Ransomware attacks are estimated to be on the rise globally, with an 80 percent increase in the number of attacks in 2020 alone. Even during the pandemic, cybercriminals have been relentless. According to The cost of ransomware in 2021: A country-by-country analysis report, there have been 4,257 ransomware attacks reported in Canada, with an estimated cost of $659 million to victims.

So, how does a ransomware attack work, and how can you protect files from ransomware? A ransomware cyberattack happens when a victim is locked out of their system by malware, with no access to their files and folders. The cybercriminals behind the attack then blackmail the victims into paying a ransom amount to regain access to their system or files. Since the victims are at the mercy of the cybercriminals to decrypt their system, it is not always guaranteed that they will gain access back even after paying the ransom amount.

As dangerous as ransomware attacks are, there are specific simple steps your organization can take to safeguard your IT assets systems against these types of malware. Here are five measures shortlisted by the cybersecurity experts at PacketLabs.

1. Protect your files from ransomware with regular data backups

Regular data backups are beneficial in case your systems are targeted by ransomware malware since you can start afresh by simply wiping clean your drives and restoring all your backups.

However, you have to ensure that you backup your data into an external drive, which is not connected to the system at the time of infection because the malware will also encrypt any drive mapped to the system.

Keep in mind that Windows’ System Restore function, which allows you to set your system back to an earlier state, may not work in case of a sophisticated malware infection since it will most likely delete the System Restore files. Nevertheless, it is considered good practice to set System Restore points regularly.

2. Keep all your software and operating system updated to keep ransomware at bay

Systems with outdated software and known security compromises act as an easy gateway for malicious actors to introduce malware and take control. While most software providers issue regular updates, unscheduled emergency security patches are sometimes released to safeguard against new vulnerabilities, which should not be missed at any cost.

3. Stay a step ahead with a robust malware protection suite

Besides your system’s built-in firewall, make sure you invest in a proven anti-malware software that can help you protect your files from ransomware. These two layers of security work in tandem to keep your data safe. While anti-malware is designed to detect and remove malicious codes, your firewall acts as a barrier, preventing any malware that manages to slip past your anti-malware software from communicating with its command and control server and completing the encryption process.

4. Stay away from unknown sources of software

Since downloading software from untrusted and unverified sources is akin to asking for trouble, ensure you make this part of your security policy. By restricting administrative access, you can ensure only authorized system administrators handle software updates and installations. At the same time, employees should be educated not to click on unverified links in emails and other online sources.

Whitelisting only necessary software can further reduce the risk of ransomware by preventing unnecessary applications from performing any action.

5. Look for insecure configurations that patching alone won’t identify

There is always a chance that the anti-malware software you use does not recognize a new malware variant. In such situations, your best chance to protect your data and files from ransomware is to identify potential vulnerabilities in your system and applications with the help of an ethical hacker.

Ethical hacking involves performing a penetration test of your system to replicate a real hack and, in the process, expose weak points in applications and IT systems, which could potentially get exploited by malware developers. Penetration testing is a tried and tested method to reduce the risk of a ransomware attack.

Conclusion

With the ever-present and increasing risk of ransomware, it is not just individuals who need to worry, but businesses and organizations must stay vigilant as well. At PacketLabs, we understand the dangers presented by malware and work withJune 29June 29 companies to secure their IT assets through pentesting, as a preemptive measure against all types of cyberattacks, including ransomware. For more information, write to us at info@packetlabs.net or request a free quote on our ethical hacking services and our representatives will get in touch with you within 48 hours.