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Dallas Companies: Strategies for Preventing and Mitigating Ransomware

Becoming more dependent on technology has made most companies more vulnerable to cyber attacks in recent years, even as the capabilities of cyber security software and overall awareness of how to avoid falling for attacks and scams have increased. It is no longer uncommon for your company to experience ransomware or another cyber security concern, and knowing what to do after a cyber attack can be just as important to your overall data security as the steps your company takes to prevent ransomware in the first place.

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What Is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of cyber attack that hides malicious malware, often referred to as Trojans, in files or links that appear legitimate. Users inadvertently install this malware on their devices by clicking on a link or downloading a file that they think is safe. The malware then gives the cyber attacker the ability to encrypt legitimate files on the device or network, making them inaccessible to the user. The attacker then demands money from the owner of the device in exchange for regaining control over the files.

Strategies for Reducing Your Company's Risk of Experiencing Ransomware

Fortunately, there are several steps your company can take for reducing the likelihood of experiencing a successful ransomware attack.

Assess Your Company's Ransomware Readiness

Having an idea of which areas of your current cyber security program are the most likely to successfully protect your company's data and devices in the event of a cyber attack and which areas may be lacking can help your IT team determine how ready your company is to handle a cyber attack with minimal damage and identify specific vulnerabilities that are in the most need of immediate attention. The Cyber Security Evaluation Tool (CSET) is an application that provides device owners and operators with in-depth information about these vulnerabilities and suggestions for tightening them before a potential cyber attack occurs.

Avoid Clicking on Unknown Links and Files

Much like phishing scams, ransomware is typically spread through malicious links or files that appear to be legitimate. The malware can be downloaded to your company's computers, tablets, or other devices if a team member unknowingly clicks on a dangerous link in an email or downloads a dangerous file from an email or website. These methods attempt to fool users into downloading materials they think are something else, and these links or files discreetly install the malware that the cyber attacker will need to remotely gain control over your files.

Periodically reminding your team members of common ways your company may be exposed to ransomware and other types of malware in the first place is an important first step in minimizing the number of potential cyber attacks your company's IT team may need to mitigate.

Do Not Give Cyber Attackers What They Want

Paying the ransom the cyber attacker demands may seem like the fastest way to regain control over your files, but giving cyber attackers what they want is not an ideal strategy. Many of these ransoms are extremely high, often more than your business can afford, and even an IT professional will typically have a much harder time getting your money back from a source that is often untraceable than taking a different approach that will help you avoid losing money in the first place.

Even if you can fit this ransom into your company's budget, there is no guarantee that the cyber attacker will actually give you access to your files once you pay it, and it is not unheard of for cyber attackers to simply disappear after being paid without holding up their end of the agreement. Regardless of whether you regain access to your files after paying the ransom, your money will go toward hurting other companies by telling the cyber attacker that continuing attack other companies is worth their time because they succeeded in bringing in the money they wanted and will believe that they will continue to do so.

Steps to Take After Your Company Experiences Ransomware

While preventing ransomware and other types of cyber attacks should always be your company's primary goal, the reality is that cyber attackers' techniques are constantly becoming more sophisticated. This means that ransomware may be more difficult to spot and easier to fall for than it was in the recent past. Between this increase in sophistication and most companies' increased reliance on devices, digital data, and other technology, many companies do experience ransomware or another type of cyber attack at some point.

Knowing what to do to recover your data and protect your company after a cyber attack can be just as important as taking steps to prevent one from occurring in the first place. This seven-step checklist is a comprehensive guide to identifying ransomware as quickly as possible, determining what damage has been done, and responding to the security breach before it has the opportunity to cause further harm to your company.

1. Identify and Isolate Impacted Systems

Effectively minimizing the effects of a ransomware attack starts with determining where your system has been affected and attempting to isolate these areas if you notice the attack when it is still in progress. Taking your network offline as soon as you realize that ransomware has occurred is generally the most important step in stopping a ransomware attack, and you can also unplug your Ethernet cable or turn off your Wi-Fi if you are unable to quickly take your network offline after locating the problem.

2. Power Down Affected Devices If Needed

Powering down your devices can help prevent ransomware from spreading if you are unable to isolate the specific systems that are affected and disconnect them from your network. However, this option should only be completed if you cannot determine how to complete step one because turning your devices off may erase evidence of the attack that you may otherwise be able to use to help your company's IT team identify the specific details about what happened.

3. Triage Impacted Systems

Determining which systems are the most urgently in need of repairs is a crucial step in making sure that your resources are used as efficiently as possible immediately following a ransomware attack. Not knowing how to prioritize these repairs can result in attempting to make easier repairs that are less urgent while missing the most important repairs and systems. Being able to quickly determine which impacted systems house the most sensitive data or are the most crucial to being able to keep your business up and running is an important starting point in doing what you can to direct your mitigation strategies toward the areas that will result in the most harm to your business if left unrepaired.

4. Consult Your Company's Incident Response Team

Your company's incident response team plays a vital role in helping you determine exactly what happened, what failures in your cyber security strategies may have led to the incident, and what adjustments can be made to best prevent similar ransomware attacks in the future. These experts can analyze the incident to pinpoint specific vulnerabilities and explain what happened in language the rest of your team can easily understand to both address the current incident and take steps toward preventing future incidents.

5. Consult Your Stakeholders and Teams

Working with additional groups can help you compile additional strategies for mitigating the ransomware attack if members of your teams and stakeholders have the opportunity to contribute ideas. Being open and honest about sharing information about the situation with relevant stakeholders can also help to maintain trust and transparency within your company.

6. Preserve Evidence

Preserving several types of evidence as quickly as possible can help to maintain any data security you may have left and keep track of exactly what has been compromised. Some of these pieces of evidence include system images, memory captures, security logs, firewall buffer data, and any other indicators that an area was likely compromised.

7. Consult Federal Law Enforcement

If all else fails, your company may be able to obtain assistance from federal law enforcement, especially if the nature of your company makes the vulnerability of your data in the wrong hands well above average. If your files are too strongly encrypted for your IT team to gain access to and other strategies have been unsuccessful, consulting the nation's top security researchers may be your best option for finding someone who knows how to decrypt your files. Many cyber attacks are based on highly sophisticated encryption algorithms that are understood only by leaders in the cyber security industry, and these leaders may be able to successfully decrypt your files.

At Velocity IT, we prioritize helping companies take steps to prevent ransomware and other types of cyber attacks, and knowing how to manage the aftermath of an attack can be just as important. The sophistication of modern cyber criminals means that experiencing some type of cyber security issue is a "when" for many businesses, rather than the "if" that it was in the past, which means that keeping your company on top of the latest prevention and mitigation strategies is a must. Contact us today to learn more about steps we can help your company take to stop ransomware and protect as much of your data as possible if a ransomware or other cyber attack does occur!

Thanks to the team at CEU Technologies in Chicago for their ongoing help with our content.

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