Ransomware attacks have emerged as one of the top information security threats in recent years. Research indicates that as of 2020, ransomware attacks have more than doubled in number. Regardless of their size, organisations across the world are targeted by ransomware attacks.
How Does Ransomware Work
The aim of a ransomware attack is simple - first gain access to one user's system and then quickly spread to other computers in the network, shutting down the entire network. Cybercriminals use sophisticated techniques such as encryption to illegally take control of systems, cut off access to systems and data, and disrupt business operations until a ransom is paid up.
To gain access to systems, hackers often use tried and tested scams such as phishing. The modus operandi is simple – send a phishing email to the user which looks like it's from a legitimate source. Get the user to click a link in the suspicious email. On clicking the link, the ransomware is downloaded to the system and is designed to spread throughout the user's network - encrypting files and data, rendering them inaccessible until the hackers' demands are met.
Cybercriminals target organisations deliberately - since business continuity is critical for them, they are more likely to pay off quickly to get operations back up and running.
Preventing Ransomware Attacks
When it comes to cyber-attacks, prevention is always better than cure. The best way to defend against a ransomware attack is by preventing them from ever entering your organisation. Hackers count on a few vulnerabilities for a ransomware attack to be successful – human error and weak system security.
Here are some practical tips on how to avoid these:
Beware of Suspicious Emails
Phishing emails are the number one source for delivering malware. You may have heard this too often, but it is worth repeating – always scan your email and make sure it is legitimate before clicking on any links. Look for the common red flags that can help you determine if an email is suspicious. Check the email address, to begin with, and look for signs of whether the email address could be fake. Scan the email for grammatical and punctuation errors. Always hover over links to check if they are malicious and intend to take you to an alternative web page. If the email contains attachments, check their file format such as ZIP files or files with unknown extensions.
Robust Security Measures
Cybercriminals rely on exploiting vulnerabilities in firewall security, email protection and endpoint system protection. By investing in a comprehensive network security solution, you can provide users with an extra layer of protection against the malware and ransomware attacks. An efficient network security solution should prevent malware attacks, encryption and data exfiltration. It should continuously detect and remove malicious software as well as preventing it from getting into the system in the first place. It should also monitor incoming and outgoing traffic on user devices through firewalls, blocking access to malicious content. As threats and malware are constantly evolving, installing security updates and keeping endpoint security up to date is also important. By regularly scanning your device and systematically removing malware, it makes it much harder for hackers to find access points.
Developing information security policies designed to protect businesses from known and newly discovered vulnerabilities is vital for ensuring business-wide awareness and compliance.
Human error is a common target for ransomware attacks, be it from opening unsafe email attachments or visiting malicious websites and downloading unsafe files. Employees are often responsible for inadvertently creating access points into systems and networks which cybercriminals exploit for ransomware attacks.
When it comes to ransomware attacks, it is the responsibility of all employees to keep the business secure. Educate employees and raise awareness on the importance of information security and the cyber threats they could face including risks from phishing and suspicious emails. Create a culture of compliance by enforcing accountability and shared responsibility around information security so that employees can spot and prevent ransomware attacks.