Today, ransomware is one of the biggest cybersecurity threats that can impact business and personal data. The volume of attacks is significant, and according to research published by Security Magazine, there were over 150 million in the first three quarters of last year alone. These occurred across a diverse range of organizations, from government bodies, city authorities and public institutions, to commercial businesses and individual citizens. This all adds up to significant financial and organizational disruption, permanent loss of data, and damage to reputation, with MIT Technology Review putting the cost of ransomware in 2019 at more than $7.5 billion in the US alone.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a form of malware that threatens to either publish a target's sensitive data or block access to their sensitive data until a ransom has been paid to the attacker.
Ransomware attacks may take a variety of forms presenting a unique set of challenges to IT staff tasked with defending against them. They can be high-speed, unstructured, and diverse, and responding to an incident can be demanding and intense. Attacks are most likely going to begin as malware, which appears in many forms, such as trojan horse emails, worms, viruses, or spyware. Ransomware attacks typically start off as hidden spyware, collecting data on their target until they are ready to fully activate.
How To Prevent a Ransomware Attack
Understanding what data is at risk during a ransomware attack is the first and most critical step to preventing a large-scale disruption. If your IT infrastructure isn’t adequately secured to either prevent a ransomware attack or recover from it quickly, there are some changes that need to be made. First, you need to determine how vulnerable your operating system is to an attack. For instance, legacy IT systems are typically the most susceptible, and cybercriminals are extremely familiar with older operating systems, some of which (such as Windows XP and Windows 7) have reached ‘end of life’ and are no longer receiving security updates from the likes of Microsoft.
Besides having an up-to-date and secure operating system, there are a few simple steps that organizations can take to minimize the risk of becoming victim to a ransomware attack:
- Educate Users on Website Browsing Best Practices & Suspicious Emails: It’s important to educate users against visiting unsecured websites and clicking on suspicious email links. Failure to do so can significantly increase the risk of someone in the organization introducing ransomware into corporate systems.
- Prioritize Patching: In the words of InfoSecurity Magazine, “If you want to avoid ransomware, patch.” Updating and regularly patching every piece of software in regular use across the network is absolutely key to minimizing the risk of ransomware attacks.
- Back up Your Data: Performing frequent backups and implementing a disaster recovery plan allows users to proactively prevent and quickly recover from disasters like ransomware attacks. Doing so ensures the safety and availability of data and business applications.
Why Ransomware Attacks Are On The Rise
With the recent global pandemic, many organizations have had to transition workers to remotely working from home. A common method for connecting remote workers to corporate networks is a virtual private network (VPN). Unfortunately, a VPN can expose the corporate network to malware and ransomware lurking within home networks. While remote employees may be more dutiful and diligent in practicing security best practices on the corporate network, they or their family members may be less so when using the home network.
Deploying a dedicated work-from-home strategy for employees without a VPN can provide more secure remote connections, significantly reducing the risks from malware and ransomware from home networks. These strategies may include connection brokering services that are components of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) or full VDI solutions that further increases data security by making sure that data resides within the data center itself rather than spread across desktop computers distributed around the offices.
Of all cybercriminal threats, a ransomware attack is among the most devastating. It spreads quickly throughout the network and can make encrypted files inaccessible until the ransom is paid. Protecting your organization from a ransomware attack begins with developing an awareness of the threats that cybercrimes pose to your valuable assets. After understanding the urgency, it’s important to develop a data protection strategy that includes practical solutions to store and protect your data backups.
How Scale Computing Can Help
Hyperconvergence is an innovative way to simplify your IT operations and is more effective at protecting data than traditional systems. Hyperconverged systems, like Scale Computing HC3, can more tightly integrate servers, storage, virtualization, and data protection features than traditional systems that combine these components from multiple vendors. This tight integration reduces the attack surface of the system and HC3 can take it a step further, protecting every virtual workload with snapshots so you can quickly recover in case of a ransomware attack.
Scale Computing has also partnered with Acronis so that HC3 users have the option to add more advanced backup and data protection features including active ransomware protection. In other words, choosing HC3 and the data protection options it provides ensures your cyber defenses are working smarter, not harder.
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