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8 Signs Your Organization is at Risk of a Ransomware Attack

  • deepti

  • Feb. 14, 2020, 6:07 a.m.

According to Cybersecurity Ventures, a new organization is going to be vulnerable to a ransomware attack every 11 seconds by 2021. Behind these rising numbers of ransomware threats are cybercriminals who are increasingly pushing these malicious file-encrypting elements into enterprise systems and networks. Industry experts speculate that coming-of-age technology innovations like the Internet of Things and AI will be the leading cause of the rise in ransomware attacks, resulting in the loss of billions of dollars.

MIT predicts that cybercriminals will target SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) and cloud computing businesses will store sensitive and confidential organizational data that is worth a fortune.

In this week’s article, let us have a basic introduction about ransomware and understand how your businesses might be vulnerable to the danger of a ransomware attack.

What is Ransomware? How Does it Work?

Designed using the principles of Cryptovirology, ransomware is the type of malware that holds the victim’s data and files hostage and blocks their access to it. In some cases, they also threaten to make the data public unless a ransom is paid. Cybercriminals present payment instructions to organizations, to be made using untraceable Cryptocurrencies in order to get access to the de-encryption key.

One of the most common entry-points of ransomware into the enterprise security infrastructure is by using the techniques of phishing. Ransomware is hidden in the form of email attachments that pose as files that can be trusted by employees. Once the attachments are open, the malware can take over the entire computer especially if it has built-in tools that trick users to provide administrative access.

Read more about the importance of malware analysis for enterprises: Importance Of Malware Analysis Tools For Timely Malware Detection

8 Signs Your Business is Vulnerable to Ransomware Threats

Your regular malware analysis tools are no match to expert ransomware if your organization has certain security gaps. Here are 8 such gaps that can make your enterprise vulnerable to file-encrypting ransomware threats.

1. Failure to Upgrade Legacy Systems

When organizations fail to upgrade their legacy operating systems, it can translate into a risk factor. Most sophisticated ransomware strains depend on the cracks in legacy systems to launch their attack. Support for Windows 7 ended in January 2020, so, if organizations are still using such OS, they are potentially at risk.

2. Lack of System Hardening Policy Implementation

Malware analysis is only helpful when a malware analyst and the whole security operations team are aware of vulnerable attack surfaces. The presence of open ports, unused services and overlooked operating system functions can act as the flaw in the security landscape.

3. Basic Antivirus Tools are Essentially Obsolete Now

When it comes to ransomware removal or detection, regular antivirus tools are no good. In 2020, ransomware attacks have become sophisticated and have developed the capability to pass undetected in the cybersecurity landscape of enterprises.

Firewalls and antivirus tools can no longer hold such advanced malicious elements, especially because in cases of phishing, it is the employee who is personally giving access and administrative permissions to the file.

4. Dependency on Online Backups

Most organizations now rely on cloud-based backups essentially because of the ample amount of storage and ease of access it provides. Such practices make the enterprise vulnerable to ransomware attacks as they can encrypt data in any kind of storage.

Organizations should go back to the redundant ways of undergoing both online and offline backups of overly sensitive information in order to be one step ahead of the attacker.

5. Access Management is Serious

In this day and age when cybercrime is getting increasingly sophisticated every day, enterprises are still making the mistake of taking access management lightly. Malware analysis tools cannot be proactive in their task if a ransomware attack takes place due to stolen or weak passwords, orphaned accounts or the lack of multi-factor authentication.

Organizations should enforce efficient user and access management practices to ensure that no confidential information gets encrypted or is held hostage due to human error.

6. Absence of Security Awareness Among Employees

In the U.S., it is estimated that one-quarter of data breaches occur due to human error. As discussed, most of the ransomware attacks that cheat malware analysis tools are downloaded and saved in the system by employees.

Organizations invest a great deal on cybersecurity products and malware analysis tools but they do not seem to take security awareness training seriously. It is believed that if employees are given proper cybersecurity training then the frequency of overall cyber-attacks and data breaches will come down exponentially.

7. Shortage of an Effective Incident Response Plan

In the event of a ransomware attack, organizations need to be ready with a response strategy to quickly relieve the system of the malware and decrypt the files that have been taken hostage. Most businesses do not have a plan to manage the crisis, contain the malicious threat elements and restore normal operations of the network and systems.

Unsure about how to set up and monitor a security incident response plan? Read our blog here - How to Test Your Incident Response Plan? Everything You Need to Know.

8. Flat Network Topologies Make Security Landscape Vulnerable

Any type of malware can exploit flat network topologies by seamlessly spreading malicious payloads rapidly and jumping from one system to another. Sophisticated ransomware can also download additional modules to misuse open ports or crack passwords that protect confidential information. Organizations should consider a hierarchical network design following essential security network principles.

Ending Note

According to Business Insider, ransomware generates over 25 million USD in revenue for cybercriminals every year. This makes understanding the state of ransomware attacks and how it works imperative, both for the organization’s leadership and employees who use the company’s internal network on a daily basis. It is time for businesses to look back at their approach to enterprise security and ensure that they have best-in-class tools in place to deal with the looming cybersecurity threat landscape.

Further reading - Combating Mega Data Breaches With SOAR Cybersecurity In 2020

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