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How Does Penetration Testing Help Prevent Ransomware Attacks?

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Did you know? Ransomware attacks are growing at a staggering 100% year on year, despite advancements in cybersecurity technologies.

Cybercriminals use increasingly sophisticated techniques to target organizations of all sizes and sectors. It has never been more critical to ensure that your networks, systems, and data are secured and that all potential vulnerabilities are identified and resolved.

This is why conducting a periodic, in-depth Ransomware Penetration Test is so important.

What is Ransomware?

Let's start with the basics: ransomware is a specially-designed malware that infects one or many target computers by encrypting all data in the target system. It also prevents the owners from accessing the data and forces the system's owner to pay a ransom to release that data.

Such an attack vector often takes advantage of network, system, and software vulnerabilities, loopholes, or human errors. Ransomware can target PCs, smartphones, printers, point-of-sale (POS) servers, network devices, or other endpoints. According to research, by 2025, ransomware attacks will cost an estimated revenue loss of US$ 10.5 trillion annually, along with untold damages to brand reputation.

Another study shows that, by 2031, a ransomware attack will happen every two seconds; the frequency was one attack every 11 seconds in 2021, with a significant decrease occurring yearly.

What is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing helps organizations identify vulnerabilities within their network, web applications, mobile apps, and other systems. By simulating real-world attack scenarios on the organization's IT infrastructure, penetration testers can uncover security flaws that cybercriminals could exploit.

Penetration testing is used in many ways and can be tailored to the organization's needs. It can range from a single system assessment to an entire network audit. Penetration testing can also be part of a security program, such as continuous vulnerability or patch management.

Although the primary motive of penetration testing is to detect exploitable points in digital assets, security professionals also use it to test whether a system is prone to threats.

How Does Penetration Testing Help Prevent Ransomware Attacks?

A ransomware attack can disrupt an enterprise’s regular working. It can also inflict financial losses and draw regulatory intervention. Penetration testing can help organizations identify, assess and eliminate potential vulnerabilities that cybercriminals could exploit to attack the network.

By regularly performing penetration tests, organizations can ensure their networks are secure and up-to-date with the latest security patches.

How Does Ransomware Access and Exploit Systems?

There are numerous ways ransomware can access a system. Some well-known attack vectors are phishing or spam emails, remote desktop protocols, USB sticks, drive-by downloads, DNS poisoning, email attachments, and clipboard hijacking.

In most cases, the emails or messages come as a file or links that masquerade themselves as coming from a trusted source.

Steps to Perform Ransomware Penetration Testing

Since ransomware occurs because of system vulnerabilities, penetration testing is an efficient way to recognize and stop them:

  • Planning: In the first phase, the pentester will develop a plan and list all the tools and techniques required to exploit the system and find the flaw.

  • Reconnaissance: In this phase, the pentester starts using the tools on any existing vulnerability, pinpointing flaws and access paths, and identifying resources prone to a ransomware attack, among others.

  • Exploitation: In this phase, the pentester tries to exploit the systems and their owners. They will consider how ransomware gets pushed into a corporate network. They will use social engineering or exploit the known attack vectors.

  • Analyze and study: After analyzing and discovering known vulnerabilities, the pentester will report their attacks and what they have accomplished. The professionals will suggest procedures to address the flaws and enhance security.

  • Remediation plan: The enterprise must work on the crucial conclusions from a penetration test and develop a plan to resolve the findings.

How a Penetration Test Can Help Enterprises

Penetration testing helps enterprises overcome risks associated with security loopholes. Here is a list of some common reasons enterprises should perform penetration testing:

  • Testing for defence against cyberattacks: Since penetration testing recognizes all the loopholes, enterprises can easily set up defensive measures against such attacks.

  • Predicting new threats: Penetration testing helps security professionals determine new threats based on weaknesses that the pen-testers exploit. Based on the test reports, security professionals can identify ransomware attacks.

  • Firewall inspection: Penetration testing can help identify any bug or flaw in the existing firewall configuration. Through this, enterprises can prevent ransomware and other malware threats.

  • Regulatory compliance: Through penetration testing, enterprises can adhere to regulatory compliance.

  • Risk prioritization: Penetration testing helps enterprises prioritize resources needing immediate attention. Risk prioritization also determines which resources need frequent backup.

  • Reduce downtime: Downtime often leads to a business’s downfall. Penetration testing can help calculate the time needed to react and revive the system from attacks.

Ransomware Pentesting FAQs

"Do all ransomware attacks use encryption to prevent access to data?"

Yes. Some variants will also take steps to delete backup and shadow copies of files to increase the difficulty of recovering without a decryption key.

"How long does it take to decrypt ransomware?"

This year's average for decrypting ransomware is one-to-two weeks.

"Does ransomware impact data integrity?"

Absolutely. Data can be corrupted, altered, or otherwise compromised in the wake of a ransomware attack.

"What percentage of ransomware victims get their data back?"

Beginning in 2022, around 72% of ransomware victims retrieved their data. However, this does not account for the intact files, reputational and financial damages sustained during (and after) an attack, or a quick data retrieval.

Conclusion

Ransomware can cause severe damage within a company, even if the data is released back to its original owner. By ensuring regular ransomware penetration testing, companies can identify vulnerabilities and implement mitigating measures. Moreover, the penetration tests will help companies to be compliant with the regulations set by the relevant authorities, making sure that all security loopholes are addressed properly. With regular penetration testing, enterprises can reduce the risk of ransomware attacks and other cyber threats.

Ready to prevent ransomware from wreaking financial and reputational damage? Read our full guide on ransomware penetration testing for more information or contact our team directly for your free, zero-obligation quote to get started.

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