The market for ransomware has become particularly well-financed in the past two years and a number of criminal organizations employ sophisticated tactics to target specific PCs and seat back doors into corporate networks. The overall goal of many ransomware attacks is to cause the maximum amount of chaos and to encrypt a large number of devices in one single attack.
It’s not just criminal organizations that are using the power of ransomware in order to profit, a number of organized hacking groups are also banding together in order to profit from large-scale organizations. Ransomware has led to a true arms race between malicious parties attempting to compromise a series of systems and businesses as well as for individuals. Having an appropriate defense for ransom or attack is crucial to protecting your data online. Ransomware prevention and learning how to protect against ransomware can minimize your chance for attacks and the chance that you could be compromised.
What is a ransomware attack?
Ransomware is defined as a type of malware that typically infects a computer and encrypts a series of data or threatens to publish the victims data until a ransom is paid. The malicious program will essentially lock up a device and require the victim to post the payment to a specified account usually via bitcoin or through some type of digital transfer. Ransomware attacks have been occurring since the year 1989 and there are a number of ways that you can protect yourself against a ransomware attack.
How to protect yourself from Ransomware:
Installing Ransomware protection:
Any device where you access financial data should be equipped with antivirus software. Installing antivirus software can be an excellent way that you can prevent the chance of a malicious attack as well as stop ransomware in its tracks. As soon as you receive a malicious file, these applications can monitor and alert you of unexpected behavior. If a strange new piece of software has found its way onto your machine and begins to encrypt your files, it can be isolated and then placed in a partition on your hard drive or permanently deleted by the program.
Regularly updating your antivirus:
Ransomware protection in the form of antivirus software is something you need to regularly update. As ongoing threats are regularly changing, you’ll need to make sure that you are running the latest software on the market. Most antivirus manufacturers will be regularly updating their software to make sure that it can protect against the latest threats. Using an out of date form of software could lead to a number of security vulnerabilities across your device. Something as simple as quickly updating your machine once a week can help to prevent a series of ransomware attacks by ensuring your antivirus software is well-equipped for detecting these threats as soon as possible.
Monitoring network behavior:
An important security tool that many small businesses use comes down to detection systems that use security information and event management. In order to protect against ransomware, monitoring network behavior can be an excellent way to learn what is accessing the Internet on your device. If one of these monitoring programs recognizes a connection that is determined to be malicious or a connection that is far outside the norm of a typical online connection, the connection can be quickly severed. These types of software can monitor network behavior in the background as you continue your workflow. The overall goal of these pieces of software is to ensure that you can continue to operate your device as normal as well as receive updates when unusual behavior occurs related to your network. As most ransomware programs will need to access another device in order for the hacker to send off the ransom, ongoing monitoring of your network behavior can often prevent the program from activating.
Upgrade your Spam filter:
One of the most popular places for devices to receive ransomware is through e-mail correspondence. If your small business and you have ongoing problems with staff clicking on ransomware links from email links, you can work at upgrading your email filtering. Taking care of phishing and ransomware scams before they actually reach staff can be an appropriate response that will prevent attacks before they happen. It can take some time for your IT department to upgrade your spam filters and you may even want to consider a third-party email client that has some presets available for security and isolation on any type of spam emails coming in.
Have a security plan in place:
Preparing for the worst-case scenario is also important. If ransomware affects a device within your business or one of your personal devices, you need to be prepared for that particular technology disaster. It’s important to have a plan for your IT department as well as some of your personal finances and data. Cloud backups, a plan for updating your clients or regulators are all important to managing ransomware or lost data. Most businesses need to have some type of IT security plan in place to prevent losses and downtime.
Don’t give in to demands:
If a ransomware attack has found its way past all of your ransomware protection, it can often be tempting to simply pay the fee if it is low enough. Even if the amount seems to be a relatively small amount that can get you up and running quickly, it’s important not to give in to these demands. There’s no guarantee that any malicious party will hand over encryption keys or attack you again now that they know their way around your defenses. What often happens in these cases is a company or individual will pay the first small ransom and then receive threats later on requiring an even larger payment.