How to Prevent and Mitigate Enterprise Ransomware Attacks

How to Prevent and Mitigate Enterprise Ransomware Attacks

How can your enterprise prevent ransomware attacks? If a ransomware attack does affect your enterprise IT infrastructure, how can you mitigate them? What strategies can strengthen your endpoint security and cybersecurity overall?

The term “ransomware attacks” refers to a specific species of malware and threat tactic; it focuses on penetrating enterprise networks and holding their critical files hostage through encryption. In fact, more sophisticated ransomware can hold entire servers and networks hostage through the same process. Either way, your users can’t access these essential files or even log in with the files encrypted. Instead, your enterprise must make a difficult choice. You can either pay the ransom the hackers demand to unencrypt your files or try to mitigate the problem yourself. 

For some industries, this “choice” appears like anything but one. Many enterprises find the losses resulting from downtime more punishing than just paying the ransom. Simultaneously, ransomware could cost thousands upon thousands of dollars per attack. For example, each of the recent U.S. municipal attacks cost an average of $400,000 apiece in ransom; many of the afflicted municipal governments still elected to pay, despite the FBI counseling otherwise.

Additionally, some industries can’t afford to wait. Healthcare enterprises have a duty to provide immediate care to their patients, which precludes waiting for time-consumptive threat mitigation. To avoid making similar tough choices, prevention and mitigation can save you in the short and long-term against ransomware attacks. Here’s what you need to know. 

Why Ransomware Attacks Are on the Rise  

Digital threats such as cryptocurrency mining malware and fileless malware took center stage over the past few years. Some experts even predicted a true decline in ransomware as hackers embraced more subtle cyberattack tactics.  

However, ransomware is experiencing a resurgence of popularity around the globe. In the first quarter of 2019, Malwarebytes Labs discovered ransomware rose by 500%. So why are ransomware attacks are on the rise now? 

Partially, we can blame the Dark Web. Plenty of enterprising threat actors now sell or rent Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) to the inexperienced cybercriminals looking to turn a profit. These programs make initiating ransomware attacks straightforward and effective, with minimal coding involved. In other words, it outsources the digital threats to more experienced hackers—every cybersecurity expert’s nightmare. 

More than that, ransomware provides hackers an easy means to exploit enterprise digital vulnerabilities. Indeed, ransomware can exploit security holes as diverse as open ports, phishing emails, and software vulnerabilities. Thus ransomware offers flexibility most hackers, especially newcomers, find appealing. So long as they can access your files, they can initiate a ransomware attack against you.  

Why You Shouldn’t Pay the Ransom

When considering next steps in the wake of any ransomware attack, please heed the FBI: don’t pay the ransom.

Understandably, this proves easier said than done, as we described above. Yet the long-term consequences of paying can easily overshadow the short-term benefits and resumed workflows. 

As a few examples as to why: 

  1. You should never assume honor with (or among) thieves. Put simply, paying the ransom doesn’t guarantee the hackers will actually return your files. Instead, they could turn around and demand more. Although many do follow a sort of code of conduct with their victims, you can never assume universal honorability. These are criminals willing to hold your business processes and data for ransom—not people to be trusted. 
  2. Paying the ransomware masks the real problems. If hackers have a route into your network, paying them off can limit your ability to discover the vulnerability they exploited. Hackers can and will absolutely reuse old vulnerabilities to re-initiate their attacks…costing you more in the long run.
  3. Paying the ransom only encourages bad behavior. It shows other hackers ransomware attacks are a profitable criminal venture. By paying, your enterprise encourages more hackers to target you and other businesses. Make no mistake: hackers increasing choose to tailor their attacks to fit specific enterprises. If they knew you pay the ransom…  

Paying the ransom should never be the solution to your problem. So what can you do instead? 

How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks 

First, on the prevention side, your enterprise should invest in next-generation endpoint protection platforms. Only through these platforms can your digital perimeter deflect a large majority of ransomware attacks; it can inspect emails for malicious payloads, prevent malicious encryption programs, and uncover endpoint vulnerabilities.  

Also, you need to incorporate backup and disaster recovery into your cybersecurity and endpoint protection platforms. By having multiple backups of your data both offline and off-site, you ensure that your data remains in your possession, even if a ransomware attack occurs. Having backups of your critical files means your workflows can resume faster after an attack.  

Of course, this doesn’t just happen on its own. Instead, you must monitor your backup process and stay up-to-date with both capabilities and backups. Through monitoring, you can detect whether a malicious data encryption program is present in your network, thus cutting off ransomware at the pass (so to speak). With patching and updates, you ensure optimal performance and threat intelligence. Above all, nothing in cybersecurity is “set it and forget it.” Endpoint security, backup and recovery, and cybersecurity solutions need maintenance and attention to function optimally.

Additionally, you need to consider the human factor in your ransomware. Many phishing attacks exploit the neglect or ignorance of your users and employees. Either they don’t recognize a fake email or don’t pay enough attention to do so. Thus your own employees can invite ransomware attacks into your network, often without realizing it (at first). Through continuous and engaging education programs, employees can better recognize phishing attacks as they occur and prevent them. 

How to Mitigate Ransomware

Your enterprise needs a practiced incident response plan in case a ransomware attack hits you network infrastructure. This will help your employees recognize phishing attacks and keep the lines of communication open during an attack. Moreover, it ensures employees know who to conduct when and in what format, speeding the remediation process. 

When combined with strong endpoint security and backup solution platforms, your enterprise can reduce the effectiveness of ransomware attacks. In fact, you can dissuade attackers from bothering targeting you in the first place.  

If you would like to learn more, you can check out our 2019 Endpoint Security Buyer’s Guide. It features the key capabilities and Bottom Line analyses of the top vendors in the market.

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Ben Canner

Editor, Cybersecurity at Solutions Review
Ben Canner is an enterprise technology writer and analyst covering Identity Management, SIEM, Endpoint Protection, and Cybersecurity writ large. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from Clark University in Worcester, MA. He previously worked as a corporate blogger and ghost writer. You can reach him via Twitter and LinkedIn.
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