CYBER SECURITY ENTHUSIAST

When it comes to ransomware prevention, organizations must be aware of the technology they use, what and who it is communicating with, and then keep a close eye on it in order to create a secure working environment. The trick is to be vigilant. To get there, cybersecurity must be seen as a continual activity that blends technology with people and processes in order to embed security into a company’s culture by everyone, from the board and C-suite to lower levels of management.

We can define ransomware prevention as the combination of practices, products, and services used to avoid ransomware attacks.

The 2022 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) notes that ransomware has increased by nearly 13% this year, which is more than the previous five years combined (for a total increase of 25% this year).

40% of Ransomware incidents involve the use of Desktop sharing software and 35% involved the use of Email. There are a variety of different tools the threat actor can use once they are inside your network, but locking down your external-facing infrastructure, especially RDP and Emails, can go a long way toward protecting your organization against Ransomware.

Source

That only serves to highlight how important cybersecurity hygiene is for an organization, including third-party suppliers, vendors, and personnel. In order to stop a cyberattack, it serves as the initial line of defense.

Best Practices for Preventing Ransomware Attacks

1. Foster a cybersecurity awareness culture

Train your employees to recognize malicious e-mails. A strange e-mail address, a hovering over redirecting to a strange website, grammar errors, the impersonal addressing could be signs of compromised e-mails. Invest in Security Awareness Training solutions, as employees can learn via phishing simulation to better deal with scam e-mails.

Check twice before you open links and attachments in your email

Malicious links are for sure very popular lure tools of social engineering tactics, being present in SPAM e-mails or messages. But you should never click on a link that seems dubious as the infection can happen in no time. One wrong click and ransomware payloads are deployed.

This applies to e-mail attachments too with malicious JavaScript files in the form of readme.txt.js for instance. Instead of immediately opening strange attachments, you should make some basic checks such as seeing who’s the sender and verifying the e-mail address. If you should enable a macro to see what’s inside it’s most probably a scam. That is why you should have always macros disabled as a prevention measure.

Only download files from trusted sources and if suspicious sent them to the IT Team to test them through sandboxing.

Security Training

Trying to minimize human error might be the most productive form of ransomware prevention. Inform all your employees about the possible ways a ransomware infection can happen and tell them to pay particular attention to phishing emails.

2. Keep software up to date

This might seem a very repetitive and trivial urge, but as simple as it might be, it is indeed the basic solution in terms of prevention. That’s because programs are not perfect and for this reason, security researchers are always improving them by releasing patches. So, organizations and individuals can only benefit from the latest patches by running updates all the time. A Patch Management Tool will set automatic patching deployment for you.

3. Apply the principle of least privilege

The principle of least privilege (POLP) is a core principle of zero-trust. Users are granted the minimum necessary access to applications or systems in order to successfully perform their tasks. Therefore, the limited access will make no one mistakenly or not tamper with files and other sensitive data.

4. Use a VPN on public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi is never secure. A hacker could, for instance, perform a Man-in-the-Middle Attack. Make sure you use a VPN to protect your actions while connected to public Wi-Fi.

5. Turn off Bluetooth and infrared interfaces when not in use

There are instances where malicious actors use Bluetooth to get access to a system. By disabling Bluetooth, infrared ports, and other wireless connections that might not be used by the organization, you can counter this attack vector.

6. Segment your network

Through network segmentation, the network is split into subnetworks, and thus you have different segments. This is useful particularly when we talk about lateral movement. If ransomware infects your systems, it would not be able to spread to other network parts if there is a delimitation. A solution of network traffic monitoring would be good too, as it goes hand in hand with networking segmentation.

7. Back-up and encrypt data

Back-up alone does not represent a viable option for organizations nowadays, since advanced ransomware exfiltrates the data and uses it as a double-extortion method. However, a backup should be put in place, if you manage it well. Otherwise, how would you restore your data if no decryption key is available? Information in the cloud should be stored encrypted and backups should be tested regularly for performance checks. An offline backup such as a hard drive could be useful. An immutable storage solution (WORM – Write-Once-Read-Many) will store your info in a bucket and lock it so it cannot be changed. You can also protect your backup with endpoint protection on your servers.

8. Make an asset inventory

An IT asset “is any data, device, or another component of the environment that supports information-related activities. Assets generally include hardware (e.g. servers and switches), software (e.g. mission-critical applications and support systems), and confidential information”.

By making an inventory of your IT assets, you can identify the most vulnerable ones and think about how an attacker could infiltrate your network, which will offer you precious clues about how you can improve the prevention methods.

9. Employ software restriction policies

According to Microsoft, Software Restriction guidelines are trust policies that let businesses control how their PCs run apps. You can, for instance, specify the locations where certain apps are allowed to run and those where they are not. As attackers frequently host their malicious processes in ProgramData, AppData, Temp, and WindowsSysWow, this is useful for preventing a ransomware attack.

10. Use a multi-layered cybersecurity approach

Good cybersecurity protection is the key. Use reliable cybersecurity solutions that will safeguard your endpoints and network: a ransomware encryption protection tool, firewall, good antivirus, email securityDNS filterautomated software patchingPAM software, and the list can go on.

Cybersecurity Solutions to Help You Stay Protected from Ransomware

Advanced Encryption Protection

Our Ransomware Encryption Protection solution is compatible with any Antivirus and can detect any encryption attempts without signatures or behavioral patterns. From its dashboard you will be able to view the full details of any malicious encryption incident; this includes time states, tree diagrams with process callbacks, PowerShell scrips, computed MD5 hash, enumeration of read\write operation performed during encryption attempts, command-line arguments, the signature of malicious process, owner, and many more.

Email Security

Heimdal Email Security is a spam filter and malware protection system which packs more email security vectors than any other platform. It can secure your business email agents against all types of spam emails, malicious attachments, email delivered malware and ransomware, phishing emails, malicious URLs, botnet attacks, and email exploits.

Software Patching

It is of paramount importance to keep your software and systems updated. As my colleague Ioana mentioned in one of her articles, “Two of the most devastating and serious cyber attacks examples we can think of were only possible because security updates weren’t installed in time. The Equifax data breach was caused by a security hole in the Apache Struts web application framework, which wasn’t updated. The WannaCry ransomware attack of <<unprecedented level>> also did a lot of damage, but mainly affected those computers that were unpatched and unprotected.”

We can help you with updates and patches too, since our Heimdal Patch & Asset Management solution will automatically install updates based on your configured policies, without the need for manual input. As soon as 3rd party vendors release new patches, our technology silently deploys them to your endpoints, without the need for reboots or user interruption.

Privileged Account Management

Ransomware encrypts the files that are accessible on the systems of particular users, if it doesn’t include code that allows it to elevate a user’s privilege (you can find examples of privileged accounts in one of my previous articles, Privileged Account Management 101: How Can Privileged Accounts Compromise Your Security).

Our Heimdal Privileged Access Management tool automates the hassle of granting admin rights for a limited time for every user who needs them, but also automatically de-escalates those rights on threat detection. A privileged access management tool it’s not only about managing user rights but also about the fast flow of software installs, about logs and audit trails, and about achieving data protection compliance.

Unified Cybersecurity

All our cybersecurity solutions are unified into a single dashboard and agent to offer stellar endpoint protection, monitoring, and response to mitigate cyber threats. With this enhanced EDR software, you can benefit from DNS traffic filtering, smart threat hunting powered by machine learning behavioral detection, automated software patching, vulnerability management, software inventory, next-gen antivirus with a market-leading detection rate, and our privileged access management module for increased endpoint security and admin rights management.

Staying secure from ransomware is easier with the correct knowledge and habits, as well as a trustworthy portfolio of solutions. As always, Heimdal™ Security can help you with the latter. If you want to know more about which of our company products are best suited for your needs, don’t hesitate to contact us or book a demo.

When in doubt you can always check this anti-ransomware list and see if you are prepared for a potential ransomware attack.

Wrapping Up

Ransomware is one of the most common and most dangerous cyber threats of today, with possibly lethal consequences. Learning how to prevent it should be a top priority for any company interested in keeping its employees, clients, partners, assets, money, and business operations safe.

However you choose to proceed, please remember that Heimdal™ Security always has your back and that our team is here to help you protect your home and your company and create a cybersecurity culture to the benefit of anyone who wants to learn more about it.

In the fight against ransomware, Heimdal™ Security is offering its customers an outstanding integrated cybersecurity suite including the Ransomware Encryption Protection module, that is universally compatible with any antivirus solution, and is 100% signature-free, ensuring superior detection and remediation of any type of ransomware, whether fileless or file-based (including the most recent ones like LockFile).

Drop us a line below if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions regarding the topic of ransomware prevention – we are all ears and can’t wait to hear your opinion!

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This article was initially written by Dora Tudor in February 2022, and updated by Cezarina Dinu in June 2022.

Heimdal CyberSecurity & Threat Intelligence Report 2021

Ransomware Explained. What It Is and How It Works

Data Integrity: What It Means and How to Maintain It

Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) – The Rising Threat to Cybersecurity

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