Ransomware: What is it, and how DLP helps

It is astonishing to comprehend the simplicity with which hackers can utilize and unleash ransomware, considering the immense potential for harm it holds. The frequency of ransomware attacks witnessed a surge of nearly 13% in the year 2022 alone, which is equivalent to the cumulative increase observed over the past five years combined.

Consequently, every organization must promptly establish a robust information security management system using DLP for Ransomware. It is important to recognize that while ransomware poses a significant cybersecurity menace, it primarily functions as a means to illicitly monetize unauthorized access to an organization’s systems. To prevent ransomware from infiltrating your network, it is crucial to obstruct the avenues exploited by attackers to gain entry.

First, let’s take a more in-depth look at what ransomware is and why it is one of the biggest threats to business cyber security. Then, we’ll tackle ways in which organizations can protect themselves from data loss through ransomware.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a form of malicious software (malware) explicitly created to extort money from its victims by taking their data hostage. In essence, ransomware encrypts the files of the target or restricts their access to the system, demanding payment in return for the decryption key or system access.

Usually, ransomware infiltrates a system by employing tactics rooted in social engineering, such as phishing emails, or by exploiting vulnerabilities found in outdated software or inadequate security measures. The perpetrators of ransomware commonly impose a deadline for payment and issue threats of permanent file deletion or encryption if the deadline is not met.

How does ransomware get onto a computer or network?

Ransomware can enter a system through a variety of means, including:

Phishing emails: This is the practice of tricking someone into giving up sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial data, through an email or other communication that appears to be from a legitimate source. Ransomware is often spread through phishing emails that contain malicious attachments or links to infected websites.

Software vulnerabilities: This involves attackers identifying weaknesses in an organization’s systems, applications, or network and exploiting them to gain access.

Drive-by downloads: Ransomware can be downloaded onto a victim’s system without their knowledge through infected websites or ads.

Botnets: This is a network of infected computers or devices that can be controlled remotely by an attacker to carry out various malicious activities, including ransomware attacks.

It is important for individuals and organizations to take steps to protect themselves against ransomware, including keeping software up-to-date, using strong passwords, educating employees, and implementing data loss prevention (DLP) software.

What are the consequences of a ransomware attack?

The most obvious consequence of a ransomware attack is the loss of access to critical data and systems, which can significantly interfere with business operations and lead to financial losses.

Ransomware attacks can result in:

  • Operational disruption: When systems are encrypted or blocked by ransomware, they become inoperable until the ransom is paid or the data is recovered. This results in significant downtime for organizations as they strive to regain functionality. For businesses heavily reliant on technology, this downtime can be especially costly, impeding their operations.
  • Data compromise: Ransomware attacks often lead to the loss of crucial data and sensitive information, such as customer data, financial records, and confidential business details. In the absence of proper data backups, the loss of this information can be permanent, causing substantial setbacks.
  • Regulatory penalties: Numerous industries have regulations mandating the protection of customer data. In the event of a ransomware attack compromising data, organizations may face fines and penalties under these regulations.
  • Damage to reputation: The theft or unauthorized exposure of sensitive customer data resulting from a cybersecurity breach can severely tarnish a company’s reputation. Rebuilding trust can be a daunting task, particularly if the organization is perceived as negligent in its cybersecurity approach.
  • Financial setbacks: Ransomware attacks can lead to significant financial losses. These losses stem from various factors, including costs associated with data recovery, system restoration, and remediation efforts. Additionally, financial repercussions arise from downtime, decreased productivity, diminished business opportunities due to reputation damage, regulatory fines, legal fees, and ransom payments.

Ransomware Attack Response and Recovery

When faced with a ransomware attack, having a well-defined plan for swift and effective response is crucial in minimizing the aftermath damage. Preparing in advance saves valuable time during the critical moments and ensures everyone knows the appropriate course of action, aligning all efforts.

Key elements to incorporate in your response plan include clearly defined roles and responsibilities for teams and individuals involved, business continuity plans to mitigate the impact on customers and users, communication plans, and vendor partnerships.

The general steps of a ransomware response can be categorized as follows:

Evaluate and isolate:

Upon confirming an ongoing attack, it is essential to assess its extent and spread. Understanding the scope helps in quickly disconnecting affected devices from the organization’s networks, preventing further propagation to shared drives and other devices. Taking backups and other systems offline is also recommended to safeguard them from infection.

Assess the damage:

Once your organization is secured against further harm, response teams can investigate the impact of the attack and evaluate the affected system. Determining the ransomware variant used, identifying encrypted files and data, and verifying the security and functionality of backups

Execute the response plan:

With a clear understanding of the extent of the attack, the focus shifts to data recovery and restoring system access for personnel. Communication of the incident to all involved parties is essential.

How can organizations protect themselves from ransomware attacks?

One effective measure is the implementation of Data Loss Prevention (DLP) software, which enables organizations to monitor and regulate data flow within their networks. This includes identifying and categorizing sensitive information and promptly detecting and responding to ransomware attacks in real-time.

To fortify defenses against ransomware attacks, organizations should adopt the following protective measures:

  • Maintain regular software and system updates: Keeping software and systems up to date with the latest patches and updates is vital, as outdated versions are more susceptible to ransomware attacks.
  • Utilize strong passwords and enable two-factor authentication: The use of robust passwords, combined with two-factor authentication, acts as a deterrent against unauthorized access to systems and networks.
  • Provide employee training: Educating employees about cybersecurity is essential. By raising awareness and providing guidance on recognizing and thwarting ransomware, phishing attempts, and other cyber attack methods, employees can actively contribute to protecting sensitive data.
  • Implement a comprehensive Data Loss Prevention (DLP) solution: Employing solutions like Safetica’s DLP software empowers organizations to safeguard their data against ransomware attacks. These tools enable real-time monitoring of data flow, identification of suspicious activities, and prompt alerts regarding anomalies.

How DLP Can Help:

Data Loss Prevention (DLP) software plays a crucial role in defending against ransomware attacks. Here’s how it helps:

Real-time Data Flow Monitoring:

DLP solutions monitor data flow within an organization’s network, tracking the movement of sensitive information. By maintaining visibility over data, any suspicious activities or unauthorized attempts to encrypt files can be detected promptly. This proactive monitoring allows organizations to respond swiftly and mitigate the impact of a ransomware attack.

Blocking Suspicious Activity:

DLP software employs advanced threat detection mechanisms to identify and block suspicious activities associated with ransomware. It can detect patterns and behaviors commonly exhibited by ransomware, such as file encryption processes or abnormal data access attempts. By blocking these activities, DLP helps prevent the successful execution of ransomware attacks, providing an additional layer of protection.

Granular Data Classification:

An effective DLP solution enables organizations to classify their data based on sensitivity. By defining and categorizing data, organizations can prioritize protection measures. With proper classification, DLP software can identify critical files and apply stricter security controls, reducing the risk of ransomware encryption or unauthorized access.

Alerting and Incident Response:

DLP solutions have built-in alerting mechanisms that notify security teams in real-time when potential ransomware incidents occur. Immediate alerts enable organizations to take swift action, isolating affected systems, initiating incident response procedures, and minimizing the spread and impact of the ransomware attack.

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