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Protecting Your Networks from Ransomware - The U.S Government Recommendations

posted onJanuary 6, 2018
by l33tdawg

By: Adam Edmond

Ransomware is the fastest growing malware threat, targeting users of all types—from the home user to the corporate network.

Ransomware targets home users, businesses, and government networks and can lead to temporary or permanent loss of sensitive or proprietary information, disruption to regular operations, financial losses incurred to restore systems and files, and potential harm to an organization’s reputation.

Educate Your Personnel

Attackers often enter the organization by tricking a user to disclose a password or click on a virus-laden email attachment. Remind employees to never click unsolicited links or open unsolicited attachments in emails. To improve workforce awareness, the internal security team may test the training of an organization’s workforce with simulated phishing emails. It also would be good to use special software to monitor employees computer activity, to prevent the wrong activities of the employees.

Proactive Prevention is the Best Defense Prevention is the most effective defense against ransomware and it is critical to take precautions for protection. Infections can be
devastating to an individual or organization, and recovery may be a difficult process requiring the services of a reputable data recovery specialist. The U.S. Government (USG)
recommends that users and administrators take the following preventive measures  to protect their computer networks from falling victim to a ransomware infection:

  • Back up data regularly. Verify the integrity of those backups and test the restoration process to ensure it is working.
  • Conduct an annual penetration test and vulnerability assessment.
  • Secure your backups. Ensure backups are not connected permanently to the computers and networks they are backing up. Examples are securing backups in the cloud or physically storing backups offline. Some instances of ransomware have the capability to lock cloud-based backups when systems continuously back up in real time, also known as persistent synchronization.

Backups are critical in ransomware recovery and response; if you are infected, a backup may be the best way to recover your critical data.

What to Do If Infected with Ransomware?

Should preventive measures fail, the USG recommends that organizations consider taking the following steps upon an infection with ransomware:

  • Isolate the infected computer immediately. Infected systems should be removed from the network as soon as possible to prevent ransomware from attacking the network or shared drives.
  • Isolate or power-off affected devices that have not yet been completely corrupted. This may afford more time to clean and recover data, contain damage, and prevent worsening conditions.
  • Immediately secure backup data or systems by taking them offline. Ensure backups are free of malware.
  • Contact law enforcement immediately. We strongly encourage you to contact a local field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or U.S. Secret Service immediately upon discovery to report a ransomware event and request assistance.
  • If available, collect and secure partial portions of the ransomed data that might exist.
  • If possible, change all online account passwords and network passwords after removing the system from the network. Furthermore, change all system passwords once the malware is removed from the system.
  • Delete Registry values and files to stop the program from loading.

Implement your security incident response and business continuity plan. Ideally, organizations will ensure they have appropriate backups, so their response to an attack will simply be to restore the data from a known clean backup. Having a data backup can eliminate the need to pay a ransom to recover data.

There are serious risks to consider before paying the ransom. USG does not encourage paying a ransom to criminal actors. However, after systems have been compromised, whether to pay a ransom is a serious decision, requiring the evaluation of all options to protect shareholders, employees, and customers.

Victims will want to evaluate the technical feasibility, timeliness, and cost of restarting systems from backup. Ransomware victims may also wish to consider the following factors:

  • Paying a ransom does not guarantee an organization will regain access to their data; in fact, some individuals or organizations were never provided with decryption keys after paying a ransom.
  • Some victims who paid the demand were targeted again by cyber actors.
  • After paying the originally demanded ransom, some victims were asked to pay more to get the promised decryption key.
  • Paying could inadvertently encourage this criminal business model.




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