Organizations face a variety of cyberthreats. Brute force attacks, phishing campaigns, malware, and Denial of Service (DDoS), are just a few examples. Another threat that often seems to strike fear into its victims is ransomware. It can affect a company on many different levels, from loss of critical data to the loss of customer trust. This is why there are companies called “first responders”, helping you with ransomware recovery. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and first try to explain what is a ransomware attack.
What Is a Ransomware Attack?
Ransomware is malicious software that infects a computer and displays messages demanding you pay a fee for your system to work again.
Cybercriminals use this illegal moneymaking scheme to encrypt a user or organization’s critical data. You’ll be unable to access files, databases, or applications. The criminal then demands you pay a ransom to provide access. It can quickly paralyze an entire organization, spreading across a network, file servers, and target database.
A ransomware attack is something that can affect any organization, whether it’s large or small. Businesses can be affected, along with schools, hospitals, government, and non-profit agencies.
For cybercriminals, it has the potential to generate billions of dollars in payments, but for the victims, it inflicts significant damage and expenses.
The typical steps in a ransomware attack are:
- Infection: The ransomware is delivered to the system via an email attachment, phishing email, infected application, or some other method. It installs itself across any network device.
- Secure key exchange: The ransomware contacts the cybercriminal’s command and control server and generates cryptographic keys.
- Encryption: Any files the ransomware finds on local machines and the network are encrypted.
- Extortion: With the encryption complete, the ransomware can demand payment, threatening data destruction if payment is not forthcoming.
- Unlocking: An infected organization can either pay the ransom, hoping that their affected files will be decrypted, or attempt recovery themselves.
Prevention: Building Ransomware Data Recovery Strategy
The most effective way to protect your systems against ransomware is to prevent it from being installed. The next best way is to anticipate how it can enter your systems and what data is likely to be targeted.
The following steps will help you build a robust ransomware data recovery strategy.
- Create an inventory of your data
- Identify your endpoints
- Determine your recovery ransomware plan
- Protect your backups
- Duplicate data offsite
What to Do If You’re Targeted by a Ransomware Attack
If you’ve got a strategy in place, but your organization is still attacked by ransomware, what should you do?
- Disconnect the computer from the network. This will isolation the infection and prevent it from spreading. You should separate all infected computers from each other, shared storage, and the network.
- Disable shared drives: Disable all shared drives to prevent the infection from spreading.
- Identify the infection source: You can determine the type of malware strain you’re dealing with by looking at messages, evidence on the computer, and identification tools. You might, for example, require Locky ransomware recovery.
- Alert the rest of the users: All other users in the organization should be alerted to the possibility of a ransomware attack.
- Report the ransomware case to the local authorities: This will allow them to support and coordinate measures to counter the attack.
Ransomware File Recovery: How to Restore Encrypted Files
If ransomware encryption has infected your network and computer, you have several options to restore the files locked or encrypted by ransomware.
- Recover the files with a backup. If you have backups of your files, you can restore and recover them. The backup would be an off-site or offline backup, Windows Shadow Copies, or on-site backups.
- Recreate the data: You may be able to recreate the data from various sources, for example, paper copies, email exchanges, database mining.
- Contact a ransomware recovery service for advice and to explore recovery options: Poorly constructed ransomware encryptions can be broken by security specialists such as Coveweare or for them to use a ransomware recovery tool. Try this option if you have no luck with 1 and 2. All three of these options should be properly explored. If you can avoid paying a ransom, you should at all costs.
The best way to respond to a ransomware attack is to avoid having one in the first place. Aside from that, make sure you back up your valuable data and make it unreachable. This will ensure your downtime and data loss are minimal.