5 ways to Prevent & Minimize the Impacts of Ransomware Attacks on your Business

What is Ransomware?

The explosive rise of the Internet and Digital Technology has seen our lives, businesses and information connected like never before – and with it has also grown the dark world of Cybercrime and Cyber Attacks.
While there are numerous kinds of Cyber Attacks, Ransomware is arguably one of the most nefarious. This is because Ransomware bases itself on a corruption of the field of Cryptography – the practice and technique of securing communication channels, resulting in Cryptovirology. It distorts and violates the techniques and tools of Cryptography and devises powerful forms of Malware including Ransomware and Asymmetric Backdoors.

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Ransomware once unleashed, threatens to publish a target’s personal data or worse still, permanently block the target’s access to his/her own data – unless the target pays a ransom. It can thus be used to mount extortion-based attacks that cause loss of access to information, loss of confidentiality, and information leakage, tasks which cryptography typically prevents.

How Common is a Ransomware Attack?

The first documented Ransomware was in 1989 and was known as the AIDS Trojan. The AIDS Trojan was a DOS Trojan Horse, whose payload encrypted the names of all the directories on drive C: Since then, though, the scale and complexities of Trojan-styled Ransomware have increased exponentially. Statistics reveal that the first 6 months of 2018 saw close to 200 million Ransomware attacks globally – a 229% increase over the same time frame in 2017. A report by SonicWall claimed that in 2021, the number of such attacks was around 623 million.

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What makes Ransomware so dangerous is that it is designed to spread across a network and target database and file servers, and quickly paralyze an entire organization. Every year It generates billions of dollars in payments to cyber criminals and inflicts significant costs and damage on businesses and governmental organizations.

The unfortunate and brutal truth is that if you are a modern business, there is almost no way of avoiding ransomware attacks. Even the best malware protection and cyber infrastructure, cannot completely guard against ransomware infections. However, that doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do.

Here are a few essential steps that you as a business must take to mitigate the impact of Ransomware Attacks and keep your business and customer data safe and secure.

1. Nothing can beat a good ‘Backup’

One of the most dangerous types of Ransomware is called Encrypting Ransomware. A business that falls prey to such an attack, will be able to browse through its own files but not be allowed to open or access any of them – thus in a sense making the infected files almost completely useless. The only safeguard a business can have against such an eventuality is a ‘Defensive Approach’ – whereby, each of the files has a secure backup.

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It is important to note however that the backups must be stored in such a way that they do not also fall prey to Ransomware. This is why it is important to have a minimum of 3 or sometimes even 4 backup copies of all critical business data also stored across different media formats – SSD drives and Cloud Storage.
It is also very important for any business to keep updating its OS and software to their latest configurations, such as using the latest forms of Windows, etc.

2. Curiosity kills the Cat

Ransomware attacks most often depend on weak links within an organization’s chain to infect critical data. The most common forms of Ransomware use phishing emails that contain malicious attachments. The victim’s entire system can get infected if even one member of the team naively visits a harmful website or downloads and installs malware without knowing.

This is why one of the principal steps for an organization in combating Ransomware is staff training. Employees, particularly those linked to the main server and those handling critical data, must be trained to identify emails that seem ‘fishy’ or suspicious. The staff must also be trained to report any mistake (accidental or otherwise) to the IT department at the earliest, as early detection can help control the spread of Ransomware and the damage it can do.

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Another very important detail that an organization must always insist on its staff on is that for any software or installations, only authentic links be used. The risk of Ransomware goes up exponentially in cases of downloading software or media records from unknown places.

A simple protocol that all staff must always abide by is to ensure that the browser address bar of the page uses “https” in place of “http”. A protection or padlock icon in the address bar can also designate that the page is safe.

3. Firewall Technology/Web Application Security and constant monitoring

The only way an organization can create real ransomware protection is by installing a network firewall, with progressive threat defenses. The Barracuda CloudGen Firewall is an example of such a network, as it scans all network circulation for possible ransomware, malware, and other cyber threats to the network.

The Sophos XG Firewall works on slightly different parameters by offering network defense against ransomware and other progressive threats, including crypto mining, bots, virus, hacking, exploits, and APIs. XG Firewall also offers an easy, elegant way to manage RDP and supports the latest TLS 1.3 standard.

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4. It is vital to protect Endpoint Devices

As almost 100% of Ransomware attacks always originate from a source that is external to the organization, Device Endpoint Protection is very effective against such attacks. Staff must be trained to never attach any kind of USB key or Storage Media to any computer in the organization – if they cannot trust the source of said storage device. Another ‘best practice’ is to ensure that the OS is always kept updated. Every effort must be made to make it as difficult as possible for Cybercriminals to inject malware into the system.

5. As with everything else in life, ‘Hygiene’ is key

Even though cyberattacks and ransomware are becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated, Cybersecurity experts are unanimous in their belief that most of these attacks can be warded off just by practicing good Cyber Hygiene.
Even if your organization lacks the means or resources to implement very advanced cyber security protocols, creating an environment of ‘cyber resilience’ and good online behavior amongst the staff is critical for the basic safety of the business.

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It is important to provide regular security awareness training for every member of your organization so they can avoid phishing and other social engineering attacks. Conduct regular drills and tests to be sure that training is being observed.

The staff must also be trained to only use secure networks and avoid public Wi-Fi networks, as many of them are not secure. An organization that handles data on its customers must also consider installing a VPN, which provides a secure connection to the internet, regardless of location.

To know more about Cyber Security Services, reach out to us @ Triway and submit your query. Our team of highly skilled experts will help you with your Security needs.

5 Things you must know regarding Cyber Security and Mental Health

When we think Cyber Security, we think – of Tech, Hackers, Data, Phishing, Cyber Attacks, and much more. But there is another dimension to this problem that is increasingly becoming more and more apparent – The Mental/Emotional Aspect. According to research conducted by Sekuro – An Australian Cyber Security Services Company, over 90% of professionals working in this space have experienced Mental Health Challenges in the last 2 years.

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Covid19 and the subsequent global lockdowns saw a massive increase in ransomware and the near-continuous stress of cyber-attacks has created unrelenting pressure on those working in Cyber Security. We are approaching a point where ‘burnout’ levels in cyber security might actually exceed those among frontline healthcare workers.

But why is Cyber Security so intricately linked to Mental Health and why has the corporate world not fully woken up to this reality?

1. Cyber Security in 2022 is more about Human Behavior and Less about Technology

Cyber-attacks can be traced back to the 1960s and 70s when privacy and data were the principal targets. However, with the advancement of computer technology, cyber-attacks have also seen a proportionate advance. Modern Blockchain and AI-related threats have impacts that are both technological and psychological.

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A study of the best cyber security applications worldwide reveals that most current threats are a product of sophisticated Social Engineering.

Social engineering is the term used for a broad range of malicious activities accomplished through human interactions. It uses psychological manipulation to trick users into making security mistakes or giving away sensitive information. Social engineering attacks happen in one or more steps.

A perpetrator first investigates the intended victim to gather necessary background information, such as potential points of entry and weak security protocols, needed to proceed with the attack. Then, the attacker moves to gain the victim’s trust and provide stimuli for subsequent actions that break security practices, such as revealing sensitive information or granting access to critical resources.

2. What makes Social Engineering so dangerous?

Social Engineering Attacks are so dangerous since they rely on human error rather than vulnerabilities in the OS or software. This makes them very difficult to stop as even for top-notch cyber security, mistakes made by legitimate users are less predictable than malware-based intrusions.

Organizations/groups/individuals perpetrating such attacks often possess exhaustive knowledge of human psychology and human behavior and are particularly quick to target any potential weaknesses and vulnerabilities. In fact, it is estimated that over 90% of successful breaches worldwide start with a phishing email.

3. What do we need to know about Cyber Attacks and Human Psychology?

All 5 most common forms of digital social engineering attacks are heavily influenced by human behavior.

A. Baiting: Enticing ads that lead to malicious sites or encourage users to download malware-infected applications.

B. Scareware: Potential victims bombarded with fictitious threats. Users are deceived to think their system is infected with malware, prompting them to install software that has no real benefit (other than for the perpetrator) or is malware itself.

C. Pretexting: The attacker obtains information through a series of cleverly crafted lies. The scam is often initiated by a perpetrator pretending to need sensitive information from a victim so as to perform a critical task. The process involves slowly building trust and can often go on for a long time.
D. Phishing: One of the most popular social engineering attack types. Phishing scams are email and text message campaigns aimed at creating a sense of urgency, curiosity, or fear in victims. It then prods them into revealing sensitive information, clicking on links to malicious websites, or opening attachments that contain malware.

E. Spear Phishing: A more elaborate and specific form of phishing, targeted at specific enterprises or individuals. The messages are “tailored” to the needs, and characteristics of the potential victim and the process can take weeks or even months.


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4. Social Engineering and Mental Health

Researchers from the University of Greenwich have proven that under “normal circumstances”, an individual (even one not very well versed with cyber security) has a 70% chance of detecting a potential social engineering attack. However, even mild depression, stress, fatigue or anxiety can greatly lower this percentage. For instance: Even mild levels of stress can impact ‘neural correlates’ which in turn impact memory – causing an otherwise “careful” individual to have lapses in memory, click on unverified links or forget to check email origins.

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5. Unique Mental/Emotional Challenges faced by those involved in Cyber Security:

Those actively involved in Cyber Security face certain unique challenges, when compared to almost any other area of work. These include:

  • Extremely high-stress environment
  • Perpetually changing landscape (There is never a status quo)
  • A constant need to update to the latest changes
  • Always on alert and surrounded by “high-risk” information at all times
  • Need to make decisions with limited (often unproven information)
  • Constant pressure with respect to limited time, resources, and team dynamics
  • Extremely high expectations as “first responders”.
  • Failure is inevitably associated with “feelings of extreme guilt”.
  • Very high costs/consequences of failure.
  • Very low levels of gratitude
  • 24/7/365 expected commitment – zero “downtime”
  • Very high risk of “burnout”
  • Constant combat against “hackers” and “social engineers” leads to developing extreme cynicism towards humanity.
  • Emotional Detachment
  • Depersonalization

Why then do we continue to overlook the obvious connection between mental health and cyber security?

While today, a life without computers seems almost unimaginable, we must remember that this is a technological revolution that has taken place during our times. What this means is that for all of our efforts in maintaining cyber security, our physiologies are not designed to work in such an environment.

We also place too much faith in “purely technological solutions” or “zero trust” systems, while discounting the human element associated with these threats.

A good example of this was the recent pandemic when Covid induced lockdowns, uncertainty, anxiety and fatigue highlighted the link between mental well-being and cyber security like never before – The peak pandemic period saw a 300% increase in cyber-attacks worldwide.

The consequence of this was what we have come to expect – Resignations rise with Ransomware. As the link between the two becomes more and more unambiguous, it is time for the Corporate World to wake up to this threat that comes hand-in-hand with Cyber Attacks.

To know more about Cyber Security Services, reach out to us @ Triway and submit your query. Our team of highly skilled experts will help you with your Security needs