Ransomware is a type of malware attack that can encrypt your data and hold it hostage until you pay a ransom. While there is no guaranteed way to prevent a ransomware attack, there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk. A study by Sophos revealed that 37% of businesses were hit by a ransomware attack in 2021. The following list is non-exhaustive, and should never replace a thorough ransomware prevention plan implemented by qualified cybersecurity professionals.
Here are 10 tips to help you prevent a ransomware attack:
1. Use an EDR solution
Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solutions can help detect and block ransomware. Make sure to keep your EDR solution up to date with the latest security patches to ensure it remains effective against the latest ransomware threats. The reason why an EDR solution can be so effective is that it uses machine learning algorithms to detect ransomware attacks in real time and block them before they can do any damage.
That being said, EDR solutions are not foolproof, and should be used in conjunction with other ransomware prevention measures. Our other blog post, 7 Questions to Ask For Your Ransomware Preparedness, details some of these other measures you can take, among which are log management and web and email filtering.
2. Train your users on cybersecurity awareness
One of the best ransomware prevention tips is to provide your employees some cybersecurity awareness and phishing test training, designed to help them identify a phishing email or any other form of social engineering attacks, such as spear phishing and business email compromise (BEC). These types of attacks are often used to deliver ransomware payloads.
Make sure your employees know not to open attachments or click on links in emails from unknown senders, even if the email looks legitimate. You should also have procedures in place for reporting suspicious emails.
3. Make regular offsite backups of your data
One of the most important ransomware prevention tips is to regularly back up your data to an offsite location from your primary network. This way, if your network is infected with ransomware, you can restore your data from your offsite backup and minimize the impact of the attack.
You should also test your backups regularly to make sure they are working properly and that you can access your data in the event of an attack.
4. Force the use of a VPN for all remote workers
If you have employees who work remotely, make sure they connect to your network using a virtual private network (VPN) so their traffic is encrypted. This will help protect their data if their device is infected with ransomware while working offsite.
In addition, you should have procedures in place for remote workers to follow if they suspect that their device has been infected with ransomware. VPNs can help reduce the risk of ransomware attacks, but they are not 100% effective. Another best practice for your workers is the encryption of their hard drives. Encrypting your hard drive will make it much more difficult for ransomware to encrypt your data.
Implementing some other cybersecurity best practices for remote working could consolidate your prevention efforts in that regard.
5. Use two-factor authentication (2FA)
Two-factor authentication (also known as 2FA) is an additional layer of security that can help prevent ransomware attacks. With two-factor authentication, you will need more than just a password to log into your account. You will also need a second factor, such as a code sent to your mobile phone or generated by an app, making it less likely for an attacker to be able to access your account even if they have your password.
6. Implement least-privilege system access
Another leading ransomware prevention tip is to implement least-privilege system access, which means giving users only the permissions they need to do their job and no more. This can help prevent ransomware from spreading through your network if a user’s account is compromised since the attacker would not have access to other parts of the network.
In addition, you should have procedures in place for when a user’s account is compromised, such as changing passwords.
7. Keep your systems up to date and patched
It’s important to keep your operating system and all the software on your devices up to date with the latest security patches. Hackers are constantly finding new vulnerabilities to exploit, so it’s important to patch these as soon as possible. For that matter, make sure to not use any legacy systems, which are typically no longer supported by the vendor and are therefore more vulnerable to ransomware attacks.
To patch your systems, you should have a patch management system in place that can deploy patches automatically.
8. Monitor your network for unusual traffic
Monitoring your network traffic can help you spot ransomware attacks early so you can take action to prevent them from spreading. Look for unusual traffic patterns, such as large amounts of data being transferred or devices communicating with strange IP addresses. You should also have procedures in place for when ransomware is detected on your network, such as isolating the infected device and taking it offline so it cannot spread any further.
The use of Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) can also be useful in detecting ransomware attacks. IDS IPS systems are designed to detect and block malicious traffic, so they can help prevent ransomware from spreading through your network.
9. Do not use unfamiliar USB devices
USB devices can be a source of ransomware attacks, so you should never use an unfamiliar USB drive. If you must use a USB drive, make sure to scan it for malware first. In addition, you should disable autorun on your system to prevent ransomware from automatically running when you insert a USB drive. Autorun is a feature that allows programs to automatically run when you insert a USB drive.
You can disable autorun in Windows by opening the Control Panel and going to AutoPlay. In the AutoPlay settings, select “Turn off Autoplay” for all drives.
10. Perform regular penetration tests
Performing regular external, internal, and wireless penetration tests for your network security can help you find vulnerabilities that could be exploited by a ransomware attack. A penetration test simulates an attack on your network to see if any weaknesses can be exploited.
Our experts can also help you with a Ransomware Readiness Audit to identify and address any vulnerabilities in your systems that could readily be exploited by a ransomware attack.
Tips are quick ideas to help you reduce the risk of a ransomware attack on your systems. But, as ransomware attacks become more sophisticated and more frequent, namely through the rise of the Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) business model, it’s important to have a comprehensive, flexible ransomware prevention strategy in place. This strategy should include not only technical measures but also organizational policies and procedures, including employee training.