People these days are filled with ideas to launch their own business enterprise in hopes of becoming hardcore entrepreneurs. Due to the increasing use of IoT and the applications and services offered, every small, medium, or large business aims at using these tools to ease stress in their operational work. This includes administration, data monitoring and storage, running business activities, and accounts. All of it is managed and controlled with ease and better accessibility via software and computing networks. The bigger the business, the more searchable and reachable becomes its presence over the internet. The biggest question an enterprise owner should ask oneself is, “How secure my business is?”. No, it’s not about the security of your office space but the security of your enterprise’s presence on the web. In the world, full of cyber threats and unknown criminals, hidden behind the bright side of the web, every enterprise is under a heavy threat of extortion, theft, data loss, and even complete bankruptcy, which is possible by a potential attack of ransomware on your server. One single breach and all your life’s work is at the verge of distortion. Let’s get into it and see, how safe your enterprise or business venture is?
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware, as the prefix suggests, is an attack on your web server for a possible demand for
“Ransom”. It’s just like kidnappers demanding money in exchange for the hostage’s life. In this scenario, the hostage is your enterprise’s data concerning business decisions, finances, accounts, ongoing projects, previous accomplishments, and consumer information. On the other hand, the kidnapper is a malicious code or virus imparted into your system by an unknown attacker. So now, in exchange for your files, related data, confidential accounts, and to regain access to your enterprise network, you need to pay a hefty sum to the attacker via his demanded payment method. You’d have no identity of the attacker, who is probably beyond the reach of your both personal and legal reach, and you have now no option but to pay. That’s how ransomware works.
Ransomware Attacks and Threats to Enterprises
The word “Ransomware” is not new, but it made heavy headlines in 2017 when a computer worm called WannaCry infected thousands of enterprises and their computing systems worldwide, demanding numerous figures in ransom to be paid in exchange for re-access and data recovery for the hacked file.
There are several threats that a ransomware attack poses to your enterprise:
- DoS or Denial of Service: The attacker may deny you access and usage of your enterprise network by encrypting it until the ransom is paid.
- Permanent System Crash: Some ransomware attacks may aim at corrupting the entire system and leave it inoperable. In such a case, your enterprise would keep losing business until further repair of the damage, as well as the loops in the system.
- Data Wipe: So, your attacker either lost patience over your denial of payment, or he already had different plans for your enterprise. You would completely lose all the data, information, and files, thus, leaving your enterprise vulnerable to economic losses and directionless.
The threat of ransomware is at utmost to the enterprises whose entire business model is based on computing networks and online gateways, such as e-commerce, online retailers, software developers, and IT support providers. In such organizations, ransomware would cause severe financial damage as only a limited blackout on.
The Myth of Ransomware’s Decline
After the WannaCry attack, there has been comparatively lesser number of reports regarding such server hacks and ransom demands, which have ultimately led people to believe that “ransomware is gone for good”. That is definitely NOT the case. When the 2017 WannaCry hacks happened, the reason for such wide media coverage was due to the fact that various government-owned bodies were under the same attack, and it’s their responsibility to let out the information to the public. However, what if one owns a commercial enterprise and his/her enterprise is hacked via a ransomware code? Such an enterprise has no obligation to make a public announcement. Why? To retain angry consumers and to contain the situation within the walls. Meaning, zero media coverage, no public knowledge, and ultimately a profound establishment of a myth that ransomware is just old talk. But, ransomware lives and is a current threat to your enterprise.
Ways Ransomware may Strike your Enterprise
RDP stands for Remote Desktop Control. It allows you to access your computer on a different system via the server, accessible through a security code. Basically, you can log in to your office PC on your personal laptop sitting home. Most enterprises have such policies in place to allow staff to have immediate access and to contain an emergency first hand without delay by easy and portable system access. Yes, they have password protection, but, an attacker has all the tools to surpass that and would go on to try hundreds of combinations to break that wall. In fact, the WannaCry attackers made up to 40000 attempts on enterprises’ RDP access before encrypting their data.
Email, the most convenient and widely used medium of communicating enterprise information, files, and data among members frequently. On the other hand, it is also the easiest method of sending the malicious code of ransomware in a system. The ransomware is installed once you either redirect to a link in an attached mail or download a file attached with it. Now once that’s done, your entire system, as well as other applications or tools registered under that mail, are simultaneously hacked and you are locked out of your network.
3. Supply Chain
A supply chain is the most important aspect of enterprise management and budget management. The entire base of enterprise operations depends on supply chain efficiency. A supply chain basically defines all the processes, from the first scratch to the delivery of the end product, in an exclusive order. These processes layout enterprise data at different levels, which is then used to forecast inventory needs, budget allocation, manpower needed, market demands, intra-operational changes and consumer responses. Now, every small or large enterprise does need web support to store and collect such data and to share it at all enterprise levels. The ransomware attacks target the software running these data processes and steal or encrypt them. Now, since your entire base for your enterprise decisions is gone, you are vulnerable to losing your finances at a large scale.
4. Drive-By Factor
This happens if an unfamiliar website is accessed via anyone in the system. These websites are embedded with an “exploit kit”, a virus code which corrupts your system once the link to the website is loaded. One can be directed to such website via emails and redirect links. Outdated browsers and operating systems, or lack of anti-malware protection measures often lead to vulnerability in the system to such kind of attacks.
Cloud, a heaven space for your enterprise’s huge amount and size of data. Enterprises are often misled by cloud service providers that online data storage is “completely safe”. However, it isn’t if proper measures are not taken. Ransomware attacks can easily surpass cloud walls via a brute-force attack, where a pass-key is guessed again and again until the correct combination comes in place. So, in case your enterprise uses free or cheap cloud service without external protection, you might wanna check on your security details soon enough.
Defense Against Ransomware
1. Multi or Two-Factor Authentication
Use at least a two-factor authentication to access emails, server systems, cloud storage, and other software files of the enterprise. Make sure that the authentication is not SMS-based but requires a hard series of security questions.
2. Virtual Private Network (VPN)
These would prevent RDP attacks. Make sure that the system is accessed from a remote PC on a routed VPN and not on an open server. This type of network would be hard for attackers to penetrate.
3. Network Segmentation
Hard and expensive, but a very reliable technique, network segmentation would basically allow you to divide your different enterprise operations and its files over multiple networks. This way, if one of your networks is under attack, you can contain and limit the damage by not letting it spread out.
The most basic approach, to firewall your network via anti-malware measures. Such measures would detect harmful files, block unfamiliar sources and sites, and would block downloads of unfamiliar file formats over the internet. It kinds of offer your enterprise a complete surveillance package.
5. Monitoring and Patching
Regular monitoring for ensuring the safety of an enterprise network is essential. Any loophole found during the monitoring should be patched up, or in sense, repaired before it causes damage via hacks and cybertheft. Patching also includes regularly updating and upgrading the versions of the VPNs, Operating Systems, Firewall Protection Tools, Browsers, and other applications and software in use within the enterprise.
It though requires huge storage and that too offline. However, one can only store important data offline, so in case of a complete crash, would not have to build everything up from scratch.
Policy Check: How to Respond to a Ransomware
Enterprises need policies to make sure that each and every portal of their business remains safe from the slightest damage by ransomware.
- Have employees know about protocols of data safety by asking them to protect their work via passwords and MFAs.
- Guide them of the process to report a suspected ransomware attack
- Alert legal counsels, assisting vendors, suppliers, and law enforcement in case of such attacks
- Restrict employees from accessing social media, e-retail, and gaming sites on enterprise network\
- Monitor emails to make sure that any file is not transferred to an unknown ID
Giving In To Demands Is Not A Solution!
Paying the attackers is not a feasible solution for one to save his/her enterprise business from a catastrophic economic failure. What if the attacker never planned to give the access back. In many cases, even the attacker has no means of getting your data back. So, as suggested by most authorities, do NOT give in to the attacker’s demands. This way you would not only risk your money over the data but would promote criminal activity, while also giving the attacker an edge against you to threaten you again in the future.
The Next Step
Malicious codes, malware, and outdated technology have increased the vulnerability of enterprises’ online presence. It is now very essential to be aware of ransomware and its threats. A new cyber threat is emerging every day, aiming at distorting enterprise economies and downgrading business owners. State-funded attacks have escalated the risks of such attacks as the war between nations have now gone economic. So, it is necessary to make sure that all devices, systems, IDs, financial portals, and cloud storage are protected with firewalls and patching regularly to contain the ransomware risks and help the enterprises to operate in a risk-free internet zone.