Things to Consider When Facing a Ransomware Scenario by@ryanayers
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Things to Consider When Facing a Ransomware Scenario

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Ransomware is a form of malware that hackers and cybercriminals use to make files inaccessible to individuals or organizations. Understanding how to respond to this type of cyber-attack can make the process of diffusing the situation less challenging and damaging. Cybercriminals capitalize on weak and vulnerable points in an organization’s cybersecurity measures. Here are some things to look out for when it comes to guarding one's organization against ransomware attacks. The supply chain industry has been on the rise since 2021, and managed service providers have been hackers’ points of entry for many of them.

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Ryan Ayers

Ryan Ayers is a consultant within multiple industries including information...

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In today’s digital world, the threat of cyber-attacks has become a significant challenge for organizations to overcome. While most organizations take significant precautions and implement many cybersecurity measures, that doesn’t always mean that they’re completely safe from the threat of cyberattacks. One type of cyber-attack that organizations fear most is
ransomware attacks.

Though no organization ever wants to find itself as the victim of a ransomware attack, it’s important to be aware of what to do when that happens. Understanding how to appropriately respond to this type of cyber-attack can make the process of diffusing the situation less challenging and damaging.

Here are some things to consider when facing a ransomware scenario.

What Is a Ransomware Attack?

Before one can be prepared to respond to a ransomware attack effectively, it’s important to have a general understanding of what a ransomware attack is. Ransomware is a form of malware that hackers and cybercriminals use to make files inaccessible to individuals or organizations.

They do this by encrypting files, essentially locking individuals and organizations out from accessing their personal databases. The “ransom” in ransomware refers to the practice of cybercriminals demanding a ransom in exchange for access to the affected network.

What to Look Out For

When it comes to ransomware attacks, there are some common ways that cybercriminals capitalize on weak and vulnerable points in an organization’s cybersecurity measures. Understanding where an
organization may be most vulnerable can help them safeguard themselves and their organization from these types of attacks.

Here are some things to look out for when it comes to guarding one’s organization against ransomware attacks.

Management Software and Managed Service Providers

When cybercriminals are looking to breach an organization’s cybersecurity measures, they’ll often look for ways that they can do so undetected. One technique that hackers have capitalized upon in the past is that of utilizing managed service providers and management software as a way to access the networks of many other organizations.

When cybercriminals hack into a managed service provider’s network, they can then easily coerce the organizations who use these services and software to unknowingly download malware. Once this happens, hackers can then encrypt the information of an organization and demand a ransom in exchange for renewed access.

This type of cybersecurity breach has affected many industries of varying types. One such industry that has keenly experienced these types of breaches is the supply chain industry. Since 2021, supply chain attacks have been on the rise, and managed service providers have been hackers’ points of entry for many of them.

What makes this type of breach so effective is the fact that organizations typically place a substantial amount of trust in their managed service providers. This means that there is typically little to no suspicion that managed service providers could potentially be threatening one’s cybersecurity measures.

This being the case, it’s important for organizations to be on high alert when it comes to surveying managed service provider updates and downloads in order to steer clear of making oneself vulnerable to becoming the victim of a cyber-attack.

Partners and Third-Party Services

Organizations of a certain scale and size typically work with a number of other organizations in order to be able to function. While these are often necessary partnerships, they can make one’s organization vulnerable to cyber-attacks. As such, being cautious when it comes to choosing the partners and third-party services that one chooses to work with can be a key cybersecurity measure that helps keep one’s organization safe from
being the victim of a cyber-attack.

In order to improve one’s organization’s chances of being the victim of a ransomware attack, it can be useful to assess the cybersecurity measures of other organizations before deciding to work with them. If an organization’s partner is hacked, that puts that organization at risk of being hacked as well.

This means that vetting and assessing the cybersecurity measures of the organizations that one works with can be paramount to safeguarding oneself from ransomware attacks.

How to Respond to a Ransomware Attack

While it can be a difficult practice, organizations can benefit from creating a plan of action for the chance that a scenario occurs in which they are the victim of a ransomware attack. Understanding appropriate ways to respond can make the scenario go smoother and cause less damage to one’s organization.

One of the main reasons that ransomware attacks have increased in popularity is the fact that more organizations are willing to pay ransoms than ever before. While conceding to cybercriminals can be a difficult pill to swallow, oftentimes, simply paying the ransom is the cheapest and most efficient way to get out of a ransomware attack scenario.

Though it can be difficult to think that one’s organization should be ready to pay hackers, it might be the most prudent and rational thing that an organization can do in that scenario. As such, it can be helpful for organizations to decide upon a predetermined amount of money that they would be willing to pay if a severe and effective ransomware attack were
to occur. This amount can be based on research about how long it would take and how much money it would cost to try to deal with a ransomware attack in an alternative manner.

In addition to being prepared to pay a ransom, it can be useful for one’s organization to have a plan regarding which cybersecurity professionals to assign to remedy and monitor the situation. This is because there is no shortage of cybersecurity jobs today, and many organizations have a variety of cybersecurity professionals working for them.

This can make it difficult to know who to call upon in a stressful and chaotic scenario such as a ransomware attack. This being the case, having a game plan about which professionals to tap for assistance in these situations can help organizations be more prepared for cyber-attack scenarios.

How to Bolster Cybersecurity Measures and Stay Safe from Ransomware Attacks

While all organizations typically have some level of cybersecurity measures in place, there is almost always more that can be done to better protect one’s network and files. Being aware of some practical ways to improve one’s organization’s cybersecurity measures can be helpful for those looking to safeguard themselves against ransomware attacks.

Here are some steps to take to bolster cybersecurity measures and stay safe from ransomware attacks.

Effective Cybersecurity Training for All Employees

For most organizations, cybersecurity training is something that many employees participate in at some point in time. Though this is the case, these cybersecurity training sessions aren’t always effective enough to instill everyone with a working knowledge of proper cybersecurity protocols.

By putting more time, energy, and effort into crafting effective cybersecurity training programs for all employees, organizations can significantly improve their chances of being safe from cybercriminals and their efforts to breach networks.

It is worth investing money and resources into proper training for your employees as ransomware situations can be incredibly expensive. Dr. Christopher Whyte, assistant professor in the homeland security and emergency preparedness program in the Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University elaborates on the potential cost of a ransomware scenario.

“There are generally five main costs to consider. One is the unit cost of building defensive “walls” that will keep attackers out. Another is the cost of maintaining backups. Yet another is the prospective cost of an after-the-fact effort to salvage data and value from the digital debris left by an attack, including potential hardware and infrastructure costs. There is also the cost of disruption from an attack, namely the lost operational capacity for profit. And there is also the prospective profit deficit to accrue from a successful attack, namely coming from a hit to reputation that reduces usership, share prices and so on.”

With everything considered, there is still room for debate regarding whether it is worth it to pay or not to pay the ransom. Dr. Brian Gant, Assistant Professor of Cybersecurity at Maryville University weighs in
on this dilemma:

“In most cases regarding ransomware and whether organizations
should pay the ransom, it is recommended that they not for several reasons. The primary one being there is no guarantee that once the ransom is paid that the attackers will provide the decryption tool. They are after all “attackers” exploiting a vulnerability.”

Taking Advantage of Honeytokens

While preventing cyber-attacks usually consists of bolstering security measures, honeytokens are a way to lure cybercriminals into attacking one’s company in order to gain the upper hand. Put simply, honeytokens are typically bogus data resources that organizations will plant in their network in the hopes of baiting cybercriminals into hacking into them.

When cybercriminals attempt to hack into honeytokens, the cybersecurity professionals working within an organization will be alerted, giving them a chance to prepare themselves for an attack on the organization’s actual databases before it happens.

This also allows cybersecurity professionals the chance to identify how a particular cybercriminal is plans to hack into their network. By knowing this information, organizations can better defend themselves against cybercriminals and their attempts to perform cyber-attacks.

Encrypting Internal Data

While it’s not always the most convenient course of action, encrypting internal data can help organizations safeguard themselves from hackers. While encryption adds a layer of protection to an organization’s files, it also deters hackers from even attempting to breach the network in the first place. This is because hacking into networks that aren’t encrypted is much easier while breaching a network with encryption can be challenging and
time-consuming for cybercriminals. 

By encrypting internal data, organizations can
make their organization seem like an unattractive target for cyber-attacks. As such, this simple practice can be extremely effective in safeguarding one’s organization from a wide variety of cyber-attacks.

Staying Safe in the Face of Ransomware Attacks

While organizations may pour a large amount of time and effort into crafting robust cybersecurity measures, this doesn’t always ensure that a cyber-attack won’t happen. In the case that one’s organization is the victim of a ransomware attack, understanding how to respond appropriately can make it easier and less stressful to respond to.

This being the case, all organizations can benefit substantially from having a plan in the event of a ransomware attack.

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