How to Take on the Ransomware Epidemic in 2018

Ransomware is the latest cybersecurity epidemic and it is showing no signs of slowing down in the year ahead. In 2017 alone, it was estimated to have cost businesses more than $5 billion, up from just $325 million in 2015. At a predicted yearly growth of 350%, this means that ransomware is on track to exceed $22 billion in 2018.

Something needs to be done to prevent the further spread and influence of this threat. Here are five proactive ways to tackle the ransomware epidemic in the year ahead:

Invest in User Education

Many companies put their focus purely on technological solutions to prevent attacks, but most hacks are in fact a result of human error. More than 90% of ransomware attacks start with employees interacting with email.

Instead of simply relying on firewalls and antivirus software, you can significantly reduce these threats with basic security hygiene and education for proper user habits. For example, instruct employees on how to fastidiously check for spelling errors or typos in the emails before clicking on any links. Many malicious emails have typos, which can be a tell-tale sign of their nature. Also, educate employees not to click links in a file-sharing email from Dropbox or Google Drive if they do not know the sender and to check that the URL matches the branding on the page before providing any personal information. These are just a few simple examples of user training and not an exhaustive protocol by any means. User education is a concerted effort and requires ongoing research as threats evolve, but it is time—and resources—well spent.

Activate ‘Controlled Folder Access in Windows 10’

Microsoft’s newly added “controlled folder access” feature, activated via the Windows Defender Security Center, works to constantly monitor certain protected folders, as well as folders specified for any suspicious or unauthorized changes. If any unauthorized process tries to access these folders, the system will automatically notify systems administrators and prevent the change until it is reviewed. This feature can mitigate unwanted traffic by alerting proper parties to any untoward activity.  

Back Up Your Data

While most companies employ some form of data backup, if it is not performed uniformly and frequently, they may still find themselves in trouble. The benefits of regular backups are numerous and obvious, but the path to success can be more complicated than you might initially think. For example, according to one survey, more than 70% of respondents performed backups, but 29% only performed backups once a week. Data stored in more diverse places, such as BYO devices, can also be easily overlooked. Regular and expansive backups help businesses to recover from many forms of threats—including external threats such as ransomware, internal threats such as a disgruntled contractor, or threats beyond control such as hardware failures.

Make the Right Technology Choices

Many companies allow employees to use consumer apps or file-sharing solutions as long as users don’t ask IT to procure or maintain them. While such practices might save some headache in short-term, they introduce significant long-term risks. Picking a well-designed and tested solution can deter ransomware or data breaches from these vulnerabilities.

While companies may allow their employees to store data across disparate cloud storage services, not all services are created equal. Some, for example, offer an enterprise file-sharing solution (EFSS) that comes with advanced ransomware protection to help customers handle every phase of a cyberattack, from prevention to detection and recovery.

Have a Communication and Mitigation Plan

Having a communication and mitigation plan in place is as fundamental as having an escape route in advance of a fire. Do your employees and IT staff know how to mitigate damage from an active attack? Do they know how to communicate with each other in the event of a breach? Do you know how to communicate with the public and your customers?

Hiding a breach can cause more harm than good, and communicating a breach might help limit the damage. Many ransomware attacks are fast to encrypt files and hold them hostage, but take longer to sync these corrupted files to servers. By communicating quickly and effectively, you may be able to stop an attack before it spreads. The time to develop a plan is now.


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