Ransomware attacks have become so prevalent in recent years that it’s no longer a matter of “if” your business may be the victim of a ransomware attack, but “when.” In fact, in 2021, 37% of global organizations reported that they were the victim of a ransomware attack.
To mitigate the impact and probability of ransomware on your business, you must continuously look for new ways to secure your network and maintain continuous cybersecurity monitoring. It’s also vital to have a recovery plan in place should an event occur.
Let’s take a closer look at the steps you can take to best mitigate ransomware attacks.
9 Steps to mitigate ransomware attacks
While no network can ever claim to be 100% safe from ransomware and cyberattacks, following the steps below can significantly reduce the chances of a breach and leave you better prepared to act and recover in the event of a ransomware attack.
1. Establish routine network backups and updates
Backing up all files and data regularly means you won’t lose existing assets in the event of a ransomware attack and can restore your systems. Ideally, the backed-up files should be air-gapped or stored in a place that can’t be accessed from the internet or the rest of the network. Credentials used for backups should be different than those used for production data since in many cases threat actors are able to compromise credentials. This keeps the files safe even if everything else is destroyed.
In addition to having a regular backup schedule, you should also plan to update all software and systems on a routine basis. Software developers regularly update their software for security as well as usability. This means that the most current software version is the safest against attacks and is patched to protect against recently discovered exploits.
2. Institute cybersecurity plans and policies
Look at the big picture of your IT assets and network, and develop a robust cybersecurity plan. This plan should include standard procedures and protections that are put in place. But it should also include documentation of what steps to take in the event of an active threat or the aftermath thereof. Preparing such steps ahead of time provides critical guidance for action when needed most and ensures that your business returns to normal operation as soon as possible and with minimal fallout.
3. Review available ports, protocols and services
Ransomware can easily make its way onto your network through an unsecure or vulnerable service. The best way to mitigate this is to implement audits of ports, protocols, and services required to support business operations. Next, organizations should implement a deny-all, permit-by-exception (Approved List) strategy.
4. Conduct routine network security assessments
Find one or more cybersecurity compliance standards and make an effort to adhere to them. Depending on the compliance requirements of a particular industry, the standards to which you must comply may already be prescribed. Common standards include NIST, HIPAA, HITRUST, FedRAMP, CMMC, and PCI DSS.
Each standard specifies how frequently you should perform penetration tests and vulnerability scans. For example, you may be required to perform a vulnerability scan once per quarter and a penetration test once per year. However, the more frequently you perform these tests, the better your chance to boost your cybersecurity posture.
5. Improve password hygiene
Compromised passwords are one of the top avenues through which cybercriminals steal data or break into systems. Establishing strong password requirements and good password hygiene greatly reduces the chances of a breach via this vector. Require all users to use unique passwords with symbols, numbers, and upper/lowercase letters for a start. We also strongly recommend enabling multi-factor authentication whenever possible, particularly for network access from personal and unsecured devices.
6. Segment your network
Network segmentation is one way of minimizing access and, therefore, minimizing the reach of threat actors. This is done by separating the network into smaller segments using firewalls, VLANs , and security boundaries. Segmentation makes it so that users only have access to the data and applications needed to perform their duties.
7. Enhance endpoint security
In work-from-anywhere environments, the threat landscape has become ever-sprawling. In the past, firewalls and similar protections kept the corporate network safe from the outside. But now, employees regularly need to access that network remotely, which results in vulnerabilities. The solution to enhance endpoint security is to shore up the endpoints used for access. This is acheived by implementing secure configuration settings and ensuring a regular patching cadence.
8. Schedule regular employee training
The weakest link in cybersecurity is often still human. Even with the best spam filters in the world, a few pieces of nefarious email are bound to make it through, and all it takes is for one employee to click on a phishing scam for your network to become compromised. Employees may also unknowingly engage in practices that create other vulnerabilities, such as sharing their password with someone or accessing materials they shouldn’t.
Make cyber awareness training a regular part of your workplace culture. All new hires should receive basic instruction at the start of employment, but the entire team should receive additional training on an annual or otherwise regular basis to stay up to date.
9. Implement an Intrusion Detection System (IDS)
An Intrusion Detection System (IDS) continuously monitors the network for breaches, flagging issues as they occur, and either reports them directly to the network defenders or a security information and event management (SIEM) system. Having an IDS in place means you’ll be notified immediately of any suspicious activity in time to act on it before too much damage is done.
Mitigate ransomware attacks with SecurityScorecard
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