Evolving Threat of Ransomware and How to Guard Against Attacks

May 2, 2023

Ransomware, the growing threat to businesses of all sizes, poses a real danger. This malicious software encrypts data, locks down systems and prevents users from accessing them until a ransom is paid.

Cybercriminals are continually developing new tactics, so organizations must take proactive measures to protect themselves against attacks. Here are some essential tips:

1. Beware of phishing emails

Ransomware has become an increasing threat to organizations, particularly those with sensitive data that needs protection. Therefore, security experts are warning organizations to back up important information and store it offline for extra safety.

For this strategy to be successful, a multi-layered approach is required. This includes technological, process, and people-based safeguards against attacks that could negatively affect your organization.

Phishing emails are a common cyber security risk and can be hard to spot at first glance. They attempt to entice victims into providing personal information or clicking on links that lead to malware infections.

To effectively protect against email phishing scams, employees need to be educated on the danger and how to protect themselves. This education should be included in employee orientations as well as all internal security communications.

It’s essential to be aware of email spoofing. This occurs when malicious email messages appear legitimate but are sent from fake URLs or IP addresses. The content may be enticing, such as a request for payment or other financial information, with an artificial sense of urgency.

Be wary of emails asking you to update your password, provide credit card details or other identifying information, or claim there is a problem with your account. Legitimate companies will never request this type of data via email.

Clone phishing is a type of email and social media phishing scam that duplicates an existing message, replacing all links and attachments with fake ones. These clones often target your social media accounts or email account.

Phishing is an increasingly common method for cybercriminals to access your personal and professional data. Unfortunately, it’s easy to become a victim of these scams, so it’s essential that your security is up-to-date.

2. Beware of links

Ransomware remains a growing danger to individuals and businesses alike, with various types of malware targeting both. Typically, an attack encrypts files on an organization’s computer or mobile device and demands payment in exchange for decrypting them.

This type of malware is often distributed via phishing emails or text messages, compromised websites and malicious social media profiles. Usually, the message contains an urgent call-to-action which encourages victims to click on a link which then downloads ransomware onto their devices.

Once installed, ransomware scans the infected computers for all key files – such as cloud or network shares – and encrypts them. A notification then appears with a request for payment for the decryption key.

To prevent ransomware infections, utilize anti-virus software and regularly back up essential data on your computer or device. Additionally, have a backup and recovery plan in place for any files that must be recovered in case an attack occurs.

One way to protect against ransomware infections is to avoid public Wi-Fi networks, which are often targets. Furthermore, keep your systems up-to-date with the latest security patches and install reliable virus and firewall protections.

Finally, never trust an attachment or link sent from someone unfamiliar. If in doubt, call the sender and verify their contact information to determine if they are legitimate.

3. Beware of attachments

Malicious attachments, which may be disguised as documents or images, pose a security risk. These files can download viruses, malware or ransomware onto a computer system and steal the data stored therein.

It is wise to avoid opening unexpected email attachments, especially from unknown senders or unknown sources. Doing this will give you peace of mind that the email came from a legitimate source.

Some emails contain malicious files that will launch your browser and download malicious programs to your computer, even if you have antivirus software running. This type of attack is known as a “drive-by download,” and it can be very dangerous.

Viruses and other malicious software often hide in plain sight as file attachments, such as word documents, ZIP or RAR archives, PDF documents, image/video files – however these files can actually be exploits designed to take advantage of software vulnerabilities.

These attachments can be highly damaging and even lock your computer or network. In such cases, you would need to pay a ransom in order to recover your files.

Aside from avoiding attachments, it is also essential to regularly back up your files. These backups can be stored on an external storage device or in the cloud so that none of your documents will be lost during a ransomware attack. This way, you can be certain none of your information will be compromised during an attack.

Curiosity is another key to avoiding cyber attacks, as it makes us more likely to click on malicious links or attachments. But it’s equally essential that you know how to spot these threats and prevent them from infecting your devices.

4. Beware of websites

Ransomware is one of the biggest threats organizations are currently facing. This malware can lock down entire networks and prevent data access, forcing victims to either pay a hefty ransom to cybercriminals responsible for the attack or restore their data from backups.

Businesses may face severe repercussions if their sensitive business information is encrypted and inaccessible without a decryption key. Furthermore, paying security firms to restore their network could cost them a substantial amount of money, as this process could take days or even months.

Paying a ransom doesn’t always protect you against further attacks, so it’s essential to take proactive measures and protect yourself in the first place. One way of doing this is by avoiding websites known to be vulnerable.

You can further protect your business by making sure all employees know what to do in case of an attack. This should include creating a data backup plan that everyone can refer to during such times and providing them with contact information for those responsible.

Additionally, ensure all of your employees have up-to-date anti-virus software installed on their computers. Doing this will protect them against infections caused by viruses and other threats which could be spread via email.

Finally, make sure your employees understand how to respond if they become victims of ransomware. This should include instructing them on how to contact their IT team and, if applicable, law enforcement to report the attack.

5. Beware of cryptocurrencies

Ransomware remains one of the most serious IT security threats companies are currently facing. Therefore, organizations must develop and implement an effective response plan to defend themselves against attacks.

Ransomware typically locks up data, encrypting it so that payment of a fee in cryptocurrency is the only way to unlock it. This type of malware poses an immediate risk to any organization as it can leave crucial files stranded and prevent operations as usual.

Many attackers have shifted their strategies towards businesses rather than individual users, targeting companies with the highest payouts for decrypting files as it’s a more lucrative business model. They may use double extortion – taking information in order to demand ransom payment and then threatening to release that same information if no payment is made afterward.

Another strategy hackers employ to spread ransomware is malvertising, which involves users clicking on an ad that leads them to the compromised website. Ad-blocking software can help stop this from occurring.

To protect against ransomware, organizations must make sure all systems are patched and updated regularly. This is especially crucial if any run critical business applications. Furthermore, backups should be stored offsite on an external device or in the cloud.

Finally, the only way to protect against ransomware is prevention. Organizations must develop a comprehensive cyber hygiene program that prioritizes protecting company and customer data. Furthermore, they should encrypt data both during transit and at rest in order to render exfiltrated information unusable by attackers.

Ammar Fakhruddin

ABOUT AUTHOR

Ammar brings in 18 years of experience in strategic solutions and product development in Public Sector, Oil & Gas and Healthcare organizations. He loves solving complex real world business and data problems by bringing in leading-edge solutions that are cost effective, improve customer and employee experience. At Propelex he focuses on helping businesses achieve digital excellence using Smart Data & Cybersecurity solutions.


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