August 17, 2018Janice Yucel

Ransomware Prevention Checklist

The rise of ransomware has proliferated in recent years due to its remarkable efficiency and steady payouts for criminals. Unsurprisingly, the rise of ransomware is partially due to the hacker’s ability to keep pace with the new software upgrades and barriers that regularly debut. The combination of social engineering and file-encryption is often no match for the IT teams that may only have so much power to effect change in their organization.

This prevention checklist is a short guide to giving companies the means to outpace a criminal with little else to do but test virtual barricades for the tiniest gaps.

?Learn the Signs

Hackers are becoming ever more sophisticated when it comes to duping small companies. Emails no longer look like spam, but like regular requests from legitimate parties. This technique can be difficult to teach because hackers know the value of changing up their methodology by using more ‘creative’ approaches. Employees should at least know that unsolicited documents are not to be opened. If they’re uncertain as to whether or not a document is safe, they shouldn’t take the chance. (Ensure all legitimate clients are aware of the policy so they’re not sending documents they’ll only need to resend in a different format.)

?Step Up the Patches

Patching can sometimes come with unforeseen costs (e.g., lost productivity, system glitches, etc.) that can make IT professionals nervous to implement them as soon as they become available. That’s why patches may either be delayed or ignored entirely, leaving minor (or major security) holes in the network.

Infrequent patching is one of the more common ways that hackers can infiltrate a system without the help of an infected document. IT teams need to work with their available resources to make patching a priority — even if it means standing up to a leader to explain why security should take precedence over convenience.

?Limit the Logins

Administrator rights in a network don’t merely allow upper management more access to sensitive company information, it also leaves the door open for criminals to get their hands on the same data. If an administrator stays on the network for for too long, there’s that much more opportunity for a criminal to strike at the worst possible time. Administrators should be limiting their login sessions whenever possible. When they are logged in, they should only be taking care of their necessary duties. Any unauthorized web browsing (or even normal work tasks that don’t require special privileges) should be strictly verboten.

?Add Extra Steps

Sometimes it just takes adding a few precautions to standard protocol. For example, Java has become a popular file option for hackers to hide their ransomware. Notepad gives IT pros the contents of the file without endangering the network as a whole, which can be helpful if a legitimate client has sent their information via javascript. The average worker may not know to look for double extensions, but they can pass the document to someone who can spot the malicious code hidden in plain sight.

Employees should also be encouraged to keep macros turned off when viewing email attachments as an additional security measure. The risks outweigh the potential benefits for both employees and the company alike.

?Backing It All Up

Businesses should be backing up all of their data constantly, and they should have a way to store everything offline and offsite. This measure not only saves companies from a potential criminal attack but also in the case of natural disaster or human error. All information should be either encrypted or tokenized so there’s no chance of fraud. This method not only helps to detect ransomware attacks, it also makes it easier to restore the data without disruption. One potential hazard to constant backups is that criminals have begun to target backups because there’s a chance to encrypt the most updated information. Aim to backup information on outside systems only and test the restoration process as often as possible.

?Step Up Communication 

Leaders or managers who head out of town are a prime target for hackers because they’re usually without their normal security defenses. A CEO who’s in another country may not think twice to access company information when they’re in an airport, regardless of the network they happen to be on. If an IT team doesn’t know when someone is traveling, they may not be able to stop a ransomware attack.

This is also a good time to verify the efficacy of the VPN so everyone can rest easy about the safety of the network even in the case of multiple time zones.

Ransomware may be everywhere, but there are ways to implement better protection for networks of all sizes. End-to-end encryption, internet etiquette, and more aggressive security tactics can all lessen the odds of a company being hit with ransomware. Want to learn more? Download this whitepaper by Sophos to get even more information that can help you prevent a ransomware attack.

BlueRange Technology partners with SMBs, non-profits, schools and healthcare organizations to employ IT security solutions that make sense for their group’s individual needs and budgetary allowance. Contact us to learn more. 

About the Author

Janice YucelJanice Yucel has covered hardware, software and IT services for over 7 years as an editor, reporter and marketer for various tech media outlets. She is currently the digital marketing manager of Xchange Technology Group.
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