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What is ransomware protection?

What is ransomware protection?

Ransomware protection refers to an organization’s processes and security software that help reduce the threat of malware. Two critical components of these defenses include cybersecurity, to alert when an intrusion is being attempted, and comprehensive backup and recovery, to protect production data and backup data and restore as many files as possible that ransomware holds hostage.


Why is ransomware protection necessary?

Ransomware attacks represent a significant danger to all organizations. In a 2023 Sophos ransomware report, 66% of respondents stated they had experienced some form of ransomware attack, with an average recovery cost of $1.82 million—not including any ransoms paid.

Ransomware has become increasingly sophisticated and can be incredibly difficult to remove from infected systems. Modern cybercriminals target backup data as well as production data to try and eliminate your only recovery solution. Having ransomware protection in place helps prevent unauthorized access, data encryption and extortion attempts by malicious actors and ensures a level of recoverability after an attack.


The importance of protecting backups from ransomware

Backing up your data on a regular basis is only effective if the solution provides methods to prevent loss of the backup data itself. Consider the situation where a backup solution is using a network share. While it has permissions and user accounts associated with that share, the network share is still available on the network. A GPO attack that allows elevated domain access to servers and client machines will enable malicious software to encrypt a network share containing backup data in real time.

Backup software moves all your data from one point to another as fast as physics will allow. This necessitates that it has access to all the organization’s important data, applications, network, production storage, etc. That’s more access than most corporate users! To reduce risk to the business, a backup and recovery solution needs to have anti-ransomware capabilities.


Do backups protect against ransomware?

A comprehensive backup solution should provide ransomware protection for both itself and its data and also offer features that facilitate quick data restore and application recovery. There are several qualities that your backup should have to remain secure against ransomware attacks. 

Backup immutability
Immutable storage prevents ransomware from changing, deleting or encrypting backup data. This safeguards the integrity of backups and makes them resistant to unauthorized alterations.

Data encryption
Whether data is stored on standard devices or in an immutable format, ransomware may still be able to read the data and exfiltrate copies of it. Encrypting backups, both in transit and at rest, adds an extra layer of ransomware protection and lowers the possibility of hackers being able to understand the data stored in them.

Object locking
Object locking is often used in cloud storage to support data immutability. An object lock feature restricts the modification or deletion of a file for a defined retention period.

Air-gap backups
Storing backups on air gapped media creates a separation between the backup data and production data. During an attack, this isolation will keep ransomware from spreading to your backup. 

Multi-factor authentication
Creating secure user logins inhibits attackers from attempting to log in and access backup software. Multi-factor authentication requires a user to enter a second code after initial login to gain access to the backup.


Does ransomware steal data or just lock it?

Many ransomware tactics focus on encryption, making an organization’s data inaccessible to them. The goal is to lock their files and demand a ransom payment for the decryption key. At the same time, exfiltration is also becoming more common as a part of ransomware attacks. This involves data theft. In addition to encrypting files, attackers will copy the files and can then sell the stolen data on the dark web or threaten to expose personal information unless a ransom is paid.

In either instance, the impact can be damaging without proactive ransomware protection methods. Encryption can lead to data loss and operational disruption, and exfiltration can result in financial loss, reputational damage, and even legal consequences.


Can ransomware be removed?

Removing ransomware depends on various factors, like the type of ransomware and extent of infection, and it can be challenging. In some cases, ransomware protection technologies like antivirus and anti-malware software can help eliminate certain ransomware strains.

Generally speaking, these are some guidelines to follow if you suspect a ransomware infection:

  1. Isolate the infected system

    Immediately disconnect the infected device from the network to stop the ransomware from spreading to other devices.

  2. Do NOT pay the ransom

    It is strongly advised not to pay the ransom. Paying does not guarantee that you will regain access to your files, and it encourages cybercriminals to continue their activities.

  3. Use antivirus or anti-malware software

    Run a full system scan using reputable antivirus or anti-malware software to detect and remove the ransomware.

  4. Restore from backup

    Restore your system to a point before the ransomware infection occurred. Make sure the backup is clean and free from malware.

While it’s always best to prevent a cyberattack, it’s almost impossible to stop all attacks. That’s why a backup solution is critical for ransomware protection and recovery.

ransomware protection

Does antivirus software protect against ransomware?

Antivirus software can provide some level of protection against certain types of ransomware, but its protection is limited. Traditional antivirus solutions work by identifying known signatures of malicious code. If ransomware displays one of these signatures, the antivirus program can detect and block it. 

While this approach may play a role in cybersecurity, relying on an antivirus solution alone is not sufficient for ransomware threats. These programs depend on having up-to-date signature databases and wouldn’t be able to detect new or modified ransomware strains. They also wouldn’t be able to keep up with ransomware that changes its code and appearance continuously or exploits vulnerabilities that are unknown to the antivirus database.


Does a VPN offer ransomware protection?

A VPN primarily focuses on providing a secure and encrypted connection between a user's device and a server. While a VPN enhances privacy and security by encrypting the data transmitted between the user and the server, it does not directly protect against ransomware.


Does wiping a computer remove ransomware?

Reinstalling a computer’s operating system can successfully remove ransomware. By wiping a computer, all data is erased from the device, including the spyware. The computer is returned to its factory settings, and you can essentially start fresh with a clean slate. Before performing a computer wipe, it’s important to ensure your backup is up-to-date, so no essential information is lost during the restoration process.

Though wiping a computer serves as one method of malware removal, it is a drastic measure. Utilizing a comprehensive data protection and recovery solution is crucial to minimize the risk of attack and enable quick recovery.

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