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Ransomware: How To Protect Yourself From This Growing Concern!

Updated: Feb 2

Rans

Ransomware - Key for Cash

The 2017 WannaCry incident was a wake-up call for the world about ransomware attacks. It affected 230,000 computers across 150 countries and caused significant financial losses estimated to be in the millions of dollars globally.

However, ransomware is not all about paying ransom; victim organizations also suffer financial losses from downtime, the expense of getting their data back, and harm to their reputation. Additionally, it takes a personal and emotional toll on people and businesses.

Since cybercriminals are getting better at executing these attacks, people and organizations must stay alert and act to protect themselves. This blog will explain ransomware attacks, their impact, and how to defend against them.


What is a Ransomware Attack, and What is the Motivation Behind it?


A ransomware attack is a cybersecurity attack that encrypts data on a system or blocks its access. Cybercriminals who infect the network or computer demand ransom money from the victim in exchange for the decryption key.

Average ransomware costs about $4.54 million, whereas the gangs that carry out these attacks made a ransomware revenue of more than $400 million in 2020.

Cybercriminals can initiate ransomware attacks for one or both of the following reasons:

  1. Financial Gains: Many attackers find ransomware a way to line their pockets. They demand heavy ransom in exchange for the data they hold, and once the amount has been paid, they provide the decryption key to unlock the data.


  1. Disruption and Chaos: In some cases, attackers may want to disrupt critical services, cause chaos, or achieve specific political or ideological goals. However, these motivations are less common than financial gain.


Why Ransomware is a Growing Concern?


Ransomware attacks can have serious consequences for both businesses and individuals. They can shut down access to critical data and systems, preventing the users from operating efficiently.

These attacks can prevent businesses from serving their customers effectively, cause reputational damage, and cost a huge ransom. According to a survey reported by Sophos, it can cost an average of $1.82 million to recover from a ransomware attack in 2022. Moreover, 84% of private sector organizations hit by ransomware revealed that the attack has caused them to lose revenue due to lost business opportunities.

For individuals, ransomware attacks extend beyond the financial realm. These incidents often lead to personal data breaches, putting sensitive information at risk. Such breaches can have lasting consequences, including identity theft and emotional distress.


A Victim of a Ransomware Attack

Types of Ransomware Attacks

There are five most common types of ransomware attacks:

  • Crypto Ransomware: This is the most common type of attack that includes encrypting the victim's files or entire system, making them inaccessible until a ransom is paid to obtain the decryption key. Examples of this kind of attack include WannaCry and CryptoLocker.


  • Locker Ransomware: Locker ransomware locks the victim out of their system by changing the login credentials. Victims are then extorted for payment to regain access.


  • Doxware or Leakware: In this type of attack, cybercriminals not only encrypt the victim's data but also threaten to publish sensitive or confidential information online unless a ransom is paid. This can damage individuals and organizations concerned about data breaches and public exposure.

  • Mobile Ransomware: This targets mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, and typically locks the device or encrypts its data. Mobile ransomware often spreads through malicious apps or infected websites designed to target mobile users.


  • Ransomware as a Service (RaaS): In this attack, cybercriminals rent or purchase ransomware from developers, allowing even those with limited technical expertise to carry out attacks. It often includes customer support and profit-sharing with the ransomware developers.





How to Stay Protected Against Ransomware Attacks?


Ransomware attacks affect everyone; no one is safe, from small-medium businesses to large enterprises. It is, therefore, important to know the protective measures that can help you safeguard your sensitive data.

Following are some tips that can help you prevent these attacks:


Back-Up Your Data

Safeguard your files by regularly copying them to an external hard drive or cloud storage. If a ransomware attack occurs, you can wipe your computer and restore your data from the backup.

Follow the 3-2-1 rule for added security: keep three copies of your data on two different storage types, with one copy stored offline. Consider using an immutable and indelible cloud storage server for extra protection.



Keep Your Systems Updated


Always update your operating system, web browser, antivirus software, and other applications to the latest versions. Cyber threats evolve rapidly, so keeping your software up-to-date is important in preventing attacks.



Install Antivirus and Configure Firewalls


Comprehensive antivirus and anti-malware software are essential defenses against ransomware. You can also set up your firewall as a first defense against external attacks.



Network Segmentation

Network segmentation can limit the ransomware spread if it infiltrates your network. This divides your network into smaller sections with their security controls, preventing the ransomware from moving freely.


Email Protection


Be cautious with emails from unknown senders, avoid opening attachments or clicking links from unauthorized sources, and keep your email client updated. Use technologies like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC to enhance email security.



Application Whitelisting


Determine which applications can run on your network by creating a safelist. Only approved programs can execute, protecting your system from unauthorized or potentially harmful software.



Endpoint Security


As your business grows, secure all endpoints (computers, smartphones, servers) with endpoint protection platforms (EPP) or endpoint detection and response (EDR) systems. These safeguard remote devices and offer various security tools.



Limit User Access


Limit user access by implementing the principle of least privilege and restricting user access to sensitive data. Use role-based access control (RBAC) to grant specific permissions, minimizing ransomware's impact if it breaches the network.



Regular Security Testing


Continuously assess and update your security measures. Run cybersecurity tests to identify vulnerabilities, reevaluate access points, and create new security protocols. Sandbox testing is useful for evaluating malware in a controlled environment.



Security Awareness Training


Equip employees with cybersecurity knowledge to recognize and avoid threats. Training should cover safe web browsing, strong password creation, VPN usage on public networks, identifying suspicious emails, keeping systems updated, and maintaining confidentiality. Establish a reporting channel for suspicious activity.



Conclusion


Ransomware attacks are significantly growing, causing hefty financial losses, data breaches, and operational disruptions. The growing concern for ransomware arises from its increasing frequency, sophistication, and impact on individuals and organizations. As cybercriminals continually evolve their tactics, individuals and businesses must prioritize cybersecurity measures, maintain up-to-date backups, and stay informed about the latest threat landscape.



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