Though a relatively new attack vector in the network security world, ransomware is already making headlines. The recent WannaCry ransomware attack trembled businesses across the world. It infected thousands of computers in more than 150 countries by locking up people’s data and threatening to destroy it if the ransom is not paid.
Not just individuals or small businesses, but even government organizations and big enterprises failed to secure their systems against the ransomware software. This attack left them in a situation of fix where they started having doubts on their existing security practices. But, what are the unique characteristics of ransomware software that make it a severe security threat?
1. It Relies on Phishing
Ransomware is often transmitted by emails and web pop-ups. Unsolicited emails, which are laden with malicious software, easily get access to any secure networks and specific systems. As this form of malicious attack relies on phishing, it can intrude into the systems of targeted people easily in the disguise of email attachments.
Only by educating your employees about spear-phishing attacks and the common characteristics of ransomware, any organization can avoid this serious threat to enterprise network security.
2. Time-Sensitivity of Ransomware
Hackers of ransomware attack benefit from instilling fear and panic among employees about the loss of data. They threaten to destroy the encrypted data if ransom amount in not paid within a certain period of time (often a day). As the ransomware attack is time sensitive, organizations often give in to the ransom demand. The time-sensitivity of a ransomware attack makes it quite a serious threat, as organizations don’t get enough time to find ways for unlocking the encrypted data.
3. It Generates Direct Revenue
Rather than targeting malicious attacks on the network security of organizations through keyloggers and backdoors, ransomware adopts a more direct approach. The focus of ransomware is not on collecting confidential information, but generating revenue directly in the form of ransom. Hackers often force the victims of ransomware to pay ransom within 24 hours in the form of bitcoins. As ransomware is the source of direct revenue for hackers, it is bound to be a frequent phenomenon in the near future.
How to Deal with the Risk of Ransomware?
Create a Data Backup
Ransomware becomes even more effective when your data is not backed up to any other device. In this case, you have no other option than to pay the ransom for encrypted data. It is better that you create data copies within cloud storage solutions or on air-gapped hard drive. Once your data is backed up securely, ransomware will not appear such a big concern. When you build a secure cloud backup system, your data is not just protected against malware but also theft, loss and fire.
Update your Software
Be it Microsoft, Mac or Linux users, staying on the top of security updates is important for everyone. For instance, WannaCry ransomware could have been avoided if organizations had upgraded their software with the patch for WannaCry vulnerability issued by Microsoft. This patch was released by Microsoft just eight weeks before the attack, and was a great preventive measure for the ransomware. You may call it the complacent attitude of organizations that they failed to update their computers.
So, no matter which device you are using, you should regularly upgrade its software to stay tuned with the latest security enhancements.
Install Antivirus Software
In addition to keeping up to date with the latest security enhancements, you also need to install antivirus software to detect and neutralize the ransomware. At the same time, it is also important to keep the antivirus software up to date. This way, it will be effective against the latest malware and ransomware attacks. Also, go for antivirus software apps from trusted vendors like Kaspersky, Malwarebytes or Bitdefender to get the latest security features.
Be Careful of Suspicious Emails & Popups
Ransomware software often infects computers via email attachments. So, it is important to be wary of phishy emails to prevent the malware from spreading across your system. Check for the authenticity of email addresses and only if they are from legitimate sources, open them and click on the links attached inside.
In addition, Ransomware developers use pop-up windows to infect a system. So, be wary of those pop-up windows which advertise different software products to remove malware.