*This article was written by Ayehu Founder & CEO Gabby Nizri and originally published on CIOReview.
If there’s ever been a group of individuals who were dedicated to their craft, hackers would win the award, hands down. It seems these crafty criminals are finding new and improved ways to access the sensitive data they’re after on an almost daily basis. In 2016, the latest form of security threats to take center stage has been ransomware. If you’re not yet aware, this is a malicious program that, when deployed, locks up a device and holds all of its data ransom unless and until a specified amount of money is paid to the perpetrator. For an individual, this can be frustrating and costly. For an organization, it can be nothing short of catastrophic.
The key to avoid falling victim to a ransomware attack is to take a proactive approach, preventing rather than reacting. Here’s how.
Back up your data. First and foremost, you should be backing up your critical data to an external drive or via a secure backup service on a regular basis. The fundamental basis of ransomware is the encryption and disabling of personal and/or proprietary information. If the malware is successful but your data has been sufficiently backed up, the hackers will have zero leverage to collect on their demands.
Use technology to your advantage. The reason cyber criminals are so successful is because they are remarkably tech-savvy. They spend all of their time identifying vulnerabilities and taking advantage of these weaknesses to pursue their criminal intent. They’ve also found ways to assault their victims at an alarmingly relentless rate. The best and only effective way to combat this is to leverage technology in much the same way. Start with solid monitoring system and fortify the process with automation.
Conduct regular audits. If you’re not making a concerted effort to identify areas where your organization might be most at risk, you can bet those who seek to do you harm will. Stay a step ahead of the game by conducting regular audits and tests to determine where you are most vulnerable and then adjust your approach accordingly. This will improve the chances of correcting potential weaknesses before they become a point of entry for hackers.
Develop and document best practices. Use the information you’ve gathered throughout the above steps to develop, document and hone a series of best practices for future protection against ransomware and other similar cyber-attacks. Remember to stay abreast of new methods and directions that cyber-criminals are using so that you can adjust your strategy accordingly.
Be prepared to fight fire with fire. Cyber-attacks aren’t limited to business hours. Hackers are working around the clock to find points of entry, and in many cases, will attack at times that they feel they’ll be least likely to be detected. Unless you can afford to employ an army of security professionals to work 24/7/365, your best chance of preventing an attack is to automate your incident response strategy. This will ensure that any and all threats are immediately identified, prioritized and addressed any time, day or night.
Have a plan in place to mitigate damages. Of course, despite our most valiant efforts, there’s no magic formula for completely eliminating the chance of a cyber-attack. Even with the right monitoring system in place and a highly skilled staff of security professionals at the helm, there’s always a chance that a threat might infiltrate your network. Make sure you have a solid plan in place to initiate rapid remediation so that if and when a ransomware attack makes its way in, it can be isolated and its progression halted as quickly and effectively as possible to mitigate potential damages.
Unfortunately, experts believe that incidents of ransomware and other similar security threats are only going to continue to increase, both in complexity and frequency. And considering the fact that everyone, from individual consumers to enterprise-level corporations and even government agencies are being victimized, it’s obvious that nobody is safe. The best way to protect your business and prevent your sensitive data from becoming compromised is to proactively plan ahead, stay informed and be adequately prepared to do battle if and when the time comes.