It's no secret that 2021 has already seen a huge surge in ransomware attacks; we've seen an increase of 64% over last year. Advancements in attack strategies and the shift to remote work are undeniably reasons for this ongoing wave. With most businesses merely testing the waters with hybrid working models, completely returning to work still seems like a far-off reality indicating that these numbers are only likely to swell even further.
This year has also witnessed record-breaking demands from ransomware threat actors. An attack executed in the beginning of this year came with the highest ever ransom demand of a whopping $50 million in Monero cryptocurrency. These alarming stats are rightfully pushing organizations globally to revisit their ransomware prevention strategy.
Wondering where to begin? Here is a checklist of the best practices an organization needs to follow to maximize their ransomware protection:
Prioritize email security
Email security solutions are indispensable in ransomware prevention, as most malware are delivered via email. Organizations must deploy tools to filter and block emails with executable attachments or from known spammers.
Enforce a strict patching regime
A recent multi-national joint advisory reveals that many of the software vulnerabilities exploited by ransomware have patches that have been around for awhile. Businesses should adopt a strict patch management practice to ensure that they leave no gaps in their security fortress. Opting for patch management tools that cater to both on-premises and remote patching needs can be beneficial when switching to hybrid work models.
Opt for multiple security software
Don't just rely on a single solution to keep you protected. A firewall, as well as antivirus, antimalware, and antiransomware software, can form a stronghold that enables organizations to detect, remove, and protect against malicious programs.
Maintain reliable back-ups
In the event of an attack, the consequences can be reduced by maintaining an efficient backup. Regularly backup of both on-premises and offsite data protects against any unanticipated loss. Cloud backups are also imperative to help organizations avoid paying a ransom.
Encrypt and store data
Attackers threatening to publicly disclose the stolen sensitive data is a huge reason why organizations give in to ransom demands despite having a proper backup strategy. To avoid such breaches, organizations should encrypt all their sensitive data and store their keys in separate locations.
Enforce strict password policies
Brute-force attacks are common entry points for ransomware, and organizations must have strict password policies in place to avert them.
Establish Zero Trust and least privilege principles
Organizations must include an application control software that enables them to establish the principles of Zero Trust and least privilege. Most attacks can be prevented by whitelisting only trusted applications and blocking the rest. Moreover, as ransomware can only execute with the privileges of the application, or the end-user device through which it enters the network, opting for an endpoint privilege management solution can isolate malware at its point of entry.
Exercise USB control
With most employees logging in to work from the comfort of their homes these days, chances of unauthorized entities accessing enterprise machines are high. Inserting a USB device containing ransomware into these systems can essentially bring down the entire network. Organizations need to employ a device control solution to detect and block all unauthorized devices.
Restrict unauthorized downloads
As working from home has blurred the lines between professional and personal activities, employees are increasingly using their work gadgets for leisure browsing. Malicious websites pretending to be legit, can facilitate ransomware downloads with just a click. Organizations need to restrict the downloads and ensure that it occurs only from authorized sites.
Educate and train users
Every network user should receive corporate training and awareness about the basic signs of an attack. The workforce must also be strictly advised against using public Wi-Fi, as it is more susceptible to ransomware. To increase the effectiveness of these security measures, the entire remote workforce must also be trained to notice the basic signs of email phishing, such as recognizing emails with suspicious attachments, addresses, or links.
Although following these guidelines can strengthen an organization's ransomware protection, it doesn't act as a silver bullet. Constantly revamping the security strategy to align with ransomware that is ever-evolving is the best way forward.