How to mitigate ransomware risk

There is no stopping ransomware attacks. However, businesses can use tried-and-true ransomware mitigation technologies and techniques to address these attacks before they get out of hand. These technologies and techniques help companies limit the damage caused by ransomware attacks. Plus, they allow companies to collect and analyze ransomware insights and use them to find ways to prevent future attacks. 

About Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a company's data and/or blocks access to its systems. Cybercriminals launch ransomware attacks, which can cause companies to lose all of their files and/or be locked out of their computers.

During a ransomware attack, a cybercriminal uses malware to infiltrate a company's data and systems.  Following the attack, the criminal blocks users from accessing corporate devices, email addresses and internal systems.  The attacker then demands a ransom payment in exchange for releasing access to the company’s data and systems. 

In many cases, the business will simply pay the ransom.  However, there is no guarantee that the cybercriminal cannot still access corporate data. 

If the business does not pay the ransom, the criminal may release the sensitive data to the public.  Many organizations have experienced extensive damages to brand reputation, paid large fines, and lost significant amounts of both revenue and time.

Is a Ransomware Attack in Your Immediate Future?

It is impossible to stop cybercriminals from using ransomware, and criminal organizations can attack a business network anytime, anywhere. They continue to create and improve sophisticated ransomware attacks to demand payment.

Businesses can invest heavily in IT security applications and train employees to not fall victim to a phishing email, but even with good policies and knowledge, one mistake can cost an entire company millions of dollars.

Companies must put a ransomware mitigation plan in place to prepare for the inevitable.

What Is Ransomware Mitigation?

The term "ransomware mitigation" refers to the measures put in place to prevent a ransomware attack. These measures can vary based on the cybersecurity technologies and tools a company uses.

Companies develop and deploy mitigation strategies that account for ransomware and other cyber threats. These strategies can encompass common cyberattack techniques. They also enable companies to assess the risks associated with myriad cyber threats. That way, companies can use the strategies to guard against current and emerging cyberattacks. In addition, the strategies can help companies optimize their security posture. 

Why Is Ransomware Mitigation Important?

Ransomware is a big problem for businesses of all sizes and across all industries. Without the proper protections in place, your business risks losing critical information or taking a financial hit while trying to get it back.

Thanks to ransomware mitigation, your company can address ransomware attacks now and in the future. You can create a strategy to combat ransomware attacks and prevent them from escalating. Also, you can utilize endpoint detection and response (EDR), managed detection and response (MDR), and/or extended detection and response (XDR) technologies to get the most value out of your ransomware mitigation efforts.

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)

Endpoint detection and response plays a key role in ransomware mitigation. It is a type of cybersecurity technology that businesses use to monitor endpoints or devices for ransomware, spyware, and other threats.

Businesses use EDR technology that combines continuous endpoint data monitoring and collection with rules-based threat response and analysis. This ensures that companies can quickly and easily detect and investigate suspicious activities on hosts and endpoints. Companies can also utilize EDR to automate threat detection and response.

How Can EDR Help Defend Against Ransomware?

An EDR solution collects data relating to security events and activities across all of a business' endpoints. This gives the business visibility into its security posture. And it allows the company to immediately identify and remediate ransomware attacks and other cyber threats.

Businesses also use EDR solutions to learn about cyber threats. For example, an EDR solution can notify a company about a cyber threat. The solution can leverage threat intelligence to inform the business about the threat's context and potential impact. At this point, the business can determine how to secure its endpoints against the threat. 

Managed Detection and Response (MDR)

Managed detection and response provides security monitoring for a business' IT environment. With MDR, a company can replace its security operations center (SOC) with a third-party service. Or, a business can use MDR to expand its security operations.

An MDR provider can offer EDR and other security tools as part of a toolkit. In doing so, the provider allows a company to protect its entire IT environment against ransomware and other cyber threats.

How Can MDR Apply to Ransomware Mitigation?

An MDR provider can provide a cybersecurity-as-a-service plan for around-the-clock security monitoring across its IT environment. It also ensures that a company can proactively hunt for ransomware and other cyber threats and protect against them.

The best MDR solution is backed by a team of threat hunters, engineers, ethical hackers, and SOC specialists. Together, these cybersecurity professionals search far and wide for cyber threats. If any threats are identified, they are resolved right away. The threats are also evaluated, ensuring a company can protect against such issues moving forward.

Extended Detection and Response (XDR)

Extended detection and response delivers the best of EDR and MDR. A company can deploy an XDR solution to eliminate cybersecurity silos across its operations. Furthermore, XDR helps businesses detect and respond to threats across all of their data sources.

An XDR solution encompasses email security, cloud security, and other security products. It is typically built on a big data infrastructure, enabling a company to use security data from a wide range of sources and automate its cybersecurity operations.

How Does XDR for Ransomware Mitigation Work?

A company can use an XDR solution for unparalleled visibility across its IT environment. The solution gives a business an in-depth look at all of its data sources. It also allows a company to apply security analytics and automation to address ransomware and other cyber threats.

Businesses can save money and time with  XDR.  The solution shows a company how well its security operations are performing in real time. Thus, it enables the business to identify security gaps. The company can then discover ways to address these gaps before they open the door to cyberattacks and data breaches.

Which Is Most Effective for Ransomware Mitigation: EDR, MDR, or XDR?

There is no reason to settle for an "average" solution for ransomware mitigation. To combat the most advanced ransomware attacks, XDR is the ideal choice.

With an XDR solution, your business can secure its IT environment from top to bottom. The solution helps you identify and remediate ransomware and other security threats. It is simple to manage, maintain, and optimize, too.

XDR is an important part of ransomware mitigation. But it is also important to note that ransomware mitigation is just one piece of the cybersecurity puzzle. XDR is the "big picture" in terms of what protects your company’s endpoints from malware. Yet, not all XDR solutions have features in place that prevent ransomware attacks.

It is paramount to evaluate an XDR solution carefully. Your company should try to find an XDR solution that incorporates prevention techniques that keep ransomware from accessing business systems. Then, you'll be well equipped to use its EDR solution to guard against ransomware attacks. 

What Features Should You Look for in an XDR Solution?

XDR products utilize various tools and assets to stop ransomware attacks at every stage. These tools include:

  • Threat Hunting and Response: Searches for and identifies suspicious activity, like spam emails that contain malicious files. Threat hunting and response tools alert IT administrators when malicious activity is present and neutralize risk.
  • Deep Learning Technology: Uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze all incoming and outgoing data. The technology stores that data and uses it to recognize both known and unknown attacks without having to rely on signatures (strings of characters that represent known malware).
  • Exploit Prevention: Denies attackers by blocking the techniques that distribute malware and steal credentials.
  • Credential Theft Protection: Prevents usernames and passwords from being stolen.
  • Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) Management: Prevents suspicious activity from moving through networks.
  • Tamper Protection: Prevents criminals from disabling prevention established by antivirus programs and other cybersecurity products.

Take a close look at the features included in an XDR solution. This allows you to learn as much as possible about the solution and how it complements your business. It ensures that you can select an XDR solution that delivers immediate and long-term ROI as well.

Additional Ransomware Mitigation Strategies and Countermeasures You Need to Know

The first and most important step you should take to minimize the risk of a ransomware attack is to invest in a cybersecurity solution that includes ransomware attack mitigation. But that's not the only way to secure digital assets. Here are key ransomware countermeasures that businesses can use to mitigate and prevent ransomware attacks.

Create a Ransomware Mitigation Checklist

In addition to following the best cybersecurity practices listed above, here is a checklist for protecting your assets from a ransomware attack:

1. Perform Regular Security Assessments

Conduct regular checks of all systems and data within business networks. If a cyberattack occurs, business stakeholders can quickly discover everything that has been compromised. These regular assessments can also help a company classify its data based on importance.

2. Limit User Access

Once data has been classified based on its level of sensitivity, assess who should have access to what. Limit access rights by only allowing employees access on a "need-to-know" basis.

3. Utilize an Email Filtering System

Many email providers, like Outlook and Gmail, have a built-in filter that separates spam emails from legitimate ones. But sometimes, harmful emails still get through. Use an email filtering tool to add an extra layer of security.

4. Teach Your Employees About Ransomware

Mandate security training that covers what ransomware is, how these attacks start (usually through phishing emails), and what to do if they suspect a potential attack. All employees should know what to do if they receive a suspicious email.

5. Know What to Do if a Ransomware Attack Occurs

There are several measures you can put in place to minimize risk, but there's no way for anyone to be 100% immune to cyberattacks. Work with IT administrators to develop steps to follow in case of a ransomware hit.

These steps should include:

  • Shut down the affected systems.
  • Notify administrators immediately.
  • Determine the cause of the breach.
  • Understand what information has been lost.

Afterwards, reassess your ransomware mitigation strategies to determine how you can strengthen protections for the future.

Set Up Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for Your Accounts

Multi-factor authentication requires users to go beyond entering a username and password to access their accounts. With MFA in place, users will need to provide at least two forms of verification.

MFA is a vital part of an identity and access management (IAM) policy. It can be implemented across business systems and won't disrupt the user experience. At the same time, MFA increases the likelihood that only authorized users access their accounts — and reduces the risk of successful ransomware attacks.

Establish Password Management Guidelines

Require that all employees use complex passwords that are changed often and managed with a password manager.

Employee passwords should contain a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. They should be updated regularly. And employees should not be allowed to use the same password multiple times within a designated time frame.

A password manager can make a world of difference for businesses and their employees. For companies, a password manager minimizes the risk that employee passwords fall into the wrong hands and lead to ransomware attacks. Meanwhile, employees can use a password manager to seamlessly track and update their passwords.

Back Up All of Your Company Data Regularly

Set up redundant backups and secure them properly. It is usually a good idea to back up data and systems across multiple data centers. Backups can be created across several cloud providers as well.

Whenever possible, automatically schedule data backups. This ensures you won't have to worry about backing up the most recent copies of your data and systems. Instead, you can take solace that you can access up-to-date copies of your data and systems at any time.

Update and Patch Your Software Frequently

Utilize patch management software to ensure software is kept up to date. The software looks for security vulnerabilities in software and corrects them without delay. It can also automatically download the latest versions of software.

Along with using software patches, keep an eye out for security vulnerabilities. Follow the cybersecurity landscape to learn about new cyber threats as soon as they are discovered. This can help you stay out in front of cybercriminals.

Add Tamper Protection for All of Your Corporate Devices

Use tamper protection to prevent malicious apps from changing the security settings on corporate devices. Security solutions are available that make it simple to integrate tamper protection capabilities across your device fleet.

Educate employees about the importance of using tamper protection technology. Workers who understand the importance of this technology and how to use it correctly can optimize the security on their devices.

The Bottom Line on Ransomware Mitigation

There's no question that all businesses should have ransomware risk mitigation.

The repercussions of a ransomware attack can be catastrophic. You can lose sensitive data, either temporarily or permanently. You might also lose access to your systems and accounts. In many industries, like ecommerce, this can cause a shutdown that results in a huge financial loss. Depending on the size of the company and how prepared they are to deal with this type of cyberattack, a ransomware strike could result in bankruptcy or total closure.

Avoid the fallout from a ransomware attack by selecting a cybersecurity solution that combats this type of breach. Sophos MDR, Sophos Intercept X, and Sophos Firewall all have features in place to neutralize ransomware threats.

We are happy to show you our solutions for ransomware mitigation solutions. To learn more about Sophos ransomware prevention, please get in touch with us today.

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Sophos 2024 State of Ransomware Report

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Related security topic: What is ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS)?