Last year alone, ransom payments reached nearly $350 million in total, and the figure doesn’t even include unreported ransomware attacks.
Cybercriminals are now focusing their attention on SMBs, whose defenses often resemble Swiss cheese. In fact, two out of five SMB’s have fallen victim to a ransomware attack and were, on average, asked to pay $338,000 to decrypt their data.
It’s been four years since the WannaCry ransomware attack paralyzed more than 200,000 computers across 150 countries, but ransomware still remains one of the biggest cybersecurity threats out there.
6 Critical Cybersecurity Policies Every Organization Must Have
Must-Know Ransomware Prevention
If you haven’t yet experienced a close encounter with a ransomware attack, you can consider yourself lucky. But don’t expect your luck to last forever. To avoid becoming another headline, follow the five ransomware prevention steps described below.
Step 1: Prepare for the Worst by Implementing a Backup Strategy
Backups won’t prevent a ransomware attack from spreading across your network and encrypting all devices it manages to infect. However, they can greatly reduce its negative consequences by allowing you to quickly recover without paying the ransom.
Just keep in mind that not all backup strategies are equally effective when it comes to recovering from a ransomware attack. Unless files are backed up to a completely separate location, the backup copies can become encrypted as well, rendering them useless.
Cloud backup services are a great choice because they typically have built-in ransomware protection mechanisms as well as support for versioning. For example, when Microsoft 365 detects a ransomware attack, it displays a notification message and gives you the option to recover your files to a previous date.
Step 2: Close Known Security Gaps by Applying Available Patches
Most cybercriminals do what they do because they want to make a profit—not demonstrate their hacking skills. That’s why they’re always looking for the easiest way to infiltrate their victims, and there’s nothing easier than taking advantage of an unpatched vulnerability, such as the one that made it possible for cybercriminals to successfully target US-based hospitality businesses with Epsilon Red ransomware.
Patch installation can be a real challenge when employees are working from their homes, using a mix of personal and work devices. Fortunately, there are patch management solutions that can be deployed across corporate-owned devices and bring-your-own devices and used to keep all software running on them up to date.
Step 3: Educate All Employees on Cybersecurity
Most ransomware attacks can be traced back to an individual employee and their seemingly harmless decision to, for example, open an email message from an unknown sender or download a work-unrelated file from the internet.
To stop employees from making these and other potentially disastrous mistakes, it’s necessary to educate them on cybersecurity and, more specifically, ransomware prevention. Employees should be taught to recognize phishing attacks, which have come a long way since the days of Nigerian princes asking for small up-front payments in exchange for a large sum of money later on.
Employees must understand just how severe consequences their actions can have otherwise they won’t take cybersecurity seriously enough. Mock cybersecurity drills are a great way to accomplish this goal.
Step 4: Boost Your Cybersecurity Arsenal
When properly educated on cybersecurity, employees can turn from the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain into the strongest one. That, however, doesn’t make the human factor any more reliable. A tired employee who understands what cybersecurity threats are lurking in the shadows can make a critical mistake just as easily as an employee who believes that computer viruses are small microorganisms.
But ransomware prevention doesn’t have to rely solely on employees’ ability to recognize and avoid online threats. These days, there are many effective cybersecurity solutions that organizations of all sizes can deploy to strengthen their defenses, including antivirus software, firewalls, email filtering, endpoint protection, multi-factor authentication, and others.
Step 5: Perform a Vulnerability Assessment
The purpose of vulnerability assessment is to identify, quantify, and prioritize vulnerabilities in an IT system at a certain point in time. By performing a vulnerability assessment, you can discover and fix vulnerabilities before attackers notice them and exploit them to distribute ransomware.
Besides helping you detect security weaknesses before attackers do, vulnerability assessments also provide you with an inventoried list of all the devices on your network, which can be useful when preparing for future upgrades.
Ransomware Prevention with OSIbeyond
As effective as they are, the five ransomware prevention steps described in this article require a fair amount of technical expertise to properly implement—not something many SMBs have.
If you’re among them, then you shouldn’t attempt to prevent ransomware attacks on your own. Instead, you should partner with an experienced provider of enterprise-grade cybersecurity solutions designed for small to medium-sized organizations, such as us at OSIbeyond.
We can help you implement a robust backup strategy, make your life easier by equipping you with a modern patch management solution, provide your employees with security awareness training sessions that include simulated phishing tests, strengthen your defenses with effective cybersecurity solutions, and perform vulnerability assessments to identify the most relevant threats to your environment, among other things.
Get in touch with us, and let us make the implementation of an effective ransomware protection strategy our top priority.