Ransomware is no joke. This highly invasive cybersecurity threat has grown exponentially and is now considered one of the most dangerous and prevalent internet-based attacks. A recent report from Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that by the end of 2019, there will be a ransomware attack on businesses every 14 seconds, resulting in upwards of $11.5 billion in losses.
This article will help you understand exactly what ransomware is, and how managed services providers (MSPs) help protect their customers—and themselves—against it.
What happens in a ransomware attack?
Ransomware can take many forms, but there are two common types—crypto and locker. During a crypto ransomware attack, malicious software known as ransomware infects the computers of large corporations, small businesses, and individuals alike—encrypting files and preventing users from accessing critical data until a ransom is paid.
Ransomware is usually delivered via emails which include links to rogue internet downloads, corrupted websites, or infected attachments (such as PDFs). While these may appear innocent to the untrained eye, one wrong click can lead users to unknowingly download hostile software. Once it enters your systems, ransomware can spread quickly across a network—especially one that isn’t protected properly or has unpatched or outdated software.
Like crypto ransomware, an attacker conducting a locker ransomware attack gains access to the end user’s network through some form of scam. They may pretend to be a trusted security agency ready to conduct a must-have PC repair or an official governing body with an urgent message to share. But once these attackers gain entrance, they immediately seize control and lock the end user out of their device. No encryption takes place, but users are simply unable to continue their daily tasks unless they pay the requested ransom.
Why is ransomware protection so important?
Ransomware protection software and security best practices that help create roadblocks that can prevent malware from entering your system. Without ransomware protection processes in place, companies run the risk of:
- Losing critical business data: Businesses suffering a ransomware attack are in jeopardy of losing personal employee data, highly sensitive client records, detailed financial information, and more. Whatever form of data exists in your system, there’s a good chance a ransomware attack can rob you of it.
- Compromising their reputation: MSPs and other customer-facing companies have a lot at stake when it comes to ransomware attacks. News of a major breach spreads like wildfire—putting a company’s reputation on the line. Most people want to work with a business that has lost or exposed highly sensitive data to hackers. For this reason alone, ransomware protection is a must for any organization that deals with customers on a regular basis.
- Bringing productivity to a standstill: Ransomware attacks can bring business to a standstill as employees lose access to the systems and applications they need to perform their daily tasks. Approximately 63% of attacks need more than a business day to fix, with many requiring much longer. It takes some companies weeks to regain their footing and get employees back online. As productivity stalls, so does business performance, making for unhappy employees, customers, and leaders alike.
- Suffering financial losses: The average cost per ransomware attack varies greatly depending on the size of the organization. While small- to medium-sized businesses typically see ransomware demands in the high hundreds and low thousands of dollars, larger companies can face ransom fees upwards of $30,000 and more. But financial losses tied to ransomware attacks aren’t limited to the ransom demands themselves. Repairing workstations and servers damaged by malware also comes with a hefty price tag. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but companies often don’t have a choice except to pay a high price to get their systems up and running again. The longer the downtime due to ransomware, the more dollars lost. As employees are forced to put work on hold, productivity and profits plummet.
How to help prevent ransomware
When it comes to how to help protect against ransomware, there are several best practices every MSP should encourage their customers and employees to adhere to. Many of these ransomware prevention best practices are simple to implement and have low (if any) costs associated with them. But don’t be fooled by their simplicity—these straightforward steps pack a powerful punch when it comes to keeping ransomware attackers at bay. If you’re ready to learn how to help prevent ransomware from stealing your data, here’s what you need to know:
- Don’t stay vulnerable: According to Ponemon’s recent State of Vulnerability Response report, 59% of mid-market and enterprise organizations have vulnerability management programs that are still in the early or middle stages. These young programs lead to gaps that put companies at risk of experiencing a ransomware attack. MSPs must coach their customers on the importance of putting vulnerability management processes and protocols in place.
- Put patches in place: Patches serve as digital band aids, repairing vulnerabilities that expose your system to cyber attackers. Patch management is a widely known—yet often overlooked—practice within the IT industry. Make it a priority to remain up-to-date on all relevant patches to help increase your systems’ are safe .
- Look before you click: In certain cases, a ransomware attack can be spotted by hovering your mouse over links embedded within the body of the email. If a link address appears strange or questionable, don’t click it—that’s a red flag you have an attacker on your hands. By clicking on questionable links, you’re potentially inviting ransomware to enter your system.
- Keep an eye out for misspellings: Companies take a lot of time to craft detail-driven emails that feature their brand in a good light. Luckily for users, that makes spotting a cybercriminal a whole lot easier. A poorly-crafted email riddled with misspellings is often a sign of an attacker trying to enter the system. Encourage your customers and employees to pay close attention to every email they receive and report anything suspicious immediately.
- Beware of the overly urgent email: Emails with subject lines that scream “ACT NOW!” or “Your Computer Is in Danger!” are, often, a form of ransomware. Attackers use a false sense of urgency to scare users into reacting before they take the time to think. These are ploys created by hackers to trick vulnerable users into downloading malware—the very opposite of what they claim to protect against.
- Leverage antivirus software: With a robust antivirus solution in hand, MSPs are equipped to keep known and emerging malware off of workstations and servers. These platforms rely on behavioral scanning and sophisticated heuristic checks to detect and block viruses before they enter a businesses’ core systems.
- Put protection processes in place: There are several proactive protection processes you can take to keep your customers safe. For starters, set and automatically enforce browsing policies to keep users off known malicious sites so, even if clicked on, it denies the user access. It’s also important to leverage endpoint protection tools that automatically detect and respond to any endpoint threats that arise.
- Keep your details personal: A legitimate company or financial institution will never ask for your personal credentials via email. If a user receives an email requesting this sensitive information, there’s a very big chance it was sent by an attacker masquerading as a respectable source. Never hand over these details. Instead, inform employees and customers to flag and report these emails upon arrival.
- Rely on a VPN: Public Wi-Fi exposes your network and data to hackers waiting to pounce. While ransomware is often invited into a system via a simple click or download, it can also gain access to your network via an unsecure internet connection. It’s important to use a trusted Virtual Private Network (VPN) anytime you’re using public Wi-Fi.
- Keep a backup: Backup all critical files early and often—and encourage your customers to do the same. Onsite backups connected to your network are vulnerable, which is why it’s best to use an off-site backup whenever possible. A comprehensive backup solution puts multiple recovery methods at your fingertips, helping to ensure you can restore and access business-critical documents if an attacker strikes.
- Put a firewall in place: As an MSP, you know having a firewall (or even more than one) plays a major part in network security. While firewalls are designed to inhibit a variety of viruses from entering your network, they are especially useful when it comes to keeping ransomware at bay. This is because they delete known spam files before they even enter the inbox. It’s important to communicate this to your customers to help ensure they put all appropriate firewalls in place.
Ransomware protection in a nutshell
A ransomware attack is a major blow for any organization, regardless of its size. As an MSP, it’s important to know how to protect against ransomware, for your sake—and the sake of your customers. The list above serves as a simple, go-to guide of some of the best ransomware protection tips in the industry today. The cost of implementing the above tips is next to nothing, especially when compared to the potential damage a business will face if a ransomware attack is successful.
Despite your best efforts, hackers are smart, and mistakes can happen. If a ransomware attack does enter your system, you need to know about it—and fast. That’s why having a trusted ransomware protection software in place is key. SolarWinds® Threat Monitor can help you safeguard your customers’ businesses from security threats through robust threat intelligence, real-time log correlation, and in-depth, real-time alarm systems that notify you of anomalies as soon as they occur. Pairing ransomware protection software with prevention techniques gives you the upper hand when it comes to outsmarting even the most intelligent cybercriminal. So what are you waiting for? Start educating your team and customers today.
For more information on ransomware protection software and ransomware prevention techniques, read through our related blog articles.