most vital cybersecurity infrastructure struggles to deal with, and there is no easy fix. In the good news, organizations can mitigate ransomware vulnerabilities by following suitable cyber hygiene measures such as employee training and deploying robust configuration management and security systems.
What exactly is Ransomware?
The term “Ransomware" describes malware that encrypts or locks valuable files on a network, undermining the network’s security. Ransomware attacks have grown in sophistication in recent years, and today they go beyond just encrypting data and systems.
Traditional: Advanced Encryption
When the first strains of Ransomware (e.g., AIDS Trojan) were used three decades ago, symmetric encryption was weak and could be undone with another effort. Still, nowadays, asymmetric encryption methods are virtually impossible to reverse. Ransomware gangs often encrypt and decrypt files using the most advanced encryption standards available today, like AES-256. Encryption advances are a blessing for most organizations – until it’s misused.
Now with Data Exfiltration and Double Extortion
Globally, top cybercriminal gangs have adopted Ransomware due to its success. On the dark web, you can buy ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS), whereas advanced persistent threats (APT) use Ransomware as one of their malicious tools. In today’s ransomware attacks, data is often stolen before encryption occurs. Furthermore, data exfiltration means the malicious actors can also threaten to expose sensitive data and the threat to leave files encrypted. Copying network data place the organization at risk of double extortion since the group could return at a later date and ask for more.
Ransomware: Am I at Risk?
Using traditional attack vectors, Ransomware breaches networks in the same way other malware does:
- Viruses, phishing attacks, malicious links, and social engineering
- Vulnerabilities in RDP and software
Hackers have increased their focus on vulnerabilities resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic. An increase in BYOD policies, a shift to remote work, and reliance on remote desktop software increased 600% in the number of malicious emails in the first few months of the pandemic. In the same way, as organizations move toward hybrid ecosystems, vulnerabilities in cloud-based storage and services are becoming apparent. Malicious actors can move laterally within your organization’s network without a comprehensive network segmentation or micro-segmented approach, infect endpoints and servers, and require a ransom to obtain access to your data without these policies.
Malicious Emails and Links
Ransomware can be challenging to combat due to the email attack vector. In the case of an attacker who is determined, they will almost certainly find a way to lure an employee. One common deception involves fake invoices, which can be difficult to distinguish from legitimate ones. Attackers can convince even sophisticated users to click on what seems to be a routine document. Enhance your team’s ability to spot such deceptions by understanding what a real invoice looks like, a key step in comprehensive cybersecurity. The best course of action is to prepare for the worst-case scenario and ensure that all necessary steps are taken to minimize the potential impacts.
Ransomware: How Does It Work?
An employee clicks unknowingly on malicious links or attachments in an email, which is a common way for criminals to infect an organization. In some cases, you may be sending emails to millions of potential victims or a specific individual within a particular organization.
Data encryption will be disclosed to the victim by the attacker. The victim must pay the attacker immediately to obtain the decryption key, often in cryptocurrency, which shields the attacker’s identity (but not the wallet address).
Once the initial ransom is not paid, usually within 48 to 72 hours, attackers often increase the ransom and threaten to erase data. A good faith negotiation cannot be expected of an attacker, so there is no guarantee he will provide the key after payment. Due to Ransomware’s ability to extract crucial information, including usernames and passwords, preventing ransomware penetration is a serious matter. To prevent these attacks, you must train your staff on email and network security and implement a robust backup program that ensures you always have a current copy of your data.
Ransomware prevention best practices
Ransomware can be prevented using a variety of measures with varying degrees of success. The following is a list of best practices you can follow to lessen your risk of ransomware attacks:
- Offline Backups
If you don’t store the backup offline, you could lose the data even with virtual backups. Backups should be made regularly, multiple copies saved, and data must be monitored to ensure accurate backups. Data restoration is often the best course of action after an attack, making backups crucial for ransomware protection.
- Staff Awareness
A baseline security measure is to raise awareness about Ransomware. A single employee could lower their guard and compromise an entire organization. As training sessions do little to influence the staff regarding every potential attack, adding security becomes more necessary.
- Spam Filter
More than 99% of malicious emails by cybercriminals never reach users’ desktops thanks to an effective spam filter that continuously adapts alongside a cloud-based threat intelligence center.
- Configure Desktop Extensions
Double-clicking executable files (those with an .exe extension) should not be encouraged. The file extension is hidden by default in Windows, so a malicious executable like “evil.doc.exe" can masquerade as a Word document called “evil.doc". This type of threat can be countered by always displaying extensions.
- Block Executables
- Restrict the use of elevated privileges
If the Ransomware includes code that increases a user’s privileges as a part of the attack, it can encrypt files only accessible by a given user on the system. This is where patching and zero trust come into play.
- Promptly Patch Software
The application of security patches is an essential security step, but breaches continue due to delayed patch updates. SolarWinds’ hack could have been prevented in 2020 if organizations had patched software promptly.
- Zero Trust
Zero trust gives your organization visibility and control, including the ability to stop Ransomware. Prioritizing assets, evaluating traffic, and microsegments are the subsequent three actions in zero trust architecture that significantly reduce your attack risks.
- Evaluation of traffic and prioritization of assets
The use of inventory tools and IOC lists can assist organizations in identifying their most valuable assets or segments. Looking at the entire picture gives staff a sense of how attackers could break into your network and gives them a better look at traffic flows. As a result, your team knows what segments require additional protection.
Microsegmentation is the best method for preventing lateral movement. In order to keep Ransomware from reaching what matters most, segmentation gateways and next-generation firewalls implement strict policies at the application level.
- Adaptive Monitoring and Tagging
When you’ve enclosed your most sensitive segments, you must monitor and adapt technology on an ongoing basis. Active workload tagging, threat hunting, virus assessments, and consistent selection for mission-critical applications, data, and services are among the tasks included here.
- Use a CASB
A cloud access security broker can protect your organization’s cloud infrastructure (CASB). In addition to providing visibility, compliance, data security, and threat protection, CASBs also enhance data security.
- Testing a rapid response
When systems are breached, your team must be prepared to restore the systems and recover the data. A solid incident response plan and digital forensics process should be implemented, along with pre-assigning roles.
- Sandbox Testing
Security analysts commonly use sandboxes to test new or unrecognized files. Sandboxes are safe environments, disconnected from the internet, where files can be tested.
- Anti-Ransomware Software should be updated.
Network software must be updated consistently, as noted. Those with existing intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPs), antiviruses, and antimalware software should consider this.
- Update Email Gateway
A secure web gateway (SWG) typically processes all emails on your network. You can monitor your emails for malware by continuously updating this server. It can be helpful for staff moving forward to be aware of trends in attacks on your organization.
- Block Ads
A pop-up ad blocker extension should be installed on every device and browser. If not blocked, malicious ads pose a long-term threat with the widespread use of the internet.
- Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) Restrictions
If you have remote workers or a loose policy regarding devices that can access the network, you might need the crackdown. Your network is at risk because of the unregulated use of new devices. One solution is enterprise mobility management.
- Forensic Analysis
Upon detecting Ransomware, a thorough investigation into its origin, duration in the network environment, and verification that all network devices have been affected should be carried out. Afterward, the task of preventing its return begins.
Why the use of Cloud PC is the safest for remote and hybrid work
Cloud PCs change the remote desktop experience by reimagining what and how it should be delivered, rather than simply shifting the legacy model to the cloud. Hybrid working conditions continue to become more common, and the companies that choose the more innovative workplace models will be in a strong position. Additionally, because SaaS services are always connected to the Internet, users always have access to the latest security updates. It is possible to deploy cloud PCs on public cloud networks in regions closer to each user, thereby eliminating the problem of latency.
Read more about Cloud PCs and why they are the ultimate VPN alternative to remote and hybrid work