Defend Your Organization Against the New Ransomware Landscape

By Bill Durham
Learn more about the damage ransomware causes to an organization's reputation and how to increase your defense's effectiveness.
Worried businessman looking at a ransomware message on his computer

It’s the stuff Hollywood movies are made of. Taking a hostage and demanding a ransom of extortionate proportions to ensure the safe return of the said hostage. Except with ransom gangs, the hostage is your data – and the victim is your organization. So, how do you protect your organization and data from Ransomware?

Although viruses and trojans are still more dangerous malware than Ransomware, the latter carries a significant risk to individuals and enterprises. Since 2018, ransomware attacks against enterprises worldwide have increased, reaching a peak of 68.5 percent in 2021.

Ransomware explained

A form of malicious software known as Ransomware threatens to publish or permanently limit access to a victim’s data pending a ransom payment.

Simple Ransomware can change the system to unlock, but more sophisticated software uses crypto-viral extortion. In this instance, the victim’s files are encrypted, rendering them inaccessible until the victim pays the ransom.

Without the decryption key, recovering the files in an adequately executed ransomware extortion attack is impossible. Additionally, because Bitcoin and other hard-to-trace digital currencies are frequently used in ransom transactions, identifying the offenders and bringing them to justice can be difficult.

An increase in ransomware

The frequency and severity of ransomware attacks have grown considerably in the United States. 68 percent of American businesses reported experiencing ransomware assaults in 2020 and paying the associated ransom.

Spam and phishing emails were the primary sources of ransomware infestations, followed by careless user behavior and a lack of cyber security training. CryptoLocker, WannaCry, and CryptoWall were the ransomware strains that victims of ransomware attacks encountered the most frequently, according to MSPs (Managed Service Providers).

Ransomware’s effects, preventive strategies, and security measures

According to victims in the United States, investing in new protection technology, losing revenue due to downtime, and losing clients are the most frequent effects of ransomware attacks.

The financial harm caused by the extortion payment—which can be compensated for by cyber insurance—is insignificant compared to the damage to a company’s brand and loss of clients.

Naturally, since 2016, the annual revenue of the corporate web security sector has increased. By 2025, this will amount to close to 8 billion dollars. Also, today there are 127 new families of Ransomware, a rapid expansion of the pool that was 327 in 2017 and 327 in 2020. Security software and personnel training are the most frequently used ransomware solutions.

Even with more protection, backup tools, and services, ransomware instances are still rising.

Although implemented solutions undoubtedly improve the security and resilience of businesses, something is still lacking because the threat has only gotten worse.

Since it is evident that the conventional cleanup of these infections is ineffective, an organization’s Security leadership, C-suite executives, and board members must keep a closer eye on this issue. However, if and when a ransomware assault occurs, the stolen data can seriously harm an organization’s reputation and economical line and be concerning from a proprietary or privacy standpoint.

Enterprises must create a thorough post-infection remediation plan to identify and take care of the enterprise access points that have been compromised by malware to completely shut down these holes in an organization’s defenses and stop future ransomware attacks from happening.

Enterprises can only shut off the darknet initial access markets that are making a concerted effort to profit at your company’s expense by implementing a reliable detection and mitigation strategy.

Malware Issues Include Ransomware

Malware has developed over the past 15 years to become incredibly effective at acquiring data from infected machines. For the past five years, cybercriminals have concentrated heavily on distributing widespread malware known as “info stealers,” which aims to steal as much information as possible from compromised computers. The malware, also called “dissolvable malware,” is frequently built to rapidly remove itself after stealing the data to prevent discovery.

Overall, this has led to the development of a sizable and growing darknet economy, wherein actors gather and market the information stolen by information stealers. The sold data comprises everything from the device, including active session cookies and credentials that actors can use to go beyond MFA. Initial access brokers (IABs) are sometimes referred to as the main parties interested in this stolen data since this recently acquired material might give bad actors “first access” for subsequent attacks—which can be a very lucrative business.

To gather the information they need about their target companies, ransomware gangs heavily rely on IABs. They also use them to conduct initial reconnaissance, set up a base of operations to coordinate the attack, steal collateral data, and eventually use encryption tools to stop their target’s ability to conduct business. In this approach, info stealer malware’s data theft originates most ransomware occurrences.

The Digital Environment of Today Has Many Ransomware Access Points

An increase in employees working remotely and utilizing personal devices to access business networks containing sensitive data results from an increasingly hybrid workforce. These devices might need more security measures in place, and all it takes for malware to enter a strong network is one malware infection on a device belonging to an unwary employee.

Thanks to widespread browser password-sharing features, bad actors can silently copy enterprise credentials to home computers without anybody noticing, even when employees avoid using home computers to log in to business apps.

Regrettably, IT and InfoSec are unable to control all infections completely. It is impossible to entirely defend against access granted accidentally to unmanaged personal computers, unmanaged contractor systems, and undermanaged corporate devices, even if every machine could be wholly secured (which they cannot be).

Organizations must adopt a new post-infection remediation strategy that covers all difficult-to-see gaps even after cleaning the device of Ransomware, including unmanaged devices and third-party software.

Increasing Your Ransomware Defense’s Effectiveness

When responding to a detected malware infection, most IT teams delete the infected system to eliminate the virus.

Sadly, this widespread practice misses dealing with the stolen cookies and credentials that have already been made public and sold by IABs. Also, most IT teams lack safeguards against infections on unmanaged devices that can grant access to their environment.

Enterprises must acquire access to information on compromised assets and devices gathered directly from the darknet to defend themselves. With this knowledge, security teams may get the complete list of credentials and cookies that were stolen and exchanged and enhanced visibility into the malware infections affecting them, whether they are on personally owned or corporately issued devices.

A company can start a thorough post-infection remediation process with this vital information, which includes re-securing any affected cloud and corporate apps.

These methods will enable security teams to mitigate the ransomware threat malware effectively creates. Leaders and executives can develop a cyber event response strategy using this technique. By doing this, they can reduce the company’s attack surface in advance and possibly prevent severe damage to its reputation and financial results.

6 of our Best Tips for Avoiding Ransomware

  1. Use robust, multi-layered endpoint security. Employing endpoint security to guard against phishing attempts, regulate outbound traffic, and safeguard system settings. Secure online browsing will improve the security of servers, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices.
  2. Back up your vital data regularly. Backups can help to safeguard your data from more than just Ransomware. Your data may become unavailable due to other risk situations like malware, theft, fire, flood, or unintentional deletion. Make sure to encrypt your backed-up data to ensure successful restoration. Moreover, store your backups in a remote place away from the local network.
  3. Avoid opening unsolicited emails or communications from unknown senders. Many ransomware variations come via email attachments or phishing attempts. With education and greater awareness, employees can thwart Ransomware by treating “suspicious” emails with more attention.
  4. Regularly apply security patches to your systems. Applying security patches to your systems minimizes hackers’ likelihood of infecting you with Ransomware. The WannaCrypt vulnerability was patched in March, highlighting the fairly casual approach taken by businesses and individuals to maintain their system fixes. Yet, patch management is a challenging task that may affect the availability of crucial systems. Careful testing can prevent unanticipated downtime.
  5. Disable macros if possible. Much Ransomware is delivered through Microsoft Office documents to fool users into activating macros. Several technologies can restrict macros’ functionality by disabling them in files obtained from the Internet.
  6. Be cautious and aware. Don’t believe that only techies need to know all the most recent viruses and trends in online attacks. Building an information security awareness program is a crucial component of enhancing the overall security posture in enterprises. Join email lists that offer details on frequent vulnerabilities and exposures.

Ready to take your data security to the next level?

Microsoft continuously monitors risks to global security. Let Basileia do a free Security Readiness Study on your system if a threat managed to get past your defenses and you believe you have been compromised or are concerned that you may be exposed. Within 24 hours, we’ll send you a quick, simple, totally objective, and obligation-free suggestion.

Contact Basileia Consulting Group (BCG) by calling 949-329-3524 or via our contact form so we can get acquainted and start you on the road to superior data security.

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About the Author

Basileia Consulting Group assists other ERP software resellers and consultants with challenging implementations. To better ensure the successful adoption of ERP software across the entire company, we expanded the scope of our service offering eight years ago to include the complete suite of Microsoft business tools. We have established a name for ourselves in the industry as the people your software partner should contact whenever things go wrong.

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