Wednesday, 17 Jul 2024
Technology

How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks: Top Best Practices

among the following, which is the best protection against ransomware?

As technology continues to advance, it is crucial to keep up with cybersecurity practices, especially in protecting against ransomware attacks. Ransomware defense should be a top priority for individuals and companies alike, as the consequences of poorly protected systems can have severe and irreversible impacts.

According to Cybersecurity Ventures, there was a ransomware attack every 11 seconds in 2021, resulting in nearly $20 billion in damages. These attacks mainly target victims who are most likely to pay the demanded ransom to regain access to their data.

In this article, we will explore the best practices to protect your data and prevent ransomware attacks. By following these practices, you can stay proactive and safeguard your information from potential threats.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a sophisticated type of malware that infects computers and holds sensitive data or personally identifiable information (PII) hostage until a ransom is paid. Cybercriminals use encryption techniques to restrict data access and extort money from their victims.

Ransomware attacks pose a particularly significant threat to businesses, hospitals, schools, and other organizations that rely heavily on their data. Failure to pay the ransom can result in permanent data loss or the exposure of confidential information.

There are various ways people can become infected by ransomware, including phishing emails, visiting corrupted websites, downloading infected files or attachments, system and network vulnerabilities, and remote desktop protocol (RDP) attacks.

Types of Ransomware

Ransomware attacks can affect anyone, from individuals to large corporations. This malware can encrypt individual files or entire databases, leading to data breaches or the exposure of sensitive information. The four main categories of ransomware are:

  1. Encryption: This is the most common type of ransomware that encrypts data and makes it impossible to unlock without a decryption key.
  2. Lockers: Lockers restrict the use of a computer, making it impossible to work or use basic functions until the ransom is paid.
  3. Scareware: Scareware attempts to scare users into buying unnecessary software. Pop-ups flood the screen, forcing the user to pay to remove them.
  4. Doxware/Leakware: Doxware or leakware threatens to leak personal or company information unless the ransom is paid.
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10 Best Ransomware Prevention Practices

Fortunately, there are numerous ways to protect yourself from ransomware infections. By following basic cybersecurity practices and staying proactive, you can minimize the risk of falling victim to any ransomware threats. Here are the top best practices:

1. Backup Your Data

Backing up your data is one of the simplest and most effective risk mitigation practices. Regularly back up your data to an external hard drive or cloud server. In the event of a ransomware attack, you can wipe the infected computer and reinstall the backup files. Aim to back up your most important data at least once per day.

A popular approach is the 3-2-1 rule: keep three separate copies of your data on two different storage types, with one copy stored offline. You can also add an extra layer of protection by storing another copy on an immutable (unalterable) and indelible (cannot be deleted) cloud storage server.

2. Keep All Systems and Software Updated

Always keep your operating system, web browser, antivirus software, and any other software up to date with the latest versions. Cyber threats, including malware and ransomware, continuously evolve with new variants that can bypass outdated security features. Regularly updating your software ensures you have the necessary patches and protections.

Attackers often target businesses that rely on outdated legacy systems that have not been updated for some time. The infamous WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017 crippled major corporations worldwide, including NHS hospitals in Great Britain, Spanish telecommunications company Telefónica, and Apple chip supplier TSMC. Over 230,000 computers were affected globally. The attack exploited outdated versions of Microsoft Windows, despite a patch being available. This incident highlighted the importance of promptly updating systems.

3. Install Antivirus Software & Firewalls

Comprehensive antivirus and anti-malware software are essential defenses against ransomware. These tools scan for, detect, and respond to cyber threats. Additionally, configure your firewall to protect against external attacks. Antivirus software works internally and can detect attacks once they are already in the system. Firewalls act as the first line of defense, filtering and blocking suspicious data packets from entering the system.

Beware of fake virus detection alerts, especially through emails or website pop-ups. Verify directly through your antivirus software before clicking on any links.

4. Network Segmentation

To limit the spread of ransomware within a network, implement network segmentation. By dividing the network into smaller networks, you can isolate ransomware and prevent it from affecting other systems. Each individual subsystem should have its own security controls, firewalls, and unique access to prevent the spread of ransomware. Segmented access not only prevents the spread to the main network but also provides the security team with more time to identify, isolate, and remove the threat.

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5. Email Protection

Email phishing attacks are a common method of spreading malware and ransomware. In 2020, phishing was reported as the top ransomware delivery method, resulting in over $4.2 billion in loss or theft. To protect against email-based attacks, follow these precautions:

  • Avoid opening emails from unknown senders and clicking on attachments or links from unauthorized sources.
  • Keep your email client apps updated to mitigate security vulnerabilities.
  • Use email authentication techniques like Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), and Domain Message Authentication Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) to verify the authenticity of emails.

6. Application Whitelisting

Whitelisting allows you to determine which applications can be downloaded and executed on your network. By only allowing authorized programs, you can prevent accidental downloads of infected programs or visits to corrupted websites. Consider using whitelisting software like Windows AppLocker, which allows you to blacklist specific programs and websites as well.

7. Endpoint Security

Endpoint security is crucial, particularly for businesses with multiple end-users. As the number of endpoints increases, so does the potential for criminals to access private information or compromise the main network. Install endpoint protection platforms (EPP) or endpoint detection and response (EDR) systems for all network users. These technologies enable system administrators to monitor and manage security for each remote device. EDR focuses on responding to and countering immediate threats that have infiltrated the network.

EPPs and EDRs typically include antivirus and anti-malware tools, data encryption, data loss prevention, intrusion detection, web browser security, mobile and desktop security, network assessments, and real-time security alerts.

8. Limit User Access Privileges

Limiting user access and permissions to only the data they need is an effective way to protect your network and systems. Follow the principle of “least privilege,” which ensures that users can only access essential data. Implement a role-based access control (RBAC) policy to define the functions and resources each user can access. This approach assumes that internal and external users cannot be fully trusted and requires identity verification at every level of access. Two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds an extra layer of security.

9. Run Regular Security Testing

Cybersecurity is an ongoing process, and strategies must continually adapt to evolving threats. Regularly conduct cybersecurity tests and assessments to identify vulnerabilities, evaluate user privileges and access points, and create new security protocols. Sandbox testing can help test malicious code against current software in an isolated environment to ensure that security protocols are effective.

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10. Security Awareness Training

Security awareness training is critical for end-users and employees who are often targeted in cyber attacks. Training users with basic cybersecurity knowledge can greatly reduce the risk of successful attacks. Some essential training practices include safe web surfing, creating strong passwords, avoiding public Wi-Fi, recognizing suspicious emails or attachments, maintaining updated systems and software, confidentiality training, and providing an emergency reporting channel for suspicious activity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What should I do if I become a victim of a ransomware attack?

A: If you become a victim of a ransomware attack, there are immediate steps you should take:

  • Do NOT pay the ransom: Paying the ransom encourages attackers to continue their criminal activities, and there is no guarantee that paying will provide a working decryption key. Free ransomware decryption tools are available for certain types of ransomware, but it is crucial to have data backups.
  • Isolate infected systems: Disconnect the infected device from the network and all wireless connectivity to prevent further spread within the network.
  • Identify the source: Determine where the malware originated from to locate the entry point and improve security practices.
  • Report the attack to authorities: Report the ransomware attack to law enforcement agencies for investigation. They may have access to advanced recovery tools and software not readily available to organizations.

Conclusion

Preventing ransomware attacks requires a proactive approach that includes regular data backups, keeping systems and software updated, installing antivirus software and firewalls, network segmentation, email protection, application whitelisting, endpoint security, limiting user access privileges, running security testing, and providing security awareness training.

By following these best practices, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to ransomware attacks and protect your data from potential threats. Stay prepared and informed to ensure the cybersecurity of yourself and your organization.

Continue learning about ransomware attacks:

  • The Ultimate Ransomware Security Guide for 2023
  • What is Double Extortion Ransomware?
  • How to Decrypt Ransomware (with 100% Free Tools)
  • What is Ransomware as a Service (RaaS)?
  • Ransomware Attacks Vs. Data Breaches: What’s the Difference?

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