How To Prevent Ransomware Attacks From Impacting Your Vancouver Business

Everyone seems to be talking about ransomware attacks, but how many know how an attack plays out? At first, people would start to use their computers but receive a message explaining that the data would not be available unless a ransom was paid. The attack could be countered by having a backup of the software or finding a decryption key.

When the basic approaches failed, cybercriminals became more creative. Today, there are at least four phases that a ransomware attack may go through in an attempt to extort funds.

  • Phase 1.  Ransomware is loaded on a system. Hackers encrypt production and backup files, display the ransom note, and wait for the Bitcoin payment.
  • Phase 2. Follows phase 1 but extracts data from the system. Hackers threaten to expose the stolen data on the Dark Web if the ransom is not paid.
  • Phase 3. Follows phases 1 and 2. Hackers then threaten a distributed denial of service, meaning they will ensure that no one can access the system.
  • Phase 4. Follow phases 1 and 2. Bad actors may threaten phase 3, but they do send emails to victims of a breach.

Cybercriminals know that companies do not want a lapse in cybersecurity to become the first item on a news feed. So, they escalate the demands, hoping that the target will pay the ransom.

Is Your Business a Target?

Everyone connected to the internet is a target. With a cyber attack attempted every 11 seconds, no one is immune. Businesses need to build defences to protect against an attack, but they also need to establish procedures in case an attack is successful. What a target does in response to an attack can minimize its long-term impact.

According to IBM’s 2020 Data Breach Report, a cyberattack can impact an organization two or three years after the event. Depending on the industry, organizations may incur fines and penalties for infrastructure violations; plus, there’s the cost associated with re-establishing trust with customers. That’s why it’s crucial to ensure the following actions are performed to prevent ransomware attacks.

Update Software and Firmware

Companies frequently release patches, updates, or fixes to products. When they do, be sure you update your system immediately. These updates often contain fixes to known vulnerabilities. Cybercriminals troll the internet looking for vulnerabilities that have not been patched. A recent study found that 60% of breaches were the result of vulnerabilities with a patch available but not applied.

Educate Employees

Employees are a business’s first and last line of defence. People share credentials, use weak passwords, and click on links without thinking. These are paths that bad actors take to compromise a system. For example, 94% of ransomware is delivered by email. To ensure that employees do not accidentally click on a link or download an attachment, businesses need to keep staff informed of the latest cybersecurity threats.

People should be reminded of security precautions. In the middle of a hectic workday, it’s easy to skip over basic email checks unless it has become a habit. Helping employees develop good cyber hygiene minimizes the risk of a cyber incident.

Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Compromised credentials led to 61% of attacks in 2020. Hackers use phishing and social engineering to trick individuals into sharing credentials. Many businesses have a standard for usernames such as first initial, last name, which is not difficult for a bad actor to guess. If the password is equally weak, it doesn’t take long before an employee’s credentials are breached.

MFA reduces the possibility of unauthorized access. Employees enter their usernames, which triggers the system to send a passcode to the employees’ smartphones. They enter the code and are granted access. It’s unlikely that a hacker has access to an employee’s username and cell phone.

Use Least-Privilege Access

If hackers manage to pass MFA, the least privileged model limits where within the system they can go. Rather than giving users access to everything they could possibly need, least-privilege models, restrict access to only resources needed for routine tasks. Additional privileges may be granted on an as-needed basis with time limits on how long the access is valid.

Restricting access also enables IT departments to identify suspicious activity. A user who suddenly tries to access an unauthorized resource may be a hacker in disguise. The user can be quickly locked until properly identified.

Maintain Offsite Backups

Today’s ransomware attacks all backups that are on the system before moving to production data. This process eliminates the target’s ability to circumvent the ransom demand. Keeping a local backup is fine for those times when a file or application needs to be restored; however, an offsite backup is essential to protect against a ransomware attack. It also services as a resource should an unexpected disruption impact operations. A backup strategy should be part of any business continuity plan.

Monitor Network

Organizations should have cybersecurity tools to help them monitor and protect their network. Whether it’s anti-virus software or vulnerability testing, IT departments have cybersecurity tools that can help monitor the system. With more businesses moving to a hybrid work environment, network monitoring has become more crucial and more difficult. The infrastructure is no longer concentrated in a central location; instead, it can be distributed across countries and outside of borders.

Enlist Assistance

Unfortunately, hackers never sleep. There’s always someone scouring the internet for opportunities. That makes preventing a ransomware attack a daunting task. For many organizations, the solution includes a third-party service provider that can help establish a strong infrastructure to protect against malicious attacks.

Managed security service providers can help with vulnerability assessments, deploy MFA solutions, and work with organizations to create the least privilege model. They can deliver scheduled offsite backups to ensure your data is protected. Many can help develop a disaster recovery plan for security incidents and other business disruptions.

Why not enlist the help of a managed security services provider who can secure your environment and free staff for mission-critical tasks? If your offices are in the greater Vancouver area, contact us to set up a consultation.