Ransomware: How to Protect Yourself


October 21, 2020

Securty7 Networks has PERSONALLY seen an uptick in ransomware attacks, and we’re not alone. Security professionals around the globe are facing the same issues.

According to a report by Bitdefender, there’s been a 715% INCREASE in Ransomware attacks in 2020 up to this point. Now to clarify, that doesn’t mean a 715% increase in successful attacks, but a 715% increase in attacks launched/detected/stopped.

On top of that, the average ransomware attack cost SMBs and SMEs up to $140,000 per instance in 2019. While it’s too early to tell how much that number has increased in 2020, one can only imagine the number is trending upwards.

I’m sorry if it sounds scary but with an increase like that, it’s not a matter of if you’ll be faced with a ransomware attack, but more likely when.

Now, don’t take this the wrong way. You do not need to go out and buy a small fortune worth of cybersecurity liability insurance or a mountain of cryptocurrency. You can protect yourself. Here are seven things you can do, or start doing, right this very moment to protect yourself and your business from a ransomware attack:

  1. Implement a Security Awareness Training Program – Someone wiser than I once told me ‘you can’t stop or avoid what you’re not prepared to handle.’ That goes for ransomware attacks.

    Most ransomware attacks are solicited through Social Engineering campaigns and are end-user initiated (i.e. you, a coworker, or employee). A good security awareness training program can help educate people and stop a ransomware attack before it can get a foothold in your IoT ecosystem.

  2. Email Inbox Security is Imperative – As stated above, a ransomware attack is usually end-user initiated. How? Typically via a malicious link or file embedded in an email.

    The attacker will trick their unsuspecting victim into clicking through and, well, it’s all downhill from there. By implementing things like DMARC or DKIM, or sign up for a service like Cyren’s Office 365 Inbox Security platform, you can stop some of these attacks before human error becomes a part of the problem.

  3. Next-Generation End-Point Protection – Traditional endpoint protection products rely on outdated means of detection (like looking for specific signatures).

    Newer products like Blackberry Protect (formerly Cylance) uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to determine whether or not software that’s trying to run on your machine is hazardous or not.

  4. Back-up your End-Points and Critical Data – This is a no brainer. Even with the risk of a ransomware attack, you should be backing up your important data. A ransomware attack is only deadly to an organization if they don’t have backups.

    Ransomware attacks encrypt your end-points and demand a ransom (duh) from the victim to get the decryption key. If you’ve got air-gapped, regular backups you don’t need to pay. You can simply restore your ecosystem to a period before it was infected.

    Just make sure backups are in a secure location, not normally connected to your network, and password protected.

  5. Whitelisting and Blocking the Known Bad – You’ve got a pretty good idea of what people in your organization should be looking at while they work, or what programs they use, or what devices can talk to over the internet. Take the time to whitelist approved applications and processes.

    Blocking the known bad goes hand in hand with whitelisting. Now, I don’t necessarily mean you should spend hours and hours blocking everything under the sun, or making sure your firewall’s traffic policy is tighter than a frog’s butthole, but you should take the steps to block traffic to and from countries known to be hazardous to an enterprise like Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, etc. You can check out this article if you want to learn more about that.

  6. Discover Leaked Credentials, Look for Exposed Super-Admins and Start Practicing the Principle of Least Privilege when it comes to Access Control – Pardon me, but we have to go back to human error and the part it plays in a successful ransomware attack, or for that matter, ANY kind of cybersecurity attack.

    We humans, as a species, are terrible when it comes to credential management and good password hygiene. We stink at it. But the first step in changing that is by acknowledging it. To help with this, you might want to start by running a dark web scan  on your email domain.

    If the scan does discover linked credentials take a good long look at the report and check it against your records to see what privileges those users might have. The Principle of Least Privilege is the belief that people should have access to as little as possible beyond what they need to do their day-to-day tasks. That includes administrators and other high ranking personnel.

  7. Make Sure you Monitor Your Files Around the Clock – Monitors your IT environment for changes to the critical OS, files, and processes such as directories, registry keys, and values.

    Watch for changes to application files, rogue applications running on the host and unusual process and port activity, as well as system incompatibilities.

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Carl Keyser is the Content Manager at Integris.

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