Ransomware is a particularly virulent form of malware that attacks business-critical systems and data. Ransomware attacks encrypt files or lock systems, rendering them useless to their owners. Typically, the threat actors behind the attack demand a financial ransom to decrypt the files and enable the victimized organization to regain access to their data. Ransom demands are often met using an anonymous form of cryptocurrency.

Ransomware attacks are extremely popular among individual threat actors and organized cybercriminal groups. New attacks come to light virtually every day and have the potential to cause substantial damage to victims. According to Veeam’s 2023 Data Protection Trends Report, 85% of ransomware attacks target small businesses. In up to 60% of successful attacks, the cost of recovery and downtime puts the victimized company out of business.

Minimizing the risk of ransomware attacks demands a multi-faceted approach. Effective strategies need to incorporate preventative measures that strive to keep ransomware from entering the environment. The strategy also needs to protect IT resources if an attack gets through an organization’s defenses.

We are going to look at tips on preventing a ransomware attack and how to protect your IT environment so you can recover business-critical resources quickly in the wake of an attack.

Preventing Ransomware Infections

Ideally, you want to keep ransomware out of your IT environment. Multiple tactics need to be employed to successfully meet this objective. A single vulnerability or mistake can open the door to threat actors wielding ransomware.

The following best practices should be implemented to minimize the chances of a successful ransomware attack.

  • Identify high-value data and systems – It’s important to understand where your high-value data resides and which systems are critical to business operations. Small companies typically have limited IT budgets with which to protect their infrastructure. Identifying valuable assets that make attractive targets for ransomware enables a company to use resources efficiently and gives them the protection they need to safeguard the business.
  • Keep systems updated – All software and hardware should be updated to the most current version to incorporate new vendor-provided security functionality. Additionally, patches should be installed as soon as they become available to address newly discovered vulnerabilities that can be leveraged by cybercriminals.
  • Stress ransomware awareness training – Employees need to receive effective ransomware awareness training to avoid inadvertently allowing threat actors into the environment. The education should include identifying phishing emails and social engineering attacks that are often used to gain access to the environment to plant ransomware.
  • Implement antivirus software and firewalls – Antivirus software and firewalls prevent known threats from gaining entry into the environment. These solutions need to be updated regularly to keep up with the evolving threat landscape.
  • Deploy endpoint detection and response solutions – Endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions identify suspicious behavior that may indicate the presence of malicious entities. These systems leverage the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to uncover emerging threats that ma not be caught with firewalls.
  • Minimize user privileges – Users should only have system privileges necessary to do their jobs. Excessive privileges increase the chances of compromised credentials being used to access sensitive information and locate valuable targets for ransomware attacks.
  • Enforce strong user authentication – Strong authentication protocols should be in place to protect IT resources. Measures should include enforcing the use of complex passwords to minimize successful brute-force attacks. Multi-factor authentication should be used to reduce the risk of threat actors using compromised credentials to launch an attack.
  • Network segmentation – Segmenting your network can help contain attacks and prevent business-critical systems from being impacted. Additional monitoring and protective measures can be implemented in the segments containing the most important systems and applications.
  • Reduce the attack surface – The IT environment’s attack surface can be reduced by disabling unused services. Unnecessary software and hardware features should not be implemented as they present additional entry points for threat actors to exploit to plant ransomware.

Ransomware Protection Tactics

Unfortunately, despite an organization’s best efforts, it may find itself dealing with a ransomware attack that finds its way into the environment. The following tactics are essential for mitigating the effects of the attack and minimizing the damage to the company.

  • Backup and recovery procedures – All systems containing valuable or mission-critical data need to have backup and recovery plans in place. Recovery procedures should be tested regularly to ensure systems can be recovered quickly if necessary. Cybercriminals are directly targeting backup data to increase the pressure on victims to pay their ransom demands. Companies should strongly consider cloud backups that segregate backup data to minimize the risk that it gets corrupted during the ransomware attack.
  • Incident response plans – Companies need effective incident response plans to quickly address and mitigate the effects of a ransomware attack. Plans should be developed that envision the consequences of a successful attack and define the corrective actions that need to be taken. Waiting until an attack happens sets you up for additional problems as you scramble to respond.
  • Disaster recovery and business continuity plans – Your company needs to be prepared for a worst-case scenario where your systems have been infected with ransomware. Implementing an effective disaster recovery and business continuity plan enables you to get your business up and running again without acceding to the cybercriminals’ demands.

How VAST Helps Protect Your Business From Ransomware

VAST offers multiple solutions to help your business prevent ransomware attacks and protect your valuable data so it can be recovered if an attack occurs. Following is a sample of the services VAST provides to help you mitigate the risk of ransomware.

  • Security Lifecycle Review – VAST’s comprehensive review of your security posture is designed to identify vulnerabilities so they can be proactively addressed before being exploited by threat actors.
  • Cloud Backup as a Service (CBaaS) – Our CBaaS solution is tailored to give small businesses data protection without the cost of building a dedicated backup infrastructure.
  • Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) – We leverage the power of AWS Elastic Disaster Recovery to protect your business with recovery to alternate regions to increase resiliency.
  • Business continuity – Our experts will help you craft a business continuity plan that addresses your recovery point objectives and keeps you running and servicing your customers.

Get in touch with us today and start protecting your company from the increasing danger of today’s sophisticated ransomware attacks.