How to Ensure Compliance with Ransomware Risk

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As the Business models of today evolve, so does the need for an organization to remain compliant with new regulations and risks. One such risk is ransomware, which can have devastating financial consequences on organizations or personal data that isn’t backed up. In order to reduce the risk of a ransomware attack, it is important for organizations of all sizes to understand the threats and put measures in place to protect against them. This blog post will outline how professional clients within financial services should ensure compliance with Ransomware risk by identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities in their IT infrastructure as well as establishing rigorous data backup strategies and processes.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is malicious software that encrypts data on a computer or network, making it inaccessible until the “ransom” usually in the form of cryptocurrency is paid to the attacker. It can be spread through email attachments, downloads from infected websites, or even drive-by downloads from malicious ads. Ransomware attacks can cost an organization thousands of dollars in lost revenue, recovery costs, and reputational damage. Businesses that refuse to pay the hacker’s high cash demands frequently run the risk of having their private information leaked online.

When a user is deceived into clicking on a malicious link that downloads an infected file from an external website, ransomware often follows a similar pattern of delivery. Unknowingly, the user runs the ransomware file, which uses network flaws to silently spread throughout the system. All files are encrypted by the ransomware, which then demands payment via network devices in exchange for the decryption key.

If you refuse to pay the ransom, recovering data is unlikely without a backup. Even if you pay, there’s no guarantee the attacker will provide the decryption key.

Who Is At Risk?

Any organization that stores confidential or sensitive data is susceptible to attack from ransomware. Small businesses and companies with large IT infrastructures are particularly vulnerable as they often lack the resources, expertise, and finances needed to combat these threats efficiently. Financial services firms are particularly at risk because of their access to customer information and financial transactions. Professional clients within the financial services industry should be aware that they must remain compliant with applicable regulations and maintain a strong security posture to protect against ransomware attacks.

Any internet-connected device faces ransomware risks and can compromise local networks by accessing connected storage. For company networks, ransomware can encrypt vital data, disrupting operations and reducing productivity. It’s crucial to install the latest software updates on all internet-connected devices and use anti-malware software designed to detect ransomware threats. The Ransomware Risk is substantially larger for outdated, unmaintained operating systems like Windows XP.

Impact of Ransomware on a Business

The effects of a ransomware attack on a business can be devastating. Data loss, system downtime, and financial losses are common consequences of an attack. In addition to the financial impact, businesses may also suffer reputational damage if sensitive data is leaked or stolen by hackers.

Additionally, productivity losses and data loss from ransomware can cost a business thousands of dollars. Organizations that do not pay the ransom quickly enough risk further consequences like brand harm and legal action from attackers with access to the victim’s data who will threaten to reveal data and expose the data breach.

Examples of Ransomware Attacks

The WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017 was one of the largest and most damaging ransomware attacks in history, affecting more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries. The attackers demanded payment of up to $300 per system and disrupted services such as the UK’s National Health Service.

CryptoLocker is another example of a severe ransomware attack. CryptoLocker encrypts files on the victim’s computer and requests money in return for a decryption key. It was estimated to have caused more than $3 million in damages.

Cerber is an example of a ransomware attack that uses encryption and ransom notes to extort victims. It encrypts files on the victim’s computer while also providing instructions on how to pay a ransom in exchange for a decryption key.In order to prevent users from reinstalling the operating system, Cerber runs invisibly while encrypting files and may attempt to stop antivirus and Windows security features from functioning. When it successfully encrypts files on the computer, a ransom notice appears as the desktop background.

Locky is a ransomware attack that encrypts files and displays a ransom note with instructions on how to pay the ransom. It attempts to spread itself through email attachments, malicious downloads, and exploits in vulnerable websites. Locky is unique because it uses aggressive spreading techniques including an ability to modify system settings and disable security measures while also displaying fake error messages that encourage users to click on malicious links.

NotPetya and Petya are two of the most well-known ransomware attacks. While NotPetya used zero-day exploits in order to spread itself, Petya used malicious email attachments and exploit kits to spread its payload. Both caused massive disruption for businesses worldwide, leading to data theft, system downtime, and economic losses.Petya needs the user’s consent before it may make admin-level changes. After the user confirms, the machine restarts, displays a phony system crash screen, and begins secretly encrypting the drive. After that, the ransom demand appears.

Ransomware Protection Strategies

  • Data Backup

To best protect against ransomware, ensure you have secure, up-to-date backups. Follow the 3-2-1 rule: regularly backup data to an external hard drive, with three copies on two different media, keeping one copy offsite. Disconnect the hard disk from the computer to prevent encryption of backup data.

  • Email Protection

Exercise caution with emails containing suspicious attachments or links, especially from unknown senders. Scan all files before downloading. Train employees to identify social engineering tactics through phishing email simulations. Employ spam prevention and endpoint protection to mitigate risks from harmful email links.

  • Web Protection

Secure your system by using an up-to-date web browser and operating system, along with antivirus software and security patches. Employ a firewall to block unauthorized access and browser extensions to filter malicious content from websites.

  • Modern endpoint protection solution

Endpoint protection uses machine learning to detect and block ransomware threats, ensuring network visibility and proactive defense. It aids in data recovery and offers endpoint detection and response (EDR) capabilities, including device firewalls for rapid threat identification and mitigation

  • Network Security

Organizations need a robust security system to prevent ransomware attacks. Firewalls and strong passwords are crucial defenses. Intrusion detection systems detect and alert on suspicious activities. Security policies ensure software patches, antivirus, encryption, and access control are current. To block ransomware communication, use firewalls, WAFs, IPS/IDS, and other restrictions.

  • Establish device controls

Implement device control policies to restrict unauthorized devices and manage data storage on removable media. Use whitelists for program installations. Enhance browser security settings, disable vulnerable plugins, and use web filtering to block harmful sites. Disable macros in word processors and vulnerable programs.

  • Data Protection

It is important for organizations to understand where their sensitive data is located, and who has access to it. Establish policies to restrict access to sensitive data to authorized personnel only, and implement encryption technologies to protect data privacy at rest. Additionally, deploy monitoring systems to alert organizations of any detected suspicious activity regarding their data.

  • Data Breach Response Plan

Develop a data breach response strategy outlining steps for identifying, containing, and recovering from ransomware attacks. Include procedures for access revocation and customer notification. Define roles and responsibilities for all involved parties.

Conclusion

Understanding your organization’s systems, assets, and data is crucial to prevent cybersecurity incidents like ransomware. Implement controls to secure resources and establish effective event detection and response mechanisms. A rapid recovery strategy is essential for resuming operations after an incident.

Ransomware evolves rapidly, necessitating regular updates to security measures. These strategies help businesses protect data and mitigate ransomware risks effectively.

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