The Rise of Ransomware Attacks amid the Pandemic

The current pandemic turned the world upside down and affected many industries. In the business landscape, the epidemic has dramatically shifted the working environment of many organizations. Some business operations have even been put on a halt while moving into a different framework.

The current pandemic turns the world upside down and pushes the business world in a new normal state. The general framework of working on a 9-5 working hours office setting has been turned to move into a remote working framework. Many businesses are transitioning to adopt changes caused by the pandemic. However, because most do not have a robust working framework adapted on these changes, it opened cybersecurity threats that lead to the rise of ransomware attacks.

Growth Of Ransomware During The Pandemic

Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts on a particular file. Once the attacker has gained access to your files and gets hold of your data, they might demand ransom to restore your access. Statistics show that ransomware has reached $11.5 billion in damages in 2019 and is expected to rise in $20 billion by 2021. The biggest ransomware hit to make it in the news for 2019 is the Baltimore City attack. It cost the city government with around 18 million dollars to recover the attack that crippled the city for over a month.

With the pandemic shifting the working landscape, it has seen a surge of ransomware attacks. Cybercriminals are capitalizing on the spike on the online activity of employees and employers alike. A recent report shows that malware attacks have doubled during the mid-year of 2020 versus from last year, with ransomware rising to 72% percent.  Moreover, the FBI has reported that they have received about 4,000 cyberattack complaints every day during the pandemic.

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Cybersecurity experts consider the growth in the remote workforce as the primary driver for the influx of attacks. Working at home can pose a lot of threats as it is easier to access for cybercriminal rather than from an office setting. Home Wi-Fi and devices usually have weak walls of defenses, while offices have multiple layers of security.

 Ways On How To Combat Ransomware During The Pandemic

As you shift your workforce in a remote setting, and you welcome the work-from-home environment, it is essential to implore several tactics to ensure the safety of your company, employees, and data.

  1. Check And Identify Malicious Activities Regularly

One of the most reliable ways to combat ransomware is to make sure that you identify any suspicious activities happening on your system. Your system should be equipped with software that can rigorously check and detect vulnerabilities, especially during the pandemic.

  1. Protect Your System And Data

Installing an antivirus application can be your first step in protecting your system. Keep it updated and rely on reputable antivirus application software that won’t compromise your data. If you have a remote workforce, educate them on what they have to do if they notice something suspicious on their end. Your IT department and experts should also have a proper tool to access any remote computer.

  1. Use VPN

As the pandemic dramatically changes the working environment, many employees have turned their living room, dining areas, and bedroom into office extensions and use their Wi-Fi for work. Some find coffee shops, restaurants, and other public places as their working station. These connections may open security threats that can pose a risk to your system.

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To ensure that you will not open any gateway for any attacks, use Virtual Private Network when using any insecure networks. It will allow you or your staff to connect safely with any computer with any connection available. VPN offers privacy and can hide your browsing history, which is a frequent target for hackers.

  1. Move To The Clouds

Storing any data on your computer is risky. Once an attacker or cybercriminal finds a way to infiltrate your system, it can locate your data and get hold of this data while asking for a ransom. To avoid this from happening, you can move to the cloud. Cloud storage is another great way to protect your data. It provides another layer of security to your confidential information.

Utilizing modern workspaces that are cloud-based can also be an excellent choice to avoid any possible attack. Samples of these include Dropbox, Google Docs, Microsoft Azure, or Amazon Workspaces. These workspaces can allow employees can collaborate over the internet and even when miles apart without compromising any sensitive data.

  1. Keep Your Software Updated

Updating your software is a must. It should be done even if you have a remote workforce. As you keep on using your software, it will develop vulnerabilities over time. Keeping your software updated can help restrain possible attacks. Updates usually contain security patches that troubleshoot any irregularities and loopholes in your software.

  1. Limit Administrative Access

It may be tempting to give all your employees the same access in any of your systems. However, this move may be favorable to attackers and hackers. Instead, limit access to a handful of trusted employees only. Provide access only to their respective jobs and limit the use of the software when it is only necessary.

  1. Training And Testing Of Your Employees

Training is essential for your employees for them to know the meaning of ransomware. They must know if an email attachment or a website ad is legitimate and safe. For them to quickly identify this kind of ransomware, they must have the proper training to tackle on the said matter. After the training, one most important to do is testing them of what they have learned. You can do this send them phishing emails to see if they will click it or not, but if they do, re-educate them on them of what dangers will come.

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Should any device or computer get compromised, educate your employees to report it quickly. Instill a no-blame culture so your employees or staff will report any malicious act they happened to encounter. Whether they have clicked on it or not, responding quickly and declaring within a matter of seconds can lower the consequences your organization can face.

  1. Block Pop-ups

To secure that employees will not harm the system, use a pop-up blocker to avoid the malware-infected ads while employees are on the internet. Cybercriminals use malware-tainted ads on a legitimate website, so it is hard to identify infected ads.

  1. Conduct Vulnerability Test

To know if your system is working well, you need to try its vulnerability by testing it on a real malware or ransomware virus. The purpose of this is to learn to fix vulnerabilities or security issues once the attacker is trying to access the system. 

  1. Prepare Backups

Though this strategy will not prevent any possible attacks, this will minimize the aftermath. Ransomware often overwrites incremental data and even backups at certain times. Hackers get hold of data and ask for money before releasing all sensitive information they were able to acquire.

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Having backups of your backups can be a significant way to be not on the mercy of hackers and cybercriminals. Always have conventional systems backups of your servers. Do the same with your databases, file stores, and other confidential information.

  1. Plan A Recovery Sequence

Attacks exempt no one. No matter what your industry is or your business is, you are not immune to any possible hack and attack. When this happens, it would be wise on your end to prepare a recovery sequence. This move will guide your employees on the path they have to take when cybercriminals or hackers infiltrate your system.

Having a recovery plan can help you get back up faster and have your system your run again. This move helps lower your losses due to business operation interruption caused by ransomware attacks.

Final Thoughts

The recent pandemic has changed the world dramatically. The work-from-home environment was created that some pose vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can use to unleash their plans. Because it is not covered with corporate security protocols, it has become easier for hackers and cybercriminals to target this setup. While you cannot predict when a possible ransomware attack can happen, it is essential to be ready all the time. Prepare for attacks and strengthen your defenses. Set priorities on what you have to do should you experience any attack and continue to work with your employees to keep any possible attacks at bay.

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