Ransomware is a very real threat to businesses and individuals alike, and when it comes to online security, it is arguably the most damaging threat. Yet, many people still don’t know what ransomware is, even though this type of cyber threat has been aggressively spreading over the internet, with results that can impact both financially as well as reputationally – and the threat is only going to get more hostile, says Drew van Vuuren, Data Protection Officer, ESET South Africa.
The simple fact is that there is limited protection against ransomware, with no antivirus or end-point security solution technology able to protect you. Protection comes down to user-education and good business practice, and for any business, it is a must have that disaster recovery is in place if they hope to come out of a ransomware breach relatively unscathed.
Ransomware is a malware that infects a computer and encrypts all its files. Cybercriminals then offer an ultimatum to their victim: pay the demanded ransom or lose your data forever. If you are susceptible and become a target you have no choice, either you pay or rebuild your system – there is no third option. However, if you take option number one and you pay the ransom, the chances are you will again be targeted and you end up perpetuating the cycle of infection and victimization.
There are two different types of ransomware – opportunistic and targeted. The principle is that targeted ransomware will look for individuals who have access to critical and valuable information, for example, a CEO or CFO of an organization.
If you are a business that has mitigating controls in place, and you are targeted by a successful attack, then it will be a matter of invoking the disaster recovery process. This will be based on the the businesses information classification criteria and management principles. Every organisation will have information that is deemed to be valuable – and without access to this information, a business could suffer inadvertent loss and eventually begin losing money. Therefore, the disaster recovery controls around the businesses critical information will need to allow for that data to be readily available within a certain timeframe, for business to continue.
So, what is best practice for Ransomware attacks?
1)Back Up is key
The best defense against ransomware is to reduce your vulnerability in the first place. This means backing up the company’s critical and valuable information on a regular basis. Hence, if your businesses become a target of a ransomware attack, having to pay the ransom may not bear consideration as the business will have access to its valuable information that has been backed up. It is important that the companies maintain offline back-ups so that the back-ups are not readily accessible to an attacker.
Businesses should exercise good email and website safety practices – ensuring that individuals download attachments, click URLs or execute programs only from trusted sources.
When you get a security message from a web browser, take heed of it.
Manage administrator rights accordingly. Many businesses still use the default administrator account on their network. Instead you should delete or rename the administrator account or create an account with administrator privileges.
5)Educate! Educate! Educate
It should be an executive management imperative for businesses to educate their employees about the challenges around ransomware making staff aware of any security issue that arises, or is currently topical – this could be ransomware, PoPI, encryption – your people need to be aware of it.
In summary, organisations should prepare themselves for the likelihood that they may be targeted by a ransomware attacker by implementing the mitigating controls of back-up and more especially user awareness. If they maintain the vigilance outlined above they will be able to reduce the impact of the ransomware as recently evidenced by the WannaCry attack that was so effective.
By Drew van Vuuren, Data Protection Officer, ESET South Africa.