Four Common Sense Ways to Take the Bite Out of Ransomware

Your staff, investors, and customers will thank you

If you’re a financial services company in New York State, your world changed on March 1, 2017. On that day, regulation 23 NYCRR 500 took effect and ushered in a new era of cybersecurity standards intended to prevent a host of digital attacks, including ransomware.

Every forty seconds

2017 was an unprecedented period in ransomware. Attacks on businesses tripled over the previous year, culminating in the startling statistic of one every forty seconds, with global damages in excess of $5 billion. It should come as no surprise that this single issue continues to dominate the cybersecurity threat landscape, and shows no signs of slowing down.

Ransomware does its deed most commonly via phishing email attacks, where the perpetrator often poses as a company employee or outside vendor. If email is the missile, ransomware is the warhead, leaving a trail of disruption and destruction that can be painfully time-consuming and expensive to resolve.

And no one is immune. In addition to financial services, healthcare, IT, education, and entertainment are just a sampling of industries that have gone three rounds with ransomware in recent years.

A notorious bunch

The top ransomware performers last year were a nasty group. Among them, WannaCry, Locky, and Petya were particularly notable for their reach and consequences.

WannaCry infected over 400,000 machines, including banks, law enforcement, and many other industries. It took root in 150 countries and affected such companies as FedEx, Britain’s National Health Service, and Telefónica, Spain’s largest telecom company. Locky, meanwhile, claimed its own high-profile victims, including Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, which had to shut down several departments, divert patients to other hospitals, and process registrations and log-ins via paper and fax until its computer systems were restored. Not to be outdone, Petya slammed pharmaceutical powerhouse Merck, British marketing giant WPP, Russian petroleum company Rosneft, and the Kiev airport.

So, what can your business do to avoid this fate?

  1. Back-up is your friend

It can’t be said too often: back-up, back-up, back-up. Ideally, every day, and keep several copies of files in different locations and on different media. This method, known as a tiered or distributed solution, ideally involves a diverse blend of technologies, and experts recommend following a “3-2-1 strategy”—three copies of the data, two storage methods (e.g. files stored locally and tape stored offsite), and at least one copy kept offsite (e.g. the cloud or an external server).

In the event of an attack, be sure ransomware is completely removed before restoring your system, to avoid corrupting back-up files.

  1. Time to patch things up

Make it a company priority to keep all software up to date and install any patches that come through. WannaCry did not spread because unsuspecting staff clicked an innocent-looking link. It spread because those same employees had computers that were without a patch, which Microsoft made available 59 days prior to the virus’s launch. Companies had nearly two months to prevent what would be a historic attack. Every time your cube farm neighbor clicks “Remind Me Tomorrow” instead of “Update,” he or she puts the entire company at risk.

  1. When in doubt, segment

Hacking, like football, is ultimately a game of inches – ransomware only needs a tiny crack in your network’s defensive line in order to sneak through and gain access. A properly segmented network helps protect valuable information by limiting ransomware’s movement, and hence, potential damage, if it succeeds in sneaking past your outer wall.

  1. Basic training

Employees are your greatest asset … and potential liability. Even in this day and age when the Internet is ubiquitous, it is all too common for Dan in Sales to open that sketchy attachment or Maude in HR to click on that typo-laden link. Establish periodic training on the dos and don’ts of cybersecurity protocols and revisit it regularly. Reinforcement of basic security principles (e.g. don’t open attachments or click links from unknown sources) is key in order to maintain a safe and productive work environment.

Prevention + Time = Peace of Mind

Understanding and following “company policy” on cybersecurity can feel inconvenient, overwhelming, and at times annoying. Ultimately, common sense and diligence must take priority over blissful ignorance and convenience. Your company’s livelihood, and even survival, could depend on it.

CyberGuard360’s clients across four states and 40 industries are guided safely through the threat landscape. Our wide array of services includes system security suites, risk assessment, education, and training and disaster recovery, and we specialize in helping New York companies comply with 23 NYCRR 500. If you’d like us to put our expertise to work for you, we’d be happy to help. Call us at 844-315-9882 or use our contact form for a free consultation.