10 Ways to Prevent Ransomware Attacks on Your Data

July 21, 2022

Ransomware has become a significant problem for enterprises and organizations. Ransomware attacks have been steadily increasing since 2018, reaching 68.5% of attacks in 2021. Due to the danger it poses, organizations should know how to prevent ransomware and take steps to better protect their network.

What is a ransomware attack?

Ransomware is malware that locks access or encrypts files on a company network until a ransom is paid. While IT managers used to be most concerned with a ransomware attack’s potential to shut down a company’s entire computer network and negatively affect operations, they’re increasingly becoming more afraid of data exfiltration –  also known as Double Extortion Tactics. These involve encrypting customer’s data and threatening to sell the data on the Dark Web if the ransom is not paid. As the ruined reputations of many companies can attest, the aftermath of a ransomware attack can be devastating even after your systems are back online.

How to avoid ransomware viruses

To reduce the likelihood of falling victim to the next ransomware attack, it’s important you know how to avoid ransomware and take action to implement security best practices. Below are ten actionable strategies to help you prevent ransomware attacks on your data:

1. Be diligent about backing up data

Make sure that regular data backups are a part of your routine maintenance activities. Store the files on an external hard drive and disconnect it from your computer after creating the backup to ensure that the ransomware cannot infect those files too. In case of an attack, verify that your backups have not been infected before rolling back. 

2. Develop cybersecurity plans and policies

Create a cyber incident response plan so your IT security team has a clear blueprint to follow in the event of a ransomware attack. The plan should include policies about containing the attack and preventing damage to core assets, collecting forensic evidence, assessing the scope of the damage, and communicating to vendors and stakeholders. 

3. Safeguard your endpoints 

An endpoint is a remote device that communicates back and forth with a network. This includes everything from a desktop and a router to a modem and printer, as well as any other IoT devices within the organization. You can guard your endpoints and significantly reduce the risk of a successful ransomware attack by ensuring that all devices feature secure configuration settings and are not left with a security gap from default configurations.

4. Update your business systems

Check that all of your organization’s software, operating systems, and applications are regularly updated and patched to prevent a ransomware attack from taking advantage of known vulnerabilities to enter your network. Experience shows that companies that neglect this area are particularly vulnerable to ransomware attacks, such as the notorious WannaCry attack in 2017.

5. Configure desktop extensions

Executables (files with a .exe extension) are a favorite of hackers looking to break enterprise systems. Windows hides file extensions by default, allowing a malicious file such as “paycheck.doc.exe” to disguise itself as an innocent Word document named “paycheck.doc”.  Ensuring that extensions are always displayed is a simple tweak that can prevent a ransomware attack. 

6. Consider cloud technologies 

More and more enterprises are transitioning their data from on-premise systems to cloud-based architectures. Cloud storage solutions offer robust security that is more difficult – but not impossible – for hackers to exploit, and they can restore your files to a recent version in case of a ransomware attack.

7. Restrict access

Open access invites malware to move quickly and easily through an organizational network, infecting everything in its path. Make sure users have only the level of access they require for their day-to-day work. In the event of a breach, this restricted access can limit the damage of the ransomware.

8. Develop a cybersecurity culture

Clearly explain to employees the dangers of ransomware and the terrible impact it can have on the organization. Have clear employee policies in place to prevent a ransomware attack from occurring when an employee is working from home, such as requiring a VPN service on a public Wi-Fi network and not inserting USB sticks or other storage media into a work computer. If possible, implement a Cybersecurity Chief whose job is to remind employees of these policies. 

9. Hold regular cyber security training sessions 

As human error is the most common cause of a ransomware attack, make sure all staff is properly trained in spotting malicious activity. Some favorites of hackers include sending a phishing or spear-phishing email that encourages the recipient to click a link, download an attachment, or visit a website that is infected with malware. In your cyber security training sessions, make sure to cover common attack strategies of hackers and any new threats.

10. Use zero trust technology to close the gaps 

While the above precautions are useful, zero trust technology is the most airtight cybersecurity strategy. Taking a zero-trust approach is a highly effective way for organizations to control access to their data, applications, and networks and prevent a ransomware attack on their business. As the zero trust security model automatically distrusts both internal and external sources, every single request to access a file share, application, or cloud storage device must be authenticated, authorized, and encrypted. The model assumes that every attempt to access the network is guilty until proven innocent.

Taking On Zero Trust File Security with Votiro’s Positive Selection Technology

Votiro’s Positive Selection® technology takes a ”trust only in the positive” approach to files presented, breaking down every element of a file recursively to the lowest-level element. Each element passes through Votiro Cloud, where the Positive Selection® processing engine analyzes it. If Votiro does not 100% recognize an element and trust it to be safe, that element will not pass through the Positive Selection® engine back into the newly reconstructed, fully functional, and completely threat-free template. The new file only contains elements that have passed the positive selection process, eliminating any potential security breach.

The process is fast and completely up-to-date, with no reliance on checking signature databases for known threats or sandboxing and no opportunity for zero-day attacks. Votiro’s Positive Selection® technology ensures end-users receive files free from the possibility of an attack 100% of the time.

To find out more about Votiro Cloud and its innovative approach to preventing a ransomware attack, click here. You can also contact us with any questions you have or book a demo to see our Positive Selection® technology in action.