Agreeing to ransom terms is a losing proposition; spend your time and energy preparing for an attack.
Ransomware attacks are on the rise, partly because of the ease and anonymity of crypto-currencies. In a typical ransomware attack, cyber criminals invade a computer system and encrypt key data, then threaten to destroy the data unless the victim pays the criminal a relatively minor sum (ranging from hundreds to thousands, or in rare cases, tens of thousands of dollars). Schemes go by the teasing names of CryptoLocker and WannaCry, but there’s nothing playful about finding that you are a target. Ransoms are priced at a level that encourage compliance with the criminal demand. Yet there’s nothing that ensures a payment will actually free up your data and the utility of your system – in many cases, it’s clear that the criminals never intended to unencrypt the data. Moreover, once a system has been compromised, there can be little doubt that the hackers accessed sensitive data and left behind malware allowing them to create more mischief.
There is fierce debate over how to respond to attacks; even the FBI at one point seemed to advocate paying ransom to reclaim stolen data, though it clarified its position in 2016 and no longer recommends payment. At the same time, for many firms, spending a relatively modest sum to recover mission-critical data sounds better than spending a far greater sum to recover only a portion of that data. The latter approach is, however, a poor use of resources; rather than trying to determine whether to agree to ransom terms, spend your time and energy preparing for an attack. Companies should consider a ransomware attack as you would any other cybersecurity breach. That is, it is going to happen, the only question is when. Sound preparation boils down to several key considerations.
1. Back Up Data and Store It Properly
Any system is vulnerable when there is only one copy of data, or when backups are stored on tied or companion systems. If cyber criminals encrypt data on your main system, it’s important to be able to access the original data, and that means copying and storing it on a separate, secondary system that is untethered from the main system, and where it is possible to extract uninfected data. This is sound practice no matter what the threat; ransomware has only highlighted its importance. Whether its financial data, health records, or city citations, having multiple ways to access data is key. Moreover, simply having a backup is not sufficient; unless the backup is tested, one can never determine whether it is effective, how long it will take to implement, and other key issues. Continue reading