Taking your cybersecurity seriously can make all the difference between you and your competition. The thing all companies have in common, though, is that any and all of them can be the target of the next cyber-attack.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a constantly evolving form of malware. It is designed to encrypt files on a PC and block the user and the user’s access, which renders the files (and the systems that rely on said files) useless. These attacks happen across all industries, not specifically targeting any industry branch. In this instance, size truly doesn’t matter.
Once the dust of such an attack has settled, the aftermath of it is usually much more damaging than the attack itself. It’s not only the sky-high ransoms that do the most damage, it’s the stuff that happens later. Companies can experience a negative impact on reputation, forced layoffs, disruption of business and loss of customers or their trust. Remediating the damage can take a very long time.
All of this demotivates employees, tears a wedge between you and your frequent collaborators, and deters potential investors. Because of this, we think it is crucial to comprehend what ransomware does and how your company can sail the rough seas ahead!
You probably think this means hours and hours of new and fancy IT crash courses, stressing yourself while trying to wrap your head around some new anti-virus or similar software. Well, that’s the thing that comes to mind for most people.
The reality is much more different.
You can either do it from the inside through education, prevention, and a stable security mindset or you can turn to any of the companies that provide verified helpdesk services.
First Thing First, Prevention!
Think of ransomware like a disease. Nobody likes going to the doctor, but if we go on regular checkups, the chances of us getting sick are lesser. If we fail to do so, we risk something going unnoticed and that can mean rough times are ahead.
In some ways, it’s the same with ransomware. It’s easier and cheaper to prevent it than to mitigate the damage caused afterward.
Do you ask yourself how and where these schemes do damage? Via email.
Email attachments and phishing are frequent methods of deploying ransomware. It’s somewhat psychological because the hackers are counting on the human brain to engage, communicate and reply. It’s in our nature to connect, hackers just exploit that trait.
It’s usually a common ploy – such as updating information on your account, changing your password, verifying your order, etc… All of these seem like regular, benign, and ordinary things.
Mindset and Education
To truly lower the chance of becoming a victim of a ransomware attack, you must educate your staff and any other users about your organization’s processes, guidelines, and systems. Understanding why such attacks happen will help greatly in the long run.
Educate your users about these points:
- Avoiding hazardous email attachments and phishing
- Software and apps used to defend your data, networks, and staff against malware
- The significance of employing the up-to-date versions of software and apps that boast the latest security patches
- Frameworks which have been setup and monitor data exfiltration or similar activities
- Response plans
- Procedures for reporting activities which raise suspicion
- Backups and storage of your business assets at safe locations and the required actions to restore your precious data
Also, besides the topics mentioned above, performing monthly drills on data recovery can evaluate your organization’s response to an incident in cybersecurity and how well your business fairs in the field of risk management. Consistency, when educating your users about identifying cybersecurity intrusion attempts or weak points, is key.
Even though some users won’t understand the need, topic or technical parts of this, they will surely be appreciative of being in the loop, being encouraged and engaged in forming a collaborative, active mindset towards cybersecurity.
But wait, there’s more! Besides all of these above you can also:
- Implement an IDS (Intrusion Detection System)
- Review port settings (most companies usually use two standardized ports, which the hackers know how to get into)
- Develop plans and policies
- Harden your endpoints
And, we stress again, train your team with all of these things in mind.
Subtle Symptoms of an Attack
Here are some telltale signs that something fishy is going on in your domain. If you, by any chance, come across these file extensions, you can be pretty sure that someone is trying to do some harm to your company. Some of them are:
Of course, it’s not just file extensions that indicate an attack. Here are some of the other symptoms:
- Unauthorized data extraction
- Encrypted files which are not recognized
- Failing to access your network or infrastructure
- Suddenly glitchy systems that normally behave properly
- Presence of hacking tools such as MimiKatz, PC Hunter, or Process Explorer
- Inexplicable sluggishness of a PC, workstation, or network activity
- Messages on locked desktops which demand payment to unlock the system
- Ransom notes, usually as a .txt file, stashed somewhere in your directories or on your desktop
Having strong fundamentals is essential to this.
They are your usual batch of things we already know, such as strong passwords, network segmentation, updated systems, and multi-factor authentication. Also, it is deemed wise to perform regular official inspections on your assets, data, systems and capabilities to comprehend what is normal and what’s out of the ordinary. Some companies have even gone the length to encrypt emails, passwords, usernames, SMS messages, databases, and additional sensitive information.
Cybersecurity is no joke. It doesn’t matter what size or specialization your company is, it can all come crashing down very quickly if you don’t act now. Raising awareness with your colleagues and employees on this problem and, afterward educating and training them, will help bolster your security immensely.
Of course, convincing the higher-ups to tackle this problem is no simple matter. If you’re planning to take this to your boss, go prepared. Provide your boss with numbers, percentages, parallels, and fresh events of cyber attacks and their aftermath.
Don’t forget to mention other long-lasting benefits of cybersecurity too.
Ask your boss this question: “Is it profitable to go back to the drawing board, rebuild the entire system, re-establish company reputation and credibility, lay off a significant chunk of staff, or implement consistent, comprehensive, and complete security measures?”
To this day, the age-old saying is still true:
Better be safe, than sorry!