10 Tips for How to Avoid Ransomware Attacks

April 6th, 2023

Most people today are painfully aware of the headache-inducing problems malware, ransomware, and viruses can cause. If you turned on the news tonight and saw that hackers got sensitive information from a major corporation, how surprised would you be? About as much as if the sun rose in the east tomorrow? Less?

Your business (and businesses across the country) need to know how to avoid ransomware attacks. The more criminals refine their techniques and use highly sophisticated technologies to launch cyberattacks, the more crucial it is to be proactive and lower the risk of this happening to your company.

Fortunately, there are methods you can take to make it less likely that you have to endure the stress, anger, and frustration that comes with a ransomware attack. Let’s walk through some top tips and strategies for preventing ransomware. And if you ever have any questions or are interested in a strong line of defense, please don’t hesitate to reach out–we’re always here for you.

Now, let’s jump into these tips:

Back up your data

One of the easiest ways to reduce your risk for ransomware is to back up your data to a cloud server. This is a wise tactic because the individuals behind ransomware attacks can wipe physical computers clean and reinstall backup files. Securing your valuable data by backing it up in the cloud at least once daily goes a long way towards preventing costly downtime for your business.

Along with that, regularly backing up data is part of the gold standard for modern data protection: the 3-2-1-1-0 rule. If you aren’t already familiar with 3-2-1-1-0, it simply means that you should maintain at least 3 copies of your data in 2 different types of media with at least 1 of the copies offsite, at least 1 of the copies offline (an immutable copy), and 0 errors after backup recoverability verification.

If you are interested in seeing how Virtual Systems can help you with this, check out our Backup and Disaster Recovery page.

Segment your networks

Once inside a network, ransomware can spread quickly. To limit its rapid spread as much as possible, segment your network into smaller units. In doing so, you can isolate the problem and keep it from continuing through to the other systems in your network.

The most effective segmentation for reducing your risk of a crippling ransomware attack will feature firewalls, security controls, and unique access for every individual subsystem. This can keep ransomware and viruses from reaching sensitive data. In addition to preventing spread, this approach also gives your security team extra time to properly deal with the threat.

RELATED: How does Veeam Cloud Connect work?

Keep your software updated

In many instances, the root cause of successful ransomware attacks was vulnerable, outdated software and operating systems. This makes complete sense when you consider that viruses, malware, and ransomware constantly evolve and have new variants that are capable of bypassing security features in older versions. For this reason, an essential tip for how to avoid ransomware attacks is to make sure that you stay on top of updates for the software your business uses.

Have robust firewalls and antivirus software

As was just noted, it’s imperative to have software that is up to date. Along with that, you should also be mindful of what kind of software you have and are using. In this case, you will find antivirus and anti-malware software to be particularly valuable for protecting your company’s data.
This software helps by scanning, detecting, and responding to identified threats from external sources. An important consideration when using antivirus software is that some scammers will spoof website popups and emails from popular programs. Clicking on bogus links like these can be bad news, so it’s important to be careful and verify that what you’re seeing is legit.

Along with software, firewall protection is another useful tool you can use to lower your risk of sustaining a ransomware attack. As the first line of defense against cyberthreats, your company’s firewall is essential for filtering and blocking suspicious programs before they enter the IT system.

Use email protection

Traditionally speaking, the leading cause of security threats like ransomware and malware is phishing attacks. Typically, this happens when someone downloads an unsafe attachment or clicks a suspicious link in an email. In other cases, though, the scammer tricks someone into giving sensitive information, usually by pretending to be someone who would legitimately need it (like posing as a manager and asking for a password or network key).

With that being the case, an essential tip for preventing ransomware is to implement systems and technologies. With regard to best practices, a good starting point is to make sure your team is mindful of the fact that fraudulent emails can be very dangerous and that they know how to recognize warning signs. Going hand in hand with this is not downloading attachments or clicking links from unknown senders.
On the technology front, email authentication programs and encryption tools can be quite beneficial. And, as with your company’s software, keeping email client apps updated is essential. Older technology can have security lapses that put your company’s mission-critical data at risk. Using the most recent versions keeps your data much safer from cyberthreats.

RELATED: Is your IT team ready when disaster strikes?

Ensure endpoint security

While endpoint security should be of high importance for any business, it is especially vital for growing companies that have increasing numbers of end-users (and the laptops, tablets, and smartphones they use). All these endpoints create opportunities for criminals to potentially access a business’s network, and that can spell real trouble without the right protections in place.

To combat ransomware and potential security risks, your business should have endpoint detection and response (EDR), or at least endpoint protection platforms (EPP), for all network users. EDR tends to be more sophisticated than EPP—it gives an added ability to respond and counter immediate threats to a company’s network—but either technology can allow your system administrators to remotely manage security and monitor company devices.

Limit user access and privileges

The greater the number of network users, the greater the risk of a ransomware attack. But businesses generally want to grow, so what is a company to do when there are more employees using network resources? One sensible approach that can help immensely is to limit access and permissions only to the areas and data employees need to do their job.

While that may seem like common sense, understanding how to implement such a system isn’t always as easily visible. An increasingly popular approach to this is requiring identity verification by either two-factor (2FA) or multifactor authentication (MFA) at predefined levels of access. This restricts user access by eliminating the possibility of employees simply sharing passwords (like we hear that some people allegedly do for streaming television services).

Train employees and end users

In many instances, potential cyberthreats become real concerns due to human behavior. While some of these cases undoubtedly stem from intentional acts, there are likely a far greater number that happen accidentally. Criminals understand this and use phishing techniques developed to take advantage of unaware end-users.

To reduce the chance of ransomware attacks accidentally initiated by unsuspecting team members, your business should have a cybersecurity training program in place. The specifics of your programs will, naturally, depend on an array of factors. That said, you may want to provide training in matters like recognizing suspicious emails, creating secure passwords, and how to maintain updated software and network systems (etc.).

Arming your team with proper education and training will go a long way to keeping viruses and ransomware from shutting down your business operations.

Test your systems regularly

Testing network systems and software on a routine basis can allow you to be aware of possible weaknesses and grant you opportunities to address them. Even better, this can be done in a controlled manner, which means you can proactively take measures to ensure that all data remains safe through the duration of your testing.

To prepare and test for your readiness and security, develop specific parameters for recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO) as part of the planning stage. During the testing, identify your key vulnerabilities and then take this information and prioritize your greatest security risks. After you have prioritized your security needs, develop a plan to address all shortcomings, starting with the highest priority areas.

Have an incident response plan

Naturally, the best way to deal with a ransomware attack is simply not to have one in the first place. If only it was that easy, right? For various reasons, you might still end up with the serious problem of a virus, malware, or ransomware, even if you have the best preventative measures in place.

That is why it’s a smart idea to create an incident response plan. When you have one, your team understands personnel roles and responsibilities and the appropriate steps to be taken in the event of a ransomware attack. The plan should establish clear guidelines for what needs to be done to restore lost data and rebuild your network and systems, and how everything will be communicated (including who needs to know and do what exactly).

Remember, your incident response plan can play a major role in getting your business back up and running after an attack.

The Best Tip for Preventing Ransomware: Have a Team of Experts on Your Side

While all these tips can reduce the likelihood of having to deal with ransomware, it’s very difficult to completely eliminate all risk. That’s why it’s important to have a data backup plan in place. Even better is to have the support from a trusted brand like Virtual Systems.

We are a proud Platinum Veeam partner, which means you can rest easy when you know that our team is working hard to protect your essential business data. If you’d like to learn about how we can best help your company, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re happy to answer any questions and share how our solutions can get you back up and running quickly when issues, like ransomware, arise.

To learn more, call 844-2-VIRTUAL or contact us through this short online form.

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