Ransomware attacks are a frighteningly effective method for hackers to profit from their victims. Ransomware is a type of script or malware that can encrypt or block access to files, systems, and devices until the victim pays a ransom of some sort.
Usually, attackers demand ransom within a certain timeframe, or the files will be lost forever. In best-case scenarios, these attacks are extremely annoying. In worst-case scenarios, such as with large businesses or even hospitals, the consequences can be dire.
Keep reading for a full look at effective ransomware prevention tips and how to minimize the damage of an attack.
Put Policies in Place and Follow Protocols
You should already have some sort of Disaster Management Plan (DMP) in place if anything goes wrong. We heavily recommend adding IT protocols and safety measures to that plan. The cyberworld is a complex place. Knowing how to prevent ransomware isn’t as easy as just “being careful”.
But having a safety protocol will always help.
A “don’t panic” structure can help your team or business remain calm in times of crisis like this. When ransomware is involved, the last thing you want to do is make any brash moves. Design a system, implement a plan, and stick to the emergency protocols set for your team.
Back-Up Your Data and Secure the Backup
Obviously, you can’t constantly back up everything you work on. Maintaining too many backups and trying to keep them all organized and secure can exhaust time and resources to the point of being unmanageable. That doesn’t mean that making backups shouldn’t be a priority, though.
Determine the most vital or difficult data and files to replace. Consistently create stable and updated backups of them as often as necessary. But most importantly, make sure they’re secure. No matter how many backups you have, they’ll be useless if they’re also targeted by ransomware. The best backups are kept on devices separate from the original files.
Use Up-to-Date Antivirus and Other Security Software
Ransomware and other malware in the same vein are constantly updating and adapting. Security measures that worked a year ago can quickly become obsolete. Antivirus and similar software can only operate at peak performance if they’re kept up-to-date. Make sure you’re protected by sufficient security software from trusted developers and keep all programs fully updated at all times.
Protect the Office Network
Protecting the network is key to ensuring ransomware prevention for everyone who operates on it. Plenty of ransomware and other malware target the network as a way to instantly access any and all devices that connect to it. Ensure that your network has a secure password, and consider managing open ports.
Do Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) port 3389 and Server Message Block (SMB) port 445 need to be open? If they are, and you don’t intend them to be, consider closing them ASAP. Ports like these are an open window for hackers to climb through if they spot them.
Who Can Connect to Your Network?
Make sure to always be aware of who can and can’t access your secure network. If there are ever devices or connections that you don’t recognize, that’s a serious issue. You should have full knowledge of exactly who can connect to the network at all times. If not, consider changing the network password and keep tabs on all the connections and users allowed on the network.
Use Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS)
Rather than monitoring your network manually 24/7, you can use software that does it for you. IDS, or Intrusion Detection Systems, are applications that monitor activity on a network for anything malicious and out of place. You can set policies for the software to stick to or use the default ones.
When any activity violates these policies or is unrecognizable, the system either sends an alert or takes immediate action. This frees you from having to constantly keep an eye on what connections are on your network.
Use Protected Networks for Work-Related Connections
This is a major one. Any time you connect online for work-related tasks, it’s imperative that you don’t use public wi-fi. Only use private, protected networks that you trust. Connecting to a public network immediately exposes your connection to anyone on the wi-fi. There are plenty of hackers who can use nothing but this connection to attach ransomware and other malware to your device.
We also suggest using a VPN for work-related connections. Keeping your IP from being tracked and targeted can put a major shield over you from hidden malware attacks.
Keep the System Updated
This taps into a similar point as updating your antivirus. While your built-in system security is never going to be quite as thorough as many antivirus programs, it’s still important to keep it fully updated to combat the latest known types of malware and ransomware attacks.
Pay Attention on What You Click
This is an obvious one, but important for knowing how to prevent ransomware attacks. Hyperlinks and pop-ups can be landmines when surfing the internet. Clicking on the wrong place at the wrong time can bring you to confusing sites or immediately invite malicious software onto your device. Always be wary of where and what you’re clicking.
Learn About the Latest Ransomware Threats
There’s no better way to protect yourself than reading up on what you’re facing. Keep yourself up to date on all ransomware techniques currently out there. Look for specific solutions and preventions on each case and type.
The prevention methods mentioned here are broad enough to help against most threats. But some ransomware attacks are so varied that they’d need a dedicated article of their own to be covered.
Educate Your Employees
If you’re not the only member of your team, it’s important to keep your employees as educated on the matter as yourself. Warn them of what to be careful of, and create a policy for dealing with and reporting problems and attacks as they arise. The last thing you want is employees panicking or making unwise decisions in the midst of an attack.
Test Your System
A plethora of online tools exists that help test your system’s defenses (look up “malware defense testing” for options). A ransomware simulator behaves just like the real deal, except you control it and encrypt your data in the end. You never know where your system vulnerabilities lie unless you’ve tried breaking the network.
A ransomware simulation also tests the readiness of your team during a ransomware attack. It’ll help bring forth any pitfalls and blind spots in your disaster management plan and train the staff in a sandbox environment.
Hackers make ransomware attacks seem terrifying. Sometimes, they genuinely are. The prospect of losing vital files and data is extremely stressful. Still, you can prevent your system from ever experiencing that pressure by implementing the steps laid out above. Remember, malicious actors are constantly looking to create panic and chaos, as it pushes teams and employees to rush and make unwise decisions.
Sure, you’re never 100% safe from ransomware incidents on the internet but taking the time to manage the risk pays off later. Don’t fall victim to these techniques. Be cautious, have a plan, and keep your digital assets secure.