How Not To Pay A Ransom: 3 Tips For Enterprise Security Pros

At the most basic level, organizations must understand their data, the entry points, and who has access. But don’t forget to keep your backup systems up to date.

David Jones, SVP & GM, Information Management and Governance Software, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

August 31, 2016

4 Min Read

Securing the enterprise is complex and always evolving. Ransomware has been garnering more and more attention from CIOs as well as CISOs as it impacts every organization from a financial, efficiency, and brand perspective.

Ransomware’s alarming growth, in conjunction with the velocity that ransomware variants are being published, are positioning the enterprise market to quickly catch up to the consumer market in terms of exposure and vulnerability. Consider:

  • The FBI estimates that crooks extorted $209 million in ransoms in the first three months of 2016 alone.

  • McAfee's recent Threats Report has discovered 5,000 versions of 21 mobile applications that are being used to operate mobile collusion attacks on victims.

  • The introduction and tracking of the ransomware “FLocker” which attacks Android-based applications and has crossed platforms to lock smart TVs.

Ransomware is typically introduced into a corporate network through an individual employee.  The employee is a victim of phishing, spear phishing, “social engineering” and similar deceptions designed to trick employees into clicking a link that launches the software. From this point of entry, ransomware spreads like wildfire across less secured document-sharing servers like SharePoint and other collaboration services used by employees.

To date, the healthcare sector has gained a large number of national headlines for being victims of ransomware. Most recently, Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital in California paid off its attackers (approximately $17,000 in the form of Bitcoins) to restore access to their healthcare data.

I believe that what we have seen happen in the healthcare industry is only a starting point for ransomware. In today’s competitive marketplaces, organizations are supporting the distributed enterprise, which includes connecting the edge of the enterprise to corporate networks. Additionally, we are seeing organizations move toward the Internet of Things (IoT). These two trends are on a collision course, exposing vulnerabilities within a corporate network and making enterprises ripe for greater ransomware attacks.

How can enterprises prevent the introduction of ransomware and mitigate the risk once a breach has been introduced? At the most basic level, organizations must understand their data, the entry points, and who has access. This information insight, if gathered on a proactive basis, creates the foundation for advanced information management and governance policies which are your best option for minimizing the impact of ransomware. Below are three tips to ensure that your organization does not pay a ransom:

Tip 1: Proactively understand and protect your data.  This is not a simple task, however it is essential if you want to manage your risk, prepare for the future, and eliminate the threat of ransomware before you are victim. It requires that enterprises categorize and assign information by relative value, sensitivity, and risk. Categorizing information insight allows you to create proper records management and information governance procedures to ensure that your most important data is always secured and archived. In doing so, organizations are often able recover the ransomware encrypted files without having to pay a ransom. 

For example, Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital paid $17,000 because they could not say for sure whether the infected PCs contained sensitive information or not. Had they followed proper records-keeping procedures, they would not be worried about losing data to the cybercriminals.

Tip 2: It’s not your father’s backup and recovery.  Backing up data in a legacy fashion exposes your organization to risk and unnecessary cost. Today’s enterprises need to consider backup and recovery solutions that allow for backing up of data on the go, storing previous revisions of the files, offer effective file recovery techniques, and isolate the backup environment such that ransomware cannot access backup data.

Tip 3: Ransomware is an evolving threat. Today’s cybercriminals are evolving their techniques to access critical applications like email, and holding the data ransom until paid.  In June, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) reported that its system had been compromised. But unlike DNC hackers that leveraged the unlimited access to the DNC’s systems for intelligence, today’s cybercriminals could target any company and threaten to encrypt, copy, and publish that data if not paid.

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About the Author(s)

David Jones

SVP & GM, Information Management and Governance Software, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

David Jones is senior vice president and general manager of the information management and governance business unit within HPE. In this role, he is responsible for defining the business vision, strategy and goals and driving the product management, sales, marketing, service delivery, and development organizations to exceed these business objectives. The information management and governance business unit includes HPE's market leading products spanning; backup and recovery, archiving, eDiscovery, secure content management and end-point information management.

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