Protecting Business From Ransomware Attacks

ransomware attacks

When it comes to protecting your business from exterior threats, malware is one of the most important risks to focus on. More specifically, businesses should assess how vulnerable they are to a ransomware attack.

Having a proper contingency plan in place is essential, but not everybody understands the best course of action to take. Let’s explore everything that you need to know about ransomware attacks and how to handle them.

Train Your Employees Appropriately

Your employees will be the primary risk at your organization.

This is simply due to the fact that they are likely interacting with a large number of different people on the Internet on a daily basis. For instance, even a single sales representative could deal with hundreds of emails within a single shift.

All it takes is a minor slip-up to put your company at risk of a ransomware incident. As a result, it’s imperative that you hold comprehensive training for your workers. These should include information about how to recognize potential ransomware attacks on businesses as well as how to respond to them.

An already bad situation can easily become much worse if a worker is not sure how to report or handle signs of a ransomware attack. It’s also important to consider that hackers continuously develop new tools to target victims. So, you will likely need to update your training as time goes on.

Ensure Your Software Is Up-to-date

Using outdated software is one of the most common reasons why people become affected by this type of malware. Even if an application is only a few versions behind, it could still pose a significant security risk to the organization. In many cases, there is simply no reason why you should not be using the most current version of the software.

Outliers include situations where the newest available version is not compatible with your current device or operating system. In general, however, you should configure your applications to automatically download and install the most recent updates. Although it might seem simple, this will go a long way in terms of keeping your company safe.

Back up Information on a Regular Basis

The primary function of ransomware is to prevent you from accessing key information. After all, this is the reason why people rush to pay the ransom whenever they are affected by this malware.

However, there’s no guarantee that attempting to work with the hacker will get you the results that you want. Unfortunately, there are some criminals who simply wish to cause as much chaos as possible. This means that they might encrypt company information and then delete the data anyway after receiving the ransom.

As you might guess, this could easily create a scenario that is virtually impossible to recover from. This is particularly true for small businesses, as these companies likely don’t have the resources to manage this type of issue.

“By archiving your information, you will be able to regain access to all of the affected data,” explains Chad Lauterbach, CEO of Be Structured, a leading managed service provider in Los Angeles. “This is true whether or not you pay the ransom.”

From here, your primary concern becomes removing the malware from the affected devices. In general, it’s recommended to back up your data based on how sensitive the information is.

To elaborate, highly valuable information should be archived once per day. Less valuable information can be archived once per week, once per month, etc.

Work With a Professional

Under most circumstances, businesses can highly benefit from working with a professional. This is typically in the form of an IT support company that offers 24/7 network monitoring and multiple layers of protection.

For instance, they can integrate a tool known as active monitoring to constantly search your network for anomalies. In the event that one is discovered, they will immediately implement resolutions for the issue. They will also help you optimize the security of your business.

Oftentimes, companies feel as though they are sufficiently protected despite having notable security flaws. Having professional insight can easily help you put the proper safeguards in place. You can check out this resource to learn more about what a managed service provider can offer.

Keep an Eye Out for Suspicious Activity

Although it’s been previously established that your employees will assume much of the risk, it’s also important to understand how to recognize suspicious activity on your own. For example, being able to quickly determine if you are dealing with a fraudulent email is essential.

The same can be said about network activity that may occur within your organization. So, it’s in your best interest to educate yourself thoroughly. This often means keeping up-to-date on the latest cybersecurity trends and methods that hackers might use during their ransomware attacks.

This is another benefit of working with a managed service provider. They can offer a comprehensive breakdown of the exact information you need to know so that you can avoid becoming a victim in the future. It’s much better to have this understanding before an attack as opposed to learning after one.

What Should I Do if I Become a Victim of an Attack?

Unfortunately, even having the proper protections in place does not always guarantee that you will not become a victim.

This becomes increasingly true as time goes on, as hackers will begin to use different tools in order to carry out their attacks. However, understanding the course of action that you should take can mean the difference between properly managing an attack and suffering from one.

Let’s explore exactly what you need to do for disaster recovery in the event that your company devices become infected with ransomware.

Don’t Panic

One of the most important concepts to remember is that you should never panic. Panicking during a scenario like this will lead you to make suboptimal decisions.

To clarify, ransomware is designed to instill fear. The malware interface often appears abruptly and typically contains dark colors/imagery. There may be red text, and you may even see skull icons.

From here, the hacker will tell the victim that they only have a certain amount of time to make their decision before the attack is fully carried out. The doomsday scenario is contingent upon the hacker themselves.

To elaborate, some hackers will simply leave the data encrypted if they don’t receive the payment. Other hackers, however, are much more malicious.

They might permanently delete the information if their demands are not met. In some circumstances, they could even leak your compromised information to your industry competitors.

Another scenario that is just as alarming is having the hacker contact the media about the incident. There will then be documented media coverage about the data breach at your business, something that can easily erode the trust people have in your brand. So, it’s essential that you remain levelheaded throughout the incident.

This is the only way that you will be able to navigate it appropriately.

Disconnect From Your Network

Interestingly, many people are unaware of the fact that ransomware can spread to other devices on the same network.

This means that having even a single computer become infected could eventually cause all of your computers to become infected. This is a scenario that you want to avoid at all costs, as having data encrypted on each device will inevitably result in downtime. Even a brief period of downtime could cost tens of thousands of dollars.

When combined with the consequences of a ransomware attack, this is a situation that many businesses struggle to handle. As soon as you notice that your device has become compromised, disconnect from your network immediately. It’s also in your best interest to check each device that was connected to the same network.

Some types of ransomware are programmed to spread as quickly as possible. Even a few seconds of having an infected device on a network could cause it to spread to other computers. It’s not recommended to turn off your network, though.

You should aim to maintain network continuity while minimizing the chances of the virus spreading.

Don’t Pay The Ransom

You should never pay the ransom under any circumstances.

As previously mentioned, hackers can’t be trusted to hold up their end of the deal. If you pay them, there is no guarantee that you will regain access to your data.

There is another factor to consider, though. Paying the hackers will only help facilitate future attacks.

This means that you will be directly contributing to other incidents in the future. It also helps hackers leverage additional tools, come up with ways to avoid detection, etc. So, you will need to eliminate this as a possibility in your contingency plan.

In the vast majority of scenarios, paying the ransom will only make the situation worse.

Restore Your Data Immediately

To ensure that you can remove the virus from your device, it’s best to restore your data right away. For those who keep frequent archives of company information, this will only be a minor inconvenience.

Those who do not archive their data on a regular basis, though, we’ll have a bit more difficulty. Businesses in this scenario might find that they aren’t able to restore all of their information.

This could be due to the fact that they hadn’t made the appropriate backup over the past seven days, for example. Restoring your data as soon as possible also comes with the added benefit of minimizing the time you spend handling this issue. Even after people decide they will not pay the ransom, they may still spend time developing a plan.

If you already have a plan in place, a ransomware attack becomes much more benign. To ensure that this is a possibility for you in the future, you should frequently assess how efficient your data backups are.

If you find any vulnerabilities, you will need to revamp your policies regarding how often you archive your business data.

Report The Incident to The FBI

The FBI is constantly combating hackers that use this type of software.

The more information they know about different types of attacks, the better they will be able to handle them in the future. So, you will need to report the incident to the FBI as soon as one occurs. You should also provide them with as many details as possible.

This means the type of operating system the device was using when the incident happened, as well as that the message that the program displayed. Since there are so many different types of ransomware, the FBI typically categorizes similar ones based on what the programs say to the victims. In some cases, you might find that the malware itself clearly names the group responsible for the attack.

Regardless of the situation, providing this information to the FBI will help make these attacks more difficult for hackers to complete in the future. They can also help you determine your best course of action and provide information about how that particular program works.

So, it’s highly unlikely that you will ever suffer from the same ransomware twice.

Dealing With Ransomware Attacks Might Seem Overwhelming

Fortunately, managing this risk is not nearly as difficult as people anticipate at first. As long as you keep the above information in mind, you’ll find that handling the complications associated with ransomware attacks is a relatively straightforward process that can help keep your company as safe as possible.

Want to learn more about what we have to offer? Feel free to get in touch with us today and see how we can help.

About Chad Lauterbach

CEO at Be Structured Technology Group, Inc. a Los Angeles based provider of Managed IT Services for small business. I desire to help small businesses better utilize technology by assisting in high level planning to make sure that new systems will benefit them both operationally and financially. I am careful to implement and support systems using industry best practices.