Tips for Developing Your Ransomware Strategy

Published on : 25 Nov 2022

Tips for Developing Your Ransomware Strategy

Ransomware attacks continue to make headlines and cause havoc on organizations on an international scale. Unfortunately, we should expect that ransomware attacks will persist as one of the primary threats to organizations. Ransomware attacks have grown 350% in recent years, and while the best strategy is to prevent attacks from happening in the first place, there is no guarantee your data won’t be compromised. Instead of turning a blind eye to the possibility of a ransomware attack, your organization should develop a ransomware prevention and recovery strategy that will help your organization recover from the situation of a ransomware attack.

Importance of a Ransomware Recovery Plan

If your business lacks a ransomware recovery plan, you run the risk of serious consequences. A successful ransomware attack affects not only your productivity and reputation but also comes with a hefty price tag. Research studies and reports suggest that the average ransom paid by victim organizations of ransomware attacks, where their data was encrypted, has increased to $812,360

Implementing a cybersecurity strategy can save your organization time, money, and sensitive data when facing a ransomware attack. An in-depth cybersecurity strategy includes a comprehensive, multi-security response strategy that is designed to prevent such threats and enable stability to minimize downtime.

When developing your strategy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recommends that you follow the Cyber Security Framework (CSF), with five essential roles including:

  • Identify: Identify key assets (data, applications, etc) that your business needs for continued operations.
  • Protect: Automate data protection for your key assets and the backup environment.
  • Detect: Early threat detection is critical for mitigating ransomware threats.
  • Respond: Have a Disaster Response Strategy in place to address the ongoing attack and prevent escalation of threats.
  • Recover: Establish a Disaster Recovery Plan including recovery options and backups that reduce impacts on business.

Deciding on the right ransomware recovery solution is crucial to ensure that your organization has a stable and effective defense plan in place. This is essential to reduce the impact of ransomware or malware.

Ransomware Incident Response Plan

Response Plans will vary, but they should address the different types of data that are at risk. This should include the backup tools, processes the team has in place, and available resources for responding to ransomware attacks. A typical Ransomware Response Plan should look like this:

  • Assessing the Attack Impact:

When responding to a ransomware attack, the first step you should take is to assess how much of the data has been affected, and how many systems were breached. This is essential for implementing the next plan of action to address and mitigate the risk and further minimize the risk impact.

  • Disable Affected Systems:

Once the affected systems have been identified, the next step is to disable them immediately. This is to prevent further escalation of the attack. You can disable them by shutting them down or disconnecting them from the network. Regardless of the route you take, you must act in a controlled manner, as opposed to making quick and rash decisions. In your plan, specify which systems will be disabled first, how they will be disabled, and which steps must be taken during disabling to ensure that the data isn’t damaged when your systems go offline.

  • Assess the Damage:

Once you have addressed the attack and taken appropriate measures to neutralize the attack, you must then determine the extent of damage caused by the attack. Determine how much of your data was held for ransom, whether backups are available, and how recent they are. Your Ransomware Response Plan should assess if recovery plans exist for any backup data in hand. Ideally, you will have specific data recovery plans already in place that you can run quickly to recover the data.

  • Disclose the Attack:

In some cases, there are compliance regulations that require you to disclose the attack. An example of this would be ransomware attacks that impact data and are defined as sensitive and require mandatory disclosure of the attacks, regardless of how much of the data is affected. Data that is not considered personal or sensitive generally does not require the disclosure of a breach. If it is required, follow the steps specified by the relevant regulatory framework to disclose the attack. Disclosure typically involves notifying the appropriate government authorities and individuals whose personal data was breached.

Tips for Preventing Ransomware Attack

Cybercriminals are finding new and more sophisticated ways of exploiting vulnerabilities and breaking into their systems. Because of this, it is important businesses take these basic steps to help avoid ransomware:

  • Never Open Suspicious Links

Avoid clicking on links in spam messages or on unknown websites. Clicking malicious links may compromise your device by launching an application or infecting it, sometimes without you even knowing.

  • Avoid Disclosing Personal Information

If you receive a message, whether it be via text, call, or email, from an untrusted source requesting personal information, do not engage. Cybercriminals planning a ransomware attack may try to compromise your personal information in advance, which they will then use to tailor phishing messages specifically to you. If you have any reason to believe that the message is fake, contact the sender directly.

  • Do Not Open Suspicious Email Attachments

Ransomware can also find its way to your device through email attachments so you should avoid opening any suspicious attachments. Ensuring the email is trustworthy by paying attention to the sender and checking that the address is correct.

  • Never Use Unknown USB Drives

Never connect USB drives or any other storage media to your device if you are not sure where they came from. They may have been infected by cybercriminals and then left it in a public place to coerce someone into using it.

  • Keep Programs and Operating Systems Updated

Updating programs and operating systems frequently will help to protect you from malware. When performing updates, take note of the latest security patches and make sure they are to your benefit. This makes it more difficult for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities in your programs.

  • Use Only Trusted Download Sources

To minimize the risk of downloading ransomware, never download software or media files unless they are verified and trustworthy for download. Websites like this can be identified by trust seals. Make sure that the page you are visiting uses “HTTPS” instead of “HTTP”, or look for a shield or lock symbol in the address bar to also indicate it’s secure. Exercise caution when downloading anything to your mobile device outside of the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.

  • Use A VPN on Public Wi-Fi Networks

Try to avoid using public Wi-Fi networks altogether, but if you have no alternative, using a VPN is a protective measure against ransomware. Your device is more vulnerable to attacks when using a public Wi-Fi network.

Bottom Line

Securing sensitive information is the need of the hour for every business. An organization needs to establish appropriate security measures to prevent cyber-attacks like ransomware attacks. Be it any size business or industry, cyber-attacks are a huge threat and concern for all businesses. Even the most thorough strategy can’t guarantee that your data won’t be compromised by cyber threats like ransomware attacks.

Protecting the business requires that you follow best practices for prevention and designing a robust Ransomware Response Plan. Having a plan in place helps to respond quickly and effectively should ransomware strike. A strong Ransomware Response Plan in place will go a long way in ensuring secure data and better business continuity in the industry.

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Narendra Sahoo
Narendra Sahoo

Narendra Sahoo (PCI QPA, PCI QSA, PCI SSF ASSESSOR, CISSP, CISA, CRISC, 27001 LA) is the Founder and Director of VISTA InfoSec, a global Information Security Consulting firm, based in the US, Singapore & India. Mr. Sahoo holds more than 25 years of experience in the IT Industry, with expertise in Information Risk Consulting, Assessment, & Compliance services. VISTA InfoSec specializes in Information Security audit, consulting and certification services which include GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, NESA, MAS-TRM, PCI DSS Compliance & Audit, PCI PIN, SOC2 Compliance & Audit, PDPA, PDPB to name a few. The company has for years (since 2004) worked with organizations across the globe to address the Regulatory and Information Security challenges in their industry. VISTA InfoSec has been instrumental in helping top multinational companies achieve compliance and secure their IT infrastructure.