What is ransomware? 12 tips to protect your business

October 12, 2023

This week we are delving deeper to help businesses to remain cyber wise this Cyber Security Awareness Month, providing you with an explanation of ransomware.

Let’s look at what ransomware is, how it works, and provide 12 tips from Adept IT Solutions to help protect your business from an attack.

Understanding ransomware

Ransomware is a form of malicious software that encrypts your data and restricts access to a computer system or files until a ransom is paid to the attacker.

Once a threat actor gains and restricts access to your system or files they will become inaccessible. If you’ve been encrypted, a ransom note is displayed demanding payment, usually in the form of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, in exchange for the decryption key to regain access to your files.

Cyber threats are becoming more frequent in our current digital age and ransomware has become one of the most common and dangerous types of malware used by cybercriminals.

According to a Datto survey performed in 2023, 13 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses experienced a ransomware attack over the past year. Of the respondents, 24 per cent had also experienced at least one ransomware attack.

“Almost three-quarters of companies say that a ransomware attack would be a death blow and about 60 per cent of respondents feel their organisation might be hit by a successful Ransomware attack in the next 12 months,” say Datto.

How ransomware works

Here are the five steps which usually take place during an attack to explain further.

  1. Delivery: Ransomware is typically delivered through phishing emails, malicious websites, or infected software downloads. Unsuspecting users click on a link or download an attachment, allowing the malware to infiltrate their system.
  2. Encryption: Once inside a victim’s system, ransomware begins encrypting files. It uses complex encryption algorithms that are almost impossible to break without the decryption key, which only the attacker possesses.
  3. Ransom note: After the encryption is complete, the victim receives a ransom note on their screen. This note includes instructions on how to pay the ransom and promises to provide the decryption key upon payment.
  4. Payment: Cybercriminals usually demand payment in cryptocurrency to maintain their anonymity. Victims are urged to act quickly and pay the ransom within a specific time frame, often accompanied by threats of permanent data loss.
  5. Decryption: If the victim pays the ransom, they may receive the decryption key. This key is essential for unlocking files. However, paying the ransom is not a guarantee the attacker will provide the key or that the victim’s data will be restored. There is the risk you can pay the ransom and still lose access to all your files.
Beware of ransomware
Don’t face the risk of ransomware! Enlist Adept IT Solutions to provide IT compliance auditing and cyber-awareness training for your business.

12 tips to protect your business from ransomware

Given the risk of potential loss of your data that a ransomware attack could have on your business, here are Adept IT Solutions twelve tips to help protect your systems and data.

  1. Employee training and awareness: The human factor is often the weakest link in cybersecurity. Train your employees to recognise phishing attempts, suspicious emails, and potentially harmful links. Adept IT Solutions provides cyber-awareness training to help educate employees so they can avoid risky online behaviour in order to prevent attacks from occurring.
  2. Regular software updates: Outdated software and operating systems are vulnerable to exploitation. Ensure that all software and systems are up to date with the latest security. Adept IT Solutions assists by completing patching updates to systems and software for our clients.
  3. Back up your data: Regular backups of your data should be completed to secure offline storage. This ensures that even if your data is encrypted by ransomware, it can be restored from a clean backup without having to pay a ransom.
  4. Use anti-virus and anti-malware software: Businesses should implement robust security software to detect and prevent malware. This can significantly reduce the risk of infection. Adept IT Solutions ensure the latest virus definitions are completed for our clients.
  5. Utilise firewalls and Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS): Firewalls help block ransomware by controlling network traffic, identifying known ransomware signatures, and detecting malicious behaviours. Utilising a firewall helps to establish access rules and can inspect the content of data packets to prevent unauthorised connections and block potential ransomware payloads. Meanwhile, IDS continually monitors network traffic for patters and signatures associated with ransomware, generating alerts for rapid response when potential threats are detected.
  6. Segment your network: Divide your network into segments with varying levels of access. This way if ransomware infiltrates one segment, it won’t easily spread to the entire network.
  7. Email filtering: implement email filtering solutions to weed out phishing emails or malicious attachments before they reach employee’s inboxes.
  8. Limit user access: Provide privileges to users only to what they need to do their job. Restricting access can prevent ransomware from spreading to critical systems.
  9. Remote desktop protocol (RDP) protection: If you use RDP, secure it with strong passwords and two-factor authentication as attackers often use RDP to gain access to systems. Adept IT Solutions recommends Keeper enterprise password management.
  10. Regular testing and training: Test your incident response plan regularly and update it based on lessons learned. Adept IT Solutions provide IT and compliance auditing to help businesses to assess your company and make recommendations on more secure, cost effective and information sensitive methods to help keep your company compliant and safe.
  11.  Incident response plan: Businesses should develop a clear incident response plan outlining how your organisation will respond to a ransomware attack. This plan should include steps for containing the attack, notifying affected parties and engaging law enforcement if necessary. Adept IT Solutions can provide guidance to help implement robust incident response plans for any business.
  12.  Consider cyber-insurance: Cyber-insurance is recommended to provide financial support in the event of a ransomware attack. It won’t prevent the attack, but it can help mitigate any financial impact.

Stay informed on the latest ransomware threats

Ransomware is a pervasive and evolving threat, but you can protect your business from falling victim to an attack by following best practices for cybersecurity.

Adept IT Solutions will continue to help inform our clients and business about the latest cybersecurity threats to their businesses including ransomware. In the first six months of 2023, LockBit, Clop and BlackCat were the three most prominent ransomware groups according to Trend Micro. Of these, LockBit accounted for 26.09 per cent of the total number of attacks on victim organisations.

Employee training, regular software updates, data backups, and a robust cybersecurity strategy are crucial for safeguarding your organisation.

Remember that paying the ransom is not a guarantee of recovering your data, and it often fuels further criminal activity. Prevention and preparedness are the keys to protecting your business from the pernicious threat of ransomware.

If you would like to learn more about our services or our cutting-edge cyber security awareness and training platform, click here. Or feel free to contact Adept IT Solutions on 1300 4 23378 (ADEPT) or email us at info@adept-it.com.au.

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