Imagine you are completing the final steps for an important work report when suddenly you lose access to all the files. Or you get a weird error message asking you to send Bitcoins to unlock your computer.
Regardless of the scenario, a ransomware attack can wreak havoc on your computer. Let’s learn more about ransomware and the steps you can take after being hit by ransomware.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a malicious attack that leaves your data locked or encrypted by an anonymous cybercriminal. The attackers will provide instructions on how to decrypt the files, and the victim can eventually get their files back after paying a huge “ransom” upfront.
In some cases, cybercriminals can launch a ransomware attack first and then make a ransom note, so the actual attack can happen days after entering the network.
Steps to take after being attacked by Ransomware
Prevention is the best form of defense when it comes to ransomware. If you or your company doesn’t have strong security measures in place, you’re very vulnerable to ransomware.
A ransomware attack can be very dangerous. But if you act immediately after being hit by ransomware, you can mitigate some of the damage. Here are 10 steps you should take after a ransomware attack.
1. Stay calm and gather information
It’s hard to stay calm when you can’t access important files on your computer. But the first step you need to take after being attacked by ransomware is not to panic and stay calm.
Most people will rush to pay the ransom before analyzing the severity of the situation they are in. Staying calm and taking a step back can sometimes open the door to negotiating with an attacker.
2. Take a photo of Ransomware Notes
The second step is to immediately take a picture of the ransomware note on your screen through your phone or camera. If possible, take a screenshot on the affected machine.
This will help you alert the police and will speed up the troubleshooting process.
3. Isolate the affected machine
It is important to isolate affected systems as soon as possible. Ransomware usually scans the target network and spreads to other systems.
It is best to separate affected systems from the network to prevent infection and prevent ransomware from spreading.
4. Find the decryption tool
Fortunately, there are many decryption tools available online, in places such as No More Ransom.
If you already know the name of your ransomware strain, then you can simply type it into the website and search for the right decryption tool.
5. Disable maintenance tasks
You should immediately disable automated maintenance tasks, such as temporary file deletion and log backups, on affected systems. This will prevent these tasks from interfering with files that could be useful for forensic analysis and investigation.
6. Disconnect backup
Most modern ransomware strains immediately disable the backup process to thwart recovery attempts.
It is therefore imperative that you or your organization secure your backups by separating them from the rest of the network. You should also block access to backup systems until the problem is resolved.
7. Identify Attack Variations
To identify the type of ransomware, you can use free services like Emsisoft’s online ransomware identification tool or ID Ransomware.
These services allow users to upload an encrypted file sample, any ransom notes left behind, and the attacker’s contact information, if applicable. The analysis of this information can identify the type of ransomware that has hit the user.
8. Reset Password
Change all online and account passwords once you have disconnected the affected systems from the network. After removing the ransomware, you should change all system passwords again.
9. Report Ransomware
The moment you find yourself under a ransomware attack, be sure to contact law enforcement. Even if law enforcement can’t help decrypt your files, they can at least help others avoid a similar fate.
10. Decide whether to pay the ransom or not
Deciding to pay for ransomware is not an easy one and comes with its pros and cons. Only pay for ransomware if you’ve exhausted all other options and the loss of data causes more damage to you or your company than paying the ransom.
Tips to mitigate Ransomware attacks
The rise of cybercrime is forcing organizations to rethink their security strategies. Here are some tips that can help you mitigate ransomware attacks.
- Restrict administrative privileges: Use caution when providing administrative privileges because the administrator account has access to everything, including changing configurations or bypassing important security settings. Always use Least Privilege Principle (PLOP) when granting any kind of access.
- Patch applications: If you discover a security hole, patch it as soon as possible to prevent hackers from taking advantage of it.
- Use the app whitelist: Application whitelisting is a proactive threat mitigation technique that allows pre-authorized programs to run while all others remain blocked by default. It helps identify malicious code execution attempts and also prevents unauthorized installations.
- Beware of email: Emails are most vulnerable to ransomware attacks, so it’s imperative to increase email security. A secure email gateway ensures all email communications are filtered, with URL protection and sandbox enabled to proactively identify threats. Just as email scams need to be prevented, you also need to pay attention to post-send protection.
- Security awareness training: Since human behavior initiates all ransomware attacks, security awareness training is a must for all employees. This training is required as it teaches users to distinguish real threats from legitimate data.
- Using MFA: Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) adds an extra layer of security because it requires two or more proofs to log in to remote access solutions, like online banking or other privileged actions. sensitive information.
- Daily backups: Regular data backups are an integral part of the disaster recovery plan. In the event of a ransomware attack, you can restore and access backed up data. You can always decrypt your original data by restoring previous backups.
Besides being extra careful, always remember that malware attacks, including ransomware, target unpatched and outdated software. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that all software running on your machine is up to date.