Stopping Ransomware in its Tracks

Let’s face it: ransomware isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The startling pace of data creation and consumption provides attackers with an everflowing stream of opportunities to access sensitive data. Combined with rapidly evolving attack vectors, the current state of cybersecurity is perilous at best.

Luckily, organizations can take steps to limit their exposure to ransomware attacks and minimize damage to their bottom line and brand reputation. In this post, we’ll go over some of the challenges and share solutions that real-world organizations are implementing to achieve long-term data resilience.

A new environment means new problems

It’s no secret that digital transformation has affected every industry. From e-commerce to healthcare and everything in between, employees are now conducting business through digital communications at a greater rate than any other point in human history. While this has been a boon for employee flexibility, it has led to a few challenges.

Endpoint vulnerabilities

Data that once could have been secured by a simple firewall now lives all over the country—and in many cases, all over the world. This means that IT teams are regularly stretched beyond their limits as more employees continue to work from home across a number of devices. Amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic, this has become a universal issue—and the impact is apparent in the dramatic rise in attacks.

The global attack volume increased by 151% during the first 6 months of 2021 compared with a year and a half ago. While part of this can be pinned to employees not quite understanding proper security protocol, another part is tied to something much more malicious: savvy attackers capitalizing on today’s opportunities.

The evolution of an attack vector

In a June 2021 interview, the FBI mentioned that it had investigated 100 different strains of ransomware circulating the world. Ransomware is in high demand and is an extremely profitable practice, which is causing hackers to “up the ante” and advance their methodologies.

Attackers have commoditized attacks with new “ransomware-as-a-service” packages that allow individuals without the requisite coding experience to cash in on hacking. The proliferation of this model into the ranks of novice “hackers” has resulted in an explosion of highly sophisticated attacks.

The big money, however, does still require a certain level of specialization. Supply chain attacks, like those seen with Solarwinds and Microsoft, relied on hackers strategically compromising high-level supply chain elements before spreading malicious code to downstream organizational components. This was a new vector that relied on organizational trust to spread the attack.

In the evolving threat landscape, one thing hasn’t changed: email remains the most common form of attack vector, with 92% of all malware being delivered through email communications. Phishing and social engineering are tools of the trade that are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Being proactive is the best solution

At the moment, organizations just have to take for granted that they will be targeted at some point. Whether it is a sophisticated international attack utilizing a zero-day exploit or a simple phishing scam that targets a single employee, the best way to minimize the damage is proactive preparation.

Taking a systematic approach to identify, locate, and classify personal identifiable information (PII) across all endpoints empowers organizations to preempt hackers and avoid the compromise of important data. Another vulnerability is exposure of sensitive data on endpoints where it shouldn’t be, such as credit card or social security numbers stored on an employee’s device. Through a remediation process that includes data redaction, masking, anonymization, encryption, quarantining, and shredding, the attack surface is further reduced, making it more challenging for attackers to infiltrate the system.

Data breaches represent a risk that, unfortunately, every organization must take into account throughout its operations. With employees going remote at an unprecedented rate and attack vectors constantly evolving, not having a plan in place to meet these threats head-on can be a costly mistake with several downstream repercussions. Managing, minimizing, and ultimately preventing the consequences is an organization’s ticket to a healthy and secure modern IT environment.

Learn about successful ransomware protection

For case studies from three different industry sectors, download: “3 CISOs who got it right: A guide to proactive ransomware protection.”

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