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Protect Your Company's Network From Being Held Hostage

by Roland Stanley

It's been all over the news media recently: a ransomware attack forces a company to pay a high price to regain access to its data. This type of cybersecurity attack leverages human weaknesses to gain access to vulnerable networks, then requires payment to halt further damage. And ransomware attacks are on the rise. Here's what you need to know to secure your network.

What Is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software (malware) that cybercriminals use to encrypt files or lock access on individual computers or corporate networks. Typically, hackers use social engineering techniques to get naïve users to click on email links or visit malicious websites that install the ransomware program on the user's computer. If the computer is connected to a network, a self-propagating file can spread to other computers and servers on the network, potentially shutting down the entire network. The ransomware program or the person behind the attack then demands a payment to restore access to files or networks.

Ransomware can disrupt business operations, steal vital data, and hurt the company financially by demanding exorbitant payments. Ransomware can also damage a company's reputation by creating security breaches that expose customers' sensitive data.

Unfortunately, an attack on your network is likely a matter of when, not if. Ransomware attacks are on the rise. According to a report by Statista, there were 304 million ransomware attacks around the globe in 2020. That's up from nearly 188 million in 2019. And most likely the numbers will continue to rise.

How Can You Protect Your Networks?

Of course, the best protection from ransomware is prevention. But you should also have a plan in place for stopping the spread and mitigating the damage should your protection measures fail to prevent a ransomware attack. Here are some important steps you and your security team can implement to prevent a ransomware attack.

Education. One of the most vulnerable parts of your network is the end users. That's why educating them about the threat of ransomware and how they can use safe practices to protect their computers and therefore the network is crucial. Warn them about opening suspicious emails and attachments, clicking on unknown links, and visiting risky websites.

Back up systems. You can reduce the threat of data loss by backing up your network regularly and store the files offline.

Patch your systems. Keep your hardware, software, and operating systems up to date and patched with the latest security protection and fixes.

Security software. Update your antivirus solutions, harden your firewall to reduce network intrusions, and install email filters to prevent suspicious emails from reaching your network inboxes.

Set permissions. Restrict remote access points and don't allow .exe files to run on network devices except through administrator access.

Centrally manage network devices. Regularly review your network for vulnerabilities. Allow only applications trusted by the enterprise to run on end user computers. Also, remove user permissions that are obsolete.

How Do You Handle a Ransomware Infection?

If you find that a computer on your network has suffered a ransomware attack, remove the computer from the network and disable wireless and Bluetooth connectivity. Make sure networked drives are disconnected. You should also notify law enforcement.

After shutting down the spread of the ransomware, you must decide whether to pay the sum demanded. Weigh the costs of damages to finances, operations, and reputation with the expense of handing over a payment. You'll usually find the expense of the ransom to be the lesser of the two options. However, it's also important to understand that even if you do pay the ransom, there is no guarantee the attackers will decrypt the files or unlock the infected computers. Also consider the fact that your actions will show potential ransomware attackers that you are a good target for future attacks. It will also encourage other attacks against other companies.

Contact a network management company to learn more.