February 27, 2019
Best Ways to Recover From Ransomware
In the modern business world, the importance of data protection cannot be underestimated. Unfortunately, organizations are constantly exposed to multiple risks and threats which can potentially undermine their performance and affect their business continuity. One of such potential dangers is ransomware attacks, which entails locking or encrypting computer files and then demanding a ransom from the victim to regain access to their files. Ransomware attacks are typically hard to predict and the consequences of a failed ransomware recovery might be irreparable. Therefore, it is important to learn what to do before, during, and after an attack to mitigate its consequences.
What Is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a type of malware that locks and encrypts the user’s data. After that, the attacker demands the victim to pay a certain amount of money if they want to unlock the data and regain access to the user’s files. The amount of the ransom generally depends on the size of the organization and how critical the captured data is. Attackers often demand the payment to be made in a digital currency, such as bitcoin, or a payment gateway such as CASHU, thus making it harder to track them down.
Ransomware is often viewed as an easy way to make money because organizations are ready to pay any monetary compensation to save valuable data. Unless the ransom is paid, the attacker can threaten to delete critical files, leak confidential information, or even prosecute the ransomware victim for having illegal content. In the last case, the perpetrator pretends to be a law enforcement official and demands immediate fine payment.
With the development of anti-ransomware tools, it has become easier to detect malware and recover from ransomware long before any serious damage is done. Due to this, perpetrators are constantly coming up with new ways of penetrating and infecting your environment. Currently, malware can be contracted from downloading suspicious email attachments, clicking malvertising ads, visiting websites infected with malware, and many other actions.
A ransomware attack can cost your business dearly; that is to say it entails not only paying out a huge ransom, but also the loss of revenue as a result of business downtime, extra expenses associated with ransomware recovery, a damaged business reputation, and loss of customer trust.
How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks
The danger of ransomware attacks is that they are highly unpredictable and always come unexpectedly. Moreover, it takes a lot of time and effort to recover from ransomware and there is no guarantee that the outcome of ransomware recovery will be successful. The best approach in this case is to make sure that your infrastructure is securely protected and learn how to prevent ransomware attacks from occurring in the first place.
- Install antivirus or anti‑malware software. The security software can scan the entire infrastructure in order to identify the potential threat and prevent it from launching and infecting your computer. However, perpetrators are constantly improving their attack methods. Thus, your software may be unaware of the new types of malware, as result of which, it might fail to detect and remove the threat. To prevent this issue from occurring and seamlessly recover from ransomware, keep your anti-malware software up-to-date and install the latest security patches and OS updates.
- Regularly perform offsite backups. First, you should identify the most critical data and system files without which the organization won’t be able to operate. Then, back up this data and store it in a remote location such as a cloud storage or a portable HDD. This way you can be sure that even if the intruders gain access to your files, you can rapidly retrieve all valuable data and successfully recover from ransomware. Perform data backups regularly so as to ensure your backups are up-to date so that the minimum amount of data is lost.
- Run penetration tests. You need to regularly perform penetration tests to identify any existing and potential weaknesses in your infrastructure. During the ransomware recovery, every minute of downtime can result in a considerable loss of revenue and productivity. Thus, it is also crucial to test data backups in order to verify that the data can be restored and the organization can successfully recover from ransomware.
- Conduct employee training. Organizations generally have multiple employees who work with various files on a daily basis. There is a high risk that they might download infected files or visit suspicious websites without a second thought. Thus, it is important to educate your employees about the most common ways of contracting a virus and train them to identify potential threats and dangers. Moreover, the staff should be trained on how to act during the ransomware recovery to avoid unnecessary confusion and panic. Such preventive measures can considerably reduce your organization’s vulnerability to ransomware attacks.
How to Respond to Ransomware Attacks
Despite the numerous preventive measures available, there is still a possibility of your organization falling victim to a ransomware attack. Thus, the actions that you will undertake in the next 24 hours determine whether you would successfully recover from ransomware or not. The following practices will help you minimize the impact of a ransomware attack.
- Disconnect the infected device. As soon as you find out that a computer has been infected with malware, you must immediately disconnect the device from the network and external storage devices. This way you can ensure that other computers in your infrastructure will not get infected as well. After that, detect how many computers have actually been affected by a ransomware attack and determine if there is any suspicious activity in the system.
- Identify the type of ransomware. Talk with the person who first detected the issue. Ask what they were doing prior to the incident, whether they had received emails with suspicious attachments, and which files they had recently downloaded. Identifying the ransomware type provides you with valuable information which can be used to identify vulnerabilities in your data protection system and modify it accordingly. Moreover, if you succeed in determining the ransomware type, you will know exactly how your files have been affected (encrypted or locked), identify possible repercussions of not paying the ransom, and which strategy should be used to successfully recover from ransomware.
- Report the issue. When conducting employee training, explain to your staff that it is important to notify the IT support team about any suspicious activity on their computer. This way IT professionals will have the opportunity to respond to the ransomware attack on time, before any serious damage is done. After that, report the ransomware attack to the authorities (e.g., FBI) and provide them with all the necessary information about the incident. Reporting to the FBI can help find the people behind the attack and bring them to justice.
- Do not pay the ransom. Law enforcement officials advise against complying with the attackers’ demands because it encourages even more ransomware attacks in the future. Hackers looking to make quick money will see you as an easy target for their future attacks. Moreover, in most cases, paying out the ransom doesn’t guarantee that the attackers will unlock or decrypt data as promised. Remember that you’re dealing with dishonest people who are only interested in profit.
- Identify the impact of a ransomware attack. You should determine how much data has been corrupted, how many computers have been infected as a result of the attack, and how long it would take to recover from ransomware. Moreover, assess the criticality of the captured data and decide if it can be recovered without paying the ransom.
- Recover your system from ransomware. The size of your organization and the caused damage help to determine how fast you can recover from ransomware. However, if you didn’t think in advance and didn’t create data backups, all your attempts to recover from ransomware will be futile. Backing up the most critical files and storing them offsite ensures that your data can’t be accessed and corrupted by malicious attackers.
Modern organizations depend on virtual environments for conducting business operations and serving their customers. However, with the development of virtualization technology, many perpetrators have seen the opportunity for making quick money from penetrating vulnerable infrastructures and capturing unprotected data. Thus, ransomware has become a serious issue in the modern business world.
The best approach to ransomware recovery is protect your system in advance so as to prevent the ransomware incident from occurring in the first place. Performing backup and replication on a regular basis, keeping mission-critical data offsite, and regularly testing VM recoverability can help transform your ransomware protection strategies and ensure that your organization can successfully recover from ransomware.
Download our white paper on ransomware protection to learn what ransomware can do to your environment and how to protect your company from ransomware attacks.
Request a live demo by one of our engineers or download a full-featured free trial to test NAKIVO Backup & Replication in your virtual environment today and see for yourself the multiple benefits that it provides.