What’s the Connection Between Ransomware and Phishing?

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On the surface, ransomware attacks and phishing emails may seem to have nothing in common. After all, ransomware involves encrypting all of the data on your network so you lose access to it unless you pay a “ransom.” Phishing emails, on the other hand, are a form of social engineering whereby cyber criminals pretend to be someone they’re not to trick network users into divulging sensitive information. Once you examine the two cyber threats in more detail, however, you’ll quickly realize that they share a common thread. That’s because ransomware is most frequently spread through phishing emails and spear-phishing attacks.

In this post, we’ll examine the connection between ransomware and phishing in more detail while exploring how cyber criminals spread ransomware and how it can harm your network operations.

How Ransomware Is Spread

If you think of network users as fish in the sea, then phishing emails are the net, and ransomware is the fishing boat. Once the fish are trapped in the net, they don’t realize they’re in trouble until they’re hauled aboard the boat. Since the boat relies on the net to haul in the fish, if the fish become smart enough to evade the net, then they can avoid the boat and live to swim another day.

Similarly, a ransomware attack most commonly relies on targeted phishing emails to first gain entry into your network without users realizing it. From there, cyber criminals can encrypt data so your team is unable to access it. As with the example above, if your network users are aware enough to avoid these phishing attacks, then your network is at a significantly lower risk of falling victim to ransomware.

Do you see the connection? Just as the boat relies on the net, ransomware most often relies on phishing to fool users. Thus, there’s no reason to fear the boat (ransomware) if you can avoid the net (phishing emails). While ransomware can be spread through other means, protecting your network from phishing emails is the first step to defending against ransomware.

How to Break a Ransomware Attack

As with any cyber attack, the earlier you can identify and combat it, the better off you’ll be. The best approach? A proactive one. That’s because it’s much easier to take a few precautionary steps today than it is to piece together a damage control team tomorrow. The first stage of a ransomware attack starts with cyber criminals surveying your network. They’re looking for the low-hanging fruit that’s easy to target and attack. That means having a robust cyber security platform in place can sometimes be enough to avert a potential ransomware attack before it even starts.

For high-value networks, however, this approach isn’t enough. It’s possible that even with comprehensive network security strategies in place, cyber criminals will still decide to target your network. When that happens, they generally employ some aspect of social engineering to gain entry to your networks. That’s when your network users are the next line of defense. Cyber criminals will do their best to impersonate someone trustworthy in order to encourage network users to reveal usernames, passwords, personal information, and account numbers that they can use against your organization.

When employees are properly trained to identify and quarantine potential phishing emails with ongoing cyber security awareness training, the phishing attacks that hackers rely on become substantially less effective. Ultimately, if your team is adequately equipped to respond to phishing attacks, chances are cyber criminals will be unable to deploy a ransomware attack on your network. That’s why taking a staunch stance against phishing messages is one of the most effective strategies for averting a ransomware crisis.

The Los Angeles IT Support Experts

Are you ready to take a more proactive network security stance? Implementing ongoing cyber security awareness training with Be Structured to defend against the threat of ransomware is an excellent place to start. If you’re ready to begin exploring the possibilities for your business, contact our team today. We’ll help you take the first step toward mitigating the risk of a data breach.

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.