Ransomware incidents have become a nuisance for organizations globally. From startups to multi-million dollar companies, anyone can become the target of notorious ransomware attacks. Did you know that almost 80% of organizations suffered a ransomware attack in 2021? Yes, you read it right! And unfortunately, this number is not going down anytime soon.
With our growing dependence on technology and the internet, the number of cyber threats is only going to increase in the future. In fact, it is estimated that businesses all around the world will experience a ransomware attack every eleven seconds in 2022 and beyond. Not only this, on average ransomware attacks cost around $4.62 million.
While these numbers definitely sound overwhelming and frightening, you can still protect yourself against ransomware attacks. Read on to find out how.
What is Ransomware and Why is It Such a Big Concern for Organizations Today?
Before we discuss the top three ways to protect yourself against ransomware threats, let’s talk about the basics first. Simply put, ransomware is a kind of malicious software or malware that takes hold of your device and blocks your access to it. It does this by encrypting your databases and files.
The attacker then demands an outrageous sum of money (or ransom) in exchange for restoring your access. The ransom is usually demanded in the form of cryptocurrencies and it comes with a strict deadline.
If you are unable to pay the ransom, all the sensitive data in your device would be as good as gone! The cybercriminals would either destroy it or use it as they deem fit. However, data theft is not the main purpose of ransomware attacks. Cybercriminals use ransomware as a tool to make big money by way of threat and manipulation..
While such malware attacks harm all kinds of organizations, they can have catastrophic effects if hospitals or emergency call centers become a victim of them. A ransomware attack on a hospital’s database can put many innocent lives at risk.
Since ransomware attacks are highly complex, recovering your data on your own is nearly impossible. This is the reason why most victims end up paying the ransom amount demanded by the attacker.
In 2021, the amount of ransom paid by victims reached more than $600 million. Not only that, almost 56% of ransomware victims give in to the demand of cybercriminals and pay the money. Violations like these, both for a larger corporate network, and for small businesses, wreaks havoc on the long-term viability and well-being of a company.
Naturally, organizations of all sizes are worried about the rapidly increasing number of ransomware attacks. And rightfully so.
How Do Ransomware Attacks Take Place?
You cannot protect yourself against ransomware attacks, or any other security breach for that matter, if you are unaware of how they occur in the first place.
Thus, before jumping into the three best ransomware protection practices, let’s talk about how ransomware attacks happen.
Malicious emails are one of the most common ways through which an attacker deploys ransomware to the victim’s computers. The attacker usually sends harmful email attachments, or links in emails, to the victim. These emails are crafted in such a way that they look genuine.
As soon as the receiver opens those email attachments, the malicious software or application gets downloaded into the victim’s computer system. You are especially vulnerable if you don’t have good antivirus software.
These are highly advanced toolkits used to distribute malware and carry out ransomware attacks. These kits are executed when you visit a corrupt website. Such websites contain several malicious codes that automatically redirect a user to the landing page of ransomware exploit kits.
As soon as the user reaches that page, the exploit kit gets executed, thereby infecting their computers and holding their files and databases hostage.
Pirated Applications or Software
Pirated applications are known to carry various malware and adware. There is a high chance that these software programs also have ransomware hidden in them in the form of executable files.
As soon as a user downloads and runs pirated software in their system, the malicious code gets executed, compromising their data and other sensitive information.
Unknown USB Drives
Ransomware can also be delivered to your or your organization’s computers through an infected USB drive.
When you plug an infected USB drive into your system, the ransomware can encrypt your device and harm your entire network. Once that happens, there is no way of going back until you pay the ransom or are ready to lose your data.
3 Tried and Tested Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Organization Against Ransomware
A ransomware attack can put your organization in a very difficult position. You would either have to pay an incredibly high ransom or lose all your data. No matter what you choose, there is no way you will come out winning in such a situation.
The only smart way to deal with ransomware threats is to avoid them in the first place. And doing so is simpler than it may sound. In fact, as per a study conducted by Gartner, almost 90% of ransomware attacks are avoidable. All you need to do is stay vigilant and adopt excellent safety protocols and strategies.
Here are the top 3 ways to keep yourself and your organization safe from the clutches of ransomware:
Always Download Software from Respected and Well-Known Sources
Most ransomware are delivered to the victim’s device through infected websites. So, make sure to always download your applications and software from known and trustworthy sites.
A good way to do that is by ensuring that every site you visit and download software from has “https” instead of “http” in the address bar. The additional “s” here is the shield that signifies that the website is legitimate and secure.
Apart from that, you should also stay vigilant while downloading apps on your mobile devices. Try to download applications from the Google Play Store if you have an Android device or App Store for iOS devices.
While this may sound like a small thing, it can go a long way in helping you safeguard yourself and your organization from ransomware and other kinds of malware and viruses.
Beware of pop-up windows. These often contain a malicious attachment, malicious links, and different types of malware
Stay Extra Cautious While Opening Emails
Research reveals that email phishing is the most common way through which hackers carry out ransomware attacks. Almost 1 in every 6000 emails contains harmful links, malicious attachments, and ransomware.
So, make sure to never open email attachments or click on a URL that came from a dubious-looking email address. Double-check the sender’s address and verify its credibility. Invest in security awareness training for your employees. Train your employees on how to spot suspicious emails, infected links, and spam messages.
You can also deploy a third-party email scanner or leverage anti-phishing tools to spot ransomware threats in advance.
Additionally, always keep a backup of all your critical data on an external storage device. This ensures that you do not end up losing your valuable files and databases, in case your computer gets compromised.
Keep Your Operating System and Applications Up-To-Date
Regularly updating your operating system, programs, and other software helps you prevent malware infections. Doing so also ensures that your devices have the latest security patches. This mitigates the risk of attacks and makes it harder for the attacker to exploit your computer system.
Apart from that, try to limit your usage of public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi often acts as a delivery vehicle for ransomware, malware-infected links, and viruses. If you still need to use public Wi-Fi, make sure to use a high-quality VPN service to stay protected.
Finally, keep a close watch on the USBs you connect to your devices. If a USB device came from an unknown source or you are feeling suspicious of it, it’s better to not use it at all.
So there you go. These were our top three tips for protecting yourself against ransomware attacks. Cybercriminals are getting more and more creative with their tactics. And so, you must up your game too.
Cyber attackers are always on the lookout for vulnerabilities in your online security and your business’s security policy. And when it comes to ransomware attacks, even a small slip can cost you millions of dollars. So, besides having excellent security software, make sure to implement all the above security practices and leave no room for error. Having many layers of defense is a good way to guard yourself against a ransomware infection.
Tech Masters is your expert security partner. We help small businesses protect their most important data and assets with comprehensive security plans and the latest technologies. Contact us today to learn more and get a free business IT assessment.
To learn more about protecting yourself against ransomware attacks, check out our frequently asked questions and answers below.
Do backups protect against ransomware?
Yes, having backups of your important files and databases can help you protect yourself against ransomware attacks. While backups cannot prevent an attack, they ensure that you do not end up losing your valuable data to the attacker.
Pro tip: Apart from backing up your data to the cloud, try to retain backups on external hardware devices as well.
What can I do to protect against ransomware?
Protection against ransomware is multi-pronged. Consider these steps below.
Make sure that your operating system and programs have the latest security patches
Never open a suspicious email attachment or click on a dubious-looking URL
Steer clear of public Wi-Fi.
Have a fully functional recovery plan in place.
Use a high-quality antivirus program (antivirus software) and other security tools
Use a good email filter
What is the best defense against ransomware?
Apart from implementing the above security practices to ensure cyber hygiene and using high-quality anti-malware and firewalls, which can act as a strong defense against ransomware, consider partnering with a trusted IT security service provider (digital security experts), for more robust protection.
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