The risk management industry is ever-evolving, having to adapt to new trends, new threats, and new risks. So too, cyber crime is on the rise everywhere. With employees working from home more than ever before, robust IT systems need to be put in place. This also opens up many vulnerabilities and risks that must be assessed, including ransomware, a prevalent tool used by cyber criminals around the world.
What is Ransomware and Is it a Real Threat?
According to the FBI, ransomware is malicious software, or malware, that is disseminated through various means to a recipient’s computer or through their network which either restricts access or encrypts files or data to make them irretrievable, in return for a ransom.
In the past few years, WannaCry was one infamous ransomware protocol that crippled many governmental institutions and businesses by locking out everyone in the organisation from accessing the network.
Ransomware is a real threat, and while it’s possible to avoid or minimise the threat of ransomware attacks, what makes it so pernicious is that it is relatively easy for anyone to inadvertently download ransomware onto their computer.
There are two main ways of spreading ransomware, with the first being through email phishing scams and the latter being through networks themselves. The former often comes across as authentic-looking emails with a link or attachment, which, if clicked, downloads the ransomware and executes the program to lock the user out from accessing the computer.
The latter is more complex and can be a trial-and-error process for cyber criminals whereby they attempt to gain access to organisations’ networks through vulnerabilities in their IT infrastructure.
How to Mitigate Ransomware Risks in an Organisation
Prevention is key for many cybersecurity threats, and the same can be said about ransomware. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as it’s often said. Nevertheless, ransomware attacks can occur even with a well-prepared IT cybersecurity strategy in place, so it’s essential to know how to proactively contain and deal with any breaches as well.
Regularly back up critical data and store offline if possible so that it is more difficult to impact by an attack.
Maintain strong system patching and updating protocols by keeping everything up to date.
Implement robust user identification and authentication processes, including two factor authentication and tiered access for different segments of the organisation.
Ensure your organisation is using a strong antivirus and email spam filters are in place that can better detect spam emails and ransomware in advance.
The less you need to use, the better. Although this doesn’t mean you need to switch off all devices and cripple your business, of course, it does mean that unused devices, in particular Remote Desktop Protocols (RDPs) should be turned off and disabled when not in use.
Create whitelists that prevent the usage or downloading of non-business approved applications.
Keep tabs on all threats with a well-trained IT team, and ensure all employees are aware of the risks of phishing and ransomware as well.
Review workplace IT protocols vis-a-vis remote work and adapt them to the ‘new way of working’ by implementing VPNs and training staff on the proper use of corporate IT assets (e.g. no mixing and matching private laptops with business laptops for work purposes).
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