Ransomware attacks continue to be a threat to organizations of all types and sizes. New hits occur on a near daily basis, with the latest incidents including hundreds of touchscreen ticket machines taken offline, and a law firm with dozens of major corporate clients. The Verizon 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) states, “The major change this year with regard to action types was Ransomware coming out like a champ and grabbing third place in breaches (appearing in 10% of them, more than doubling its frequency from last year).”
Ransomware has indeed been a “champ” in that it often defeats its targets. The best path to success is to not only work to prevent attacks from succeeding, but also have plans for recovering if they do. Download our eBook, “5 Essential Components of a Ransomware Protection Plan” to read tips for preventing ransomware attacks and coping with those that prevail. We’ll cover some highlights in this blog.
According to the McAfee Threats Report: June 2021, “Victims are paying the ransoms, and criminals are introducing more Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) schemes as a result.” Attackers are targeting organizations of all sizes and types, as well as all kinds of data. “The allocation of ransomware attacks remained somewhat evenly distributed between <business> size buckets” per Coveware’s Q4 2020 Quarterly Ransomware report. Small businesses are targeted because they are less likely to have dedicated IT staff, while mid-market companies have a greater capacity to pay.
5 Components to a Ransomware Plan
Plans for preventing and responding to ransomware attacks can be broken into five core components, which align with cybersecurity best practices, specifically, the NIST CSF (National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework) Cybersecurity Framework.
Start with a thorough understanding of the scope of your assets, systems, data, people, and capabilities. Risk tolerance varies for different organizations, so you must consider the risks to your organization, and the specific impacts of different systems being rendered inoperable. Consider any needs to comply with regulations such as PCI DSS.
Create technical and administrative safeguards to prevent a potential cybersecurity incident which can impact the delivery of critical services and business processes. Create safeguards that incorporate all the ways your business operates, and are appropriately sized, based on your assessment and risk tolerance, as defined in step one.
Important protection measures include:
- Least privilege (giving people only the permissions they need to get their job done)
- Role-based access controls
- Processes for reviewing vendors
- Utilize multi-factor authentication, among the FBI’s best practices to minimize ransomware risks
- Ensure your security solutions are up to date
- Antivirus (AV) software
Secure Common Ransomware Entry Points
Endpoints, specifically employee endpoints, are compromised more easily and are common ransomware attack vectors. This makes endpoint protection one of the most important components of ransomware prevention. The McAfee Threats Report: June 2021 states, “When it comes to the actual ransomware binary, we strongly advise updating and upgrading your endpoint protection, as well as enabling options like tamper protection and rollback.”
Keep your operating system and application software updated and patched.
3. Detect and Continually Improve
Implement the appropriate actions to identify abnormal or malicious activity in your environment. Detection enables timely discovery of cybersecurity events and includes security continuous monitoring.
Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)
As bad actors continually adapt their attack techniques, they can be successful in circumventing AV software. This is where Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) can help by looking for bad behavior and alerting the end-user or administrator.
Earlier warning of infection increases response time to stop the spread of the infection – and better yet – illuminate the exact timestamp of infection so that the exact recovery point is known.
Info security programs must be continually amended and updated. The NIST CSF framework is displayed in a wheel, visualizing this concept of constant improvement and adaptation.
Incorporate continual improvement plans to address gaps in your visibility and protections. Evaluate all of your alarms and monitors and confirm your responses and processes are optimized. For example, if you’re seeing numerous alarms for spam or malware, revisit step two and implement new security tools or alter your existing tools to improve your protections in light of these threats.
Develop and practice an incident response program within your organization that can be activated to help contain the impact of security events, including ransomware. You need visibility as well as processes for responding.
Specifically, aim to determine when the infection started so you know how far back to go for a clean restore. Prompt warning notifications are vital to enable administrative action in real-time and minimize the damage. Identify, isolate, and remove the infected computer(s). It’s also important to inform employees and provide a timeframe for restoration of affected systems.
Build a cyber resilience program, including a back-up and restoration strategy to restore core functionality and avoid the expense of hours of downtime. This must include protecting not just data stored on-premises, but in various cloud and SaaS providers.
With a backup and DR plan in place, you won’t need to pay the ransom to access your data and continue operations. Look for solutions such as Infrascale Cloud Backup (ICB) that are easy to deploy, install, and manage directly from one unified console.
For more, including tips on how to protect your business, download our eBook, 5 Essential Components of a Ransomware Protection Plan.”