Ransomware is the fastest growing malware threat, targeting users of all types from the home user to the corporate network. On average, more than 4,000 ransomware attacks have occurred
daily since January 1, 2016. This is a 300-percent increase over the approximately 1,000 attacks per day seen in 2015. There are very effective prevention and response actions that can significantly mitigate the risk posed to your organization.
Ransomware targets home users, businesses, and government networks and can lead to temporary or permanent loss of sensitive or proprietary information, disruption to regular operations, financial losses incurred to restore systems and files, and potential harm to an organization’s reputation.
Ransomware may direct a user to click on a link to pay a ransom; however, the link may be malicious and could lead to additional malware infections. Some ransomware variants display intimidating messages, such as:
“Your computer was used to visit websites with illegal content. To unlock your computer, you must pay a $100 fine.”
“You only have 96 hours to submit the payment. If you do not send money within provided time, all your files will be permanently encrypted and no one will be able to recover them.”
“All files on this computer are now encrypted. Please paid 10 Bitcoin or no one will be able to recover them.”
Educate Your Personnel
Attackers often enter the organization by tricking a user to disclose a password or click on a virus-laden email attachment.
Remind employees to never click unsolicited links or open unsolicited attachments in emails. To improve workforce awareness, the internal security team may test the training of an organization’s workforce with simulated phishing emails.
Proactive Prevention is the Best Defense
Prevention is the most effective defense against ransomware and it is critical to take precautions for protection. Infections can be devastating to an individual or organization, and recovery may be a difficult process requiring the services of a reputable data recovery specialist.
Fortify 24×7 recommends that users and administrators take the following preventive measures to protect their computer networks from falling victim to a ransomware infection: Preventive Measures
- Implement an awareness and training program. Because end users are targets, employees and individuals should be aware of the threat of ransomware and how it is delivered.
- Enable strong spam filters to prevent phishing emails from reaching the end users and authenticate inbound email using technologies like Sender Policy Framework (SPF), Domain Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance (DMARC), and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) to prevent email spoofing.
- Scan all incoming and outgoing emails to detect threats and filter executable files from reaching end users.
- Configure firewalls to block access to known malicious IP addresses.
- Patch operating systems, software, and firmware on devices. Consider using a centralized patch management system.
- Manage the use of privileged accounts based on the principle of least privilege: no users should be assigned administrative access unless absolutely needed; and those with a need for administrator accounts should only use them when necessary.
- Deploy proactive anti-ransomware, anti-virus and anti-malware programs and quarantine detected threats automatically.
- Use application whitelisting, which only allows systems to execute programs known and permitted by security policy.
- Configure access controls—including file, directory, and network share permissions— with least privilege in mind. If a user only needs to read specific files, the user should not have write access to those files, directories, or shares.
- Disable macro scripts from office files transmitted via email. Consider using Office Viewer software to open Microsoft Office files transmitted via email instead of full office suite applications.
- Implement Software Restriction Policies (SRP) or other controls to prevent programs from executing from common ransomware locations, such as temporary folders supporting popular Internet browsers or compression/decompression programs, including the AppData/LocalAppData folder.
- Consider disabling Remote Desktop protocol (RDP) if it is not being used.
- Execute operating system environments or specific programs in a virtualized environment.
- Categorize data based on organizational value and implement physical and logical separation of networks and data for different organizational units.
What to Do If Infected with Ransomware
Should preventive measures fail, we recommend that organizations consider taking the following steps upon an infection with ransomware:
- Isolate the infected computer immediately. Infected systems should be removed from the network as soon as possible to prevent ransomware from attacking network or share drives.
- Isolate or power-off affected devices that have not yet been completely corrupted. This may afford more time to clean and recover data, contain damage, and prevent worsening conditions.
- Immediately secure backup data or systems by taking them offline. Ensure backups are free of malware.
- If you are able, collect and secure partial portions of the ransomed data for forensic analysis
- If possible, change all online account passwords and network passwords after removing the system from the network.
- Contact law enforcement immediately. We strongly encourage you to contact a local field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or U.S. Secret Service immediately upon discovery to report a ransomware event and request assistance.
- Call should be to Fortify 24×7 and have a team of experts deployed to your location to assist in the removal of the infection and remediation of your systems
Implement your security incident response and business continuity plan.
Ideally, organizations will ensure they have appropriate backups, so their response to an attack will simply be to restore the data from a known clean backup. Having a data backup can eliminate the need to pay a ransom to recover data. If your organization does not have a security incident response or business continuity plan, the team at Fortify 24×7 will guide you through the process of developing the plans and strategies required.
There are serious risks to consider before paying the ransom. Fortify 24×7 does not encourage paying a ransom to criminal actors. However, after systems have been compromised, whether to pay a ransom is a serious decision, requiring the evaluation of all options to protect shareholders, employees, and customers. Victims will want to evaluate the technical feasibility, timeliness, and cost of restarting systems from backup. Ransomware victims may also wish to consider the following factors:
- Paying a ransom does not guarantee an organization will regain access to their data; in fact, some individuals or organizations were never provided with decryption keys after paying a ransom.
- Some victims who paid the demand were targeted again by cyber actors.
- After paying the originally demanded ransom, some victims were asked to pay more to get the promised decryption key.
- Paying could inadvertently encourage this criminal business model.
How Fortify 24×7 Can Help
Any entity infected with ransomware should contact Fortify 24×7 immediately. Fortify 24×7 will work with your IT staff and law enforcement to use tools that are unavailable to most organizations. Fortify 24×7 can enlist the assistance of international law enforcement partners to locate the stolen or encrypted data or identify the perpetrator. These tools and relationships can greatly increase the odds of successfully apprehending the criminal, thereby preventing future losses.
As an affected entity recovers from a cyber security incident, the entity should initiate measures to prevent similar incidents. Fortify 24×7 can assist organizations in implementing countermeasures and provide information and best practices for avoiding similar incidents in the future. Additionally, the affected organization should conduct a post-incident review of their response to the incident and assess the strengths and weaknesses of its incident response plan. Schedule a free 30 minute call today to discuss how Fortify 24×7 can protect you from ransomware and other cyber threats.