By |Published On: December 27th, 2023|12 min read|Categories: Ransomware|

How to Prevent a Ransomware Attack on Your Business

Ransomware is one of the most nefarious types of cyberattacks a criminal can instigate. Growing in both popularity and severity throughout recent years, malicious threat actors are attempting to target files, systems and networks, all in the hope of achieving a ransom payment from their victims to regain access.

However, data encryption isn’t the biggest ransomware repercussion faced by organizations anymore. Firms have learned to create comprehensive backups which help to reduce the time needed to restore stolen data and eliminate malware from systems.

In 2023, the most significant threat posed by ransomware is data exfiltration. Also referred to as data loss, data exfil and data leakage, this is the theft of information or data from an electronic device. Perpetrators typically leverage their position by either extorting the owner for a ransom, selling the data to another party, or in some cases, both.

Ransomware is a form of malware – ‘ransom malware’ to be precise – that infects a network or device. Once inside, it will encrypt the data and manipulate it digitally so the rightful owner can no longer gain access. Criminals could also exfiltrate your data and use it to demand payment.

Additionally, these attacks are becoming more complex and cybercriminals are developing more advanced techniques, so a ransomware infection can spread from one endpoint to an entire network almost immediately.

Given the significant threat posed by ransomware groups to businesses across all industries, there has never been a more important time to ensure your data is protected from malicious third parties. From preventative measures to staff training, there are plenty of steps you can take to bolster your defenses and deter attackers from targeting your business in the first place.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is an attack in which criminals encrypt and exfiltrate confidential information, before holding it ransom by demanding the victim makes a payment in order to regain access.

Threat actors achieve this through the use of highly specialized and complex tools. The risk of falling victim to a ransomware attack is growing, as criminal groups are evolving, recruiting technically gifted members and taking advantage of more advanced software.

Due to the size and scale of ransomware attacks, they are usually orchestrated by organized hacking groups. These attacks, especially when targeting a large business, require a high level of technical expertise, as well as significant knowledge of managing lucrative sums of cryptocurrency in a way that doesn’t expose them after an attack.

The severity of ransomware attacks is so great that billions of dollars are stolen in this way each year. Criminals often target organizations and governments, but individuals and their families can just as easily fall victim.

Many of the tools used by ransomware criminals can be acquired easily on the dark web and can then be used to develop new malware samples on demand. Combined with an influx of new technologies and techniques, ransomware is a threat that simply can’t be ignored.

Should You Pay the Ransom?

Paying a ransom isn’t as simple as it first appears. In fact, if you decide to appease criminals with a payment, there is still no guarantee they will actually return the stolen data. Alternatively, they could take your money and decide to sell your information on the dark web.

In this scenario, your sensitive lost data could end up in the hands of another cybercriminal. Here, paying won’t solve your problem and you’ll have lost both your valuable information and the money you spent attempting to retrieve it. Even worse, you may have a target on your back as someone who can be easily manipulated to pay a ransom and, therefore, suffer a repeat attack.

Research has shown that 80 percent of ransomware victims who paid were then hit by a subsequent attack. This highlights the fact that most businesses that pay do so because of the significant disruption caused by the hack – they feel there is no other choice.

Unfortunately, previously common measures, like reverting to backups, are not always sufficient for recovery anymore, especially where critical files have been encrypted by threat actors. Many demands will share samples to prove they have the data, as plenty of victims tend to think it’s a bluff or they have a rigid enough defense plan anyway.

Other threats could include launching DDoS attacks to further disrupt an organization and the exposure of firms to regulatory action. With ransomware attackers, the clock is always ticking and businesses that suffer at their hands must make decisions quickly.

How Can You Tell if You Have Been Hit by Ransomware?

The disruption caused by a ransomware attack can vary, although, on a global scale, they are becoming more severe. Threat actors stand to make a lot of money through their criminal efforts and, especially with larger targets, this means technical proficiencies and innovation are required.

For many victims, the first concern will be the financial aspect. According to research from IBM and the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a data breach in 2023 stands at $4.45 million, which is the highest ever. Moreover, By 2035, financial expenditure on mitigating cyberattacks is expected to hit $10.5 trillion annually.

But the cost of a data breach isn’t the only disruption, as associated with it is also organizational downtime. Another IBM report stated the average breach cycle lasts for 287 days – 212 before a business detects an attack and 75 to perform mitigation tactics.

Unfortunately, the longer it takes you to deal with cybercriminals, the more it’s going to cost. The Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023 revealed firms that neutralize attacks within 30 days save more than $1 million than those that take longer. Currently, the average cost of downtime is $5,600 per minute, according to Gartner.

On top of cost and downtime, a successful data breach can also cause significant damage to an organization’s reputation, especially in the eyes of consumers, who are reluctant to trust firms that have previously had confidential data stolen.

What Are the Best Strategies to Fight Ransomware?

When it comes to ransomware recovery, prevention is your best line of defense. Hackers are sophisticated and it’s never going to be possible to guarantee 100 percent ransomware protection, but there are certainly steps you can take to minimize your risk.

What Are Some Preventative Measures for Ransomware Attacks?

If you want to know how to prevent ransomware, the best place to start is to implement comprehensive endpoint security solutions, as that’s where attackers will be attempting to gain access to your network in the first place.

But, although an ideal start, this alone isn’t enough to form a solid defense against hackers. Every business should invest in a variety of tools, including email security software, antivirus software and firewalls to help protect against vectors like a phishing email.

However, you must be prepared for the worst-case scenario, and, in the case of ransomware, this means expect data to leave your business at some point. Unfortunately, since the rise of hybrid and remote working patterns, organizations are facing more risk than ever before when it comes to their endpoints.

As such, Anti Data Exfiltration (ADX) solutions can prove invaluable in preventing ransomware attacks. These technologies constantly monitor endpoints for unusual and potentially malicious activity, and will automatically stop any attempts by criminals to exfiltrate data, which means threat actors are left with minimal leverage to demand payment.

How Can You Train Employees to Deal With Ransomware?

Educating your employees is one of the most effective methods to prevent a ransomware threat. However, Statista research highlighted that 78 percent of UK CISOs claimed human error to be their biggest cybersecurity vulnerability.

The majority of staff won’t have anywhere near the knowledge of the current threat landscape that IT specialists will, so the risk of cyberattacks won’t often be at the front of their minds unless they undergo regular training activities.

When designing your own employee cybersecurity training program, there are certain goals that any business could consider, such as:

  • Educating staff on the latest threats
  • Ensuring employees practice the basics, like safe web browsing, use of strong passwords and recognizing suspicious emails
  • Instilling confidence in workers to report unusual activity

Once you’ve outlined specific objectives that you wish to achieve with your security awareness training program, there are certain areas you may wish to focus on.

Phishing Training

Despite being one of the oldest tricks in the cybercriminal playbook, a standard phishing attack continues to be a highly effective method of gaining unauthorized access to otherwise confidential data.

Phishing is so efficient as a criminal tactic because threat actors pose as a trusted source and, with the boom of accessible AI technologies, detecting attacks is more difficult than ever before.

This means phishing awareness training is the best way to teach employees to identify social engineering attacks. Many programs include real case studies that led to genuine attacks, which helps to underline how important authentication is. This could involve verifying the sender’s information, analyzing the content and only clicking on links when certain the sender is who they appear to be.

Malware Training

Malware (malicious software) is designed to exploit or damage enterprise systems. It can take many different forms, from worms to trojans, and if exposed to a single device on your network, could infect your entire business through a simple email attachment, a malicious attachment, a website link or an external device, such as a USB drive.

A rigid staff security training program should cover the multiple ways employees can enforce preventative measures, like implementing software updates and avoiding suspicious links and downloads.

Ransomware Training

Given the severity of attacks in 2023, ransomware prevention training should be a focus for any business. This involves mitigating risks through measures like regularly creating backup data and reporting any suspicious activity to your IT professionals or managed service provider.

What is Anti Data Exfiltration Software?

Unfortunately, training staff on how to deal with ransomware won’t be enough to stop an innovative threat actor from gaining unauthorized access to your data.

Prevention is the best remedy, which means companies should be investing in tools that guard endpoints against exfiltration threats, essentially cutting cybercriminals off before they can remove information from your organization.

ADX technologies offer this function, but the market for cybersecurity tools is difficult to navigate. Unlike other data protection software, BlackFog’s layered approach can identify unusual activity in real-time, preventing exfiltration attempts before threat actors have a chance to steal your data and leverage it for a ransom payment.

With a comprehensive endpoint defense platform to protect against the removal of sensitive data, BlackFog’s ADX solution is the perfect partner for your cybersecurity team to stop bad actors in their tracks when they try to remove your data.

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