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7 Cybersecurity Best Practices to Protect Against Ransomware
The recent pandemic saw a rapid and unprecedented global shift in how most major organizations handled critical data. Within a short span of time, companies all over the world had to adjust their operations and hundreds of millions of workers began working remotely. The speed of the transition, lack of employee cybersecurity training, and the less-secure nature of remote work led to a massive spike in assaults on IT infrastructure, often in the form of ransomware attacks.
According to one article published on the Harvard Business Review website, global ransomware attacks in 2020 increased by 150% over the previous year. Additionally, the amounts paid by victims increased by over 300%.
If you’re a system administrator or IT professional, you already know how much damage a successful ransomware attack can cause. Apart from the cost of downtime and ransom payoffs, affected organizations also stand to lose trust and credibility, something that may never be recovered.
Because of this, all organizations need to learn and implement best practices to prevent ransomware. Here are some meaningful actions you can take to protect your organization and its data from ransomware.
1.) Invest in Proven Backup Approaches
While there is no single “right” way to back up data, backup systems should be designed and implemented according to proven principles. For instance, critical data should be backed up frequently so that restart points are close to the present. Also, guidelines such as “3-2-1” or “3-2-1-1” backup approaches should be followed to prevent catastrophic data losses.
3-2-1 involves keeping at least three copies of data in different locations, using at least two discrete storage mediums or devices, with one copy stored off-site. 3-2-1-1 is similar, with the added precaution of storing data on immutable and indelible storage where all information is permanent and unchangeable.
These approaches ensure that even if a hacker does manage to access data, they cannot encrypt it effectively. As a bonus, following these approaches may prevent data losses from natural disasters and other serious calamities.
2.) Train Employees on Cybersecurity
An organization’s cybersecurity is only as strong as the people who access and use the data. This is because many “hacks” involve exploiting human behavior rather than hardware or software systems itself.
While it’s all too easy to blame employees for data breaches, the responsibility for these attacks ultimately falls on the employers. Organizations should take it upon themselves to regularly train and educate all their employees, customers, and other stakeholders on cybersecurity. This will ensure that any unethical actor trying to access sensitive data will have a harder time using common psychological exploits or social engineering tactics.
3.) Invest in Email Security Solutions
Even if an employee is well trained to identify potential phishing attacks, cybercriminals continually find new ways to infiltrate an organization’s network. There is no way to train employees on new attack methods, and organizations are forced to play catch-up when training employees. This explains why, according to Cisco’s 2021 Cybersecurity Threat Trends report, about 90% of data breaches occur due to phishing. That is why organizations should consider investing in email security solutions, as it adds another layer of security to prevent ransomware attacks.
4.) Validate Cybersecurity Solutions
Many cybersecurity solutions out there claim to prevent ransomware. However, if you look closely, some of these solutions offer application security, which doesn’t help prevent ransomware attacks. Ransomware hackers are going after your data, and an application does not store any data because they are stored in databases. Keep this concept in mind when you’re reviewing and validating ransomware cybersecurity solutions.
5.) Consider Using an Intrusion Detection Solution
Assume a ransomware hacker gained an entry point through an employee’s computer, their next step is to scan the organization’s network to find all the data so they can carry out a ransomware attack and maximize its damage. But what if you can block the hackers from scanning a network? That’s essentially what an intrusion detection solution does. It is able to identify and block any unauthorized scan of the network and minimize the attack’s damage to only the compromised computer.
6.) Update Systems Regularly
Given enough time, determined hackers will eventually discover holes and exploits in almost any system. To reduce the risk to data, organizations have to ensure that all systems, applications, and operating systems are up-to-date. End user systems and protocols also need to be checked periodically to prevent data thieves from taking advantage of gaps in these areas.
7.) Conduct Testing Regularly
Unfortunately, as organizations grow, it becomes more and more difficult to keep up with everything. This may create a situation where your network might have open ports for hackers to exploit, or your backups are not running properly. Further, the IT environment is constantly evolving. What worked yesterday might not being today. This is why you need to conduct testing on a regular basis to ensure that you are prepared.
Preventing Ransomware Starts with You
The ransomware prevention best practices above are a brief summary of what organizations can do to prevent ransomware attacks. Implementing just a few extra security measures mentioned above can sometimes deter ransomware hackers and make them move on to easier targets. To be better prepared, you need a multi-layered approach that’s able to stop ransomware hackers at each stage of the attack. All of this comes down to how serious you are with cybersecurity.