Malware Versus Ransomware: What’s the Difference?

Malware is a more powerful force that can damage industries and disrupt entire online environments through hacking and sensitive information leaking. Ransomware is a more targeted approach that aims to take control of people’s computers and lock software and files.
 
To get files back and regain access to a computer, the ransom attacker will ask for a payment. Supposedly, once they receive the payment, they will send a unique key to release it. 
 
Should You Pay The Ransom?
 
There is no one way to answer this question.  The decision to pay ransomware demand should not be taken lightly. It comes with acceptance of several risks and in coordination with legal counsel, cyber insurance and security experts. Should you decide to pay the ransom, you need to be aware of the following key factors:
 
• You could be targeted again in the future
• There is no guarantee that you will get your data decrypted
• Your systems may still be infected
• You may be paying cyber criminals who are carrying out illegal activities just like your incident
 
Irrespective of the ransomware payment decision, it may take a while to return to normal operations. Cyphere , a UK based cyber security and managed services provider, provides the following top tips against malware and ransomware attacks:
 
Tip 1: Prevent Malware Delivery
Email and web filtering to allow required file types and data expected by recipients. By blocking suspicious websites and continuous inspection of internet content, malware transmission can be stopped before it reaches your internal systems. 
Secure remote access is an important to add layered protection for networks. 
 
Tip 2: Prevent Malware Infection 
In line with defence in depth approach, follow secure hardening practices for operating system builds in your environment. 
Patch Management is an important mitigation that ensures all exploitable bugs in your products are patched as soon as possible. Scripting environments should have restrictions to avoid the execution and spread of malware. This includes disabling Office Macros or limiting scripting environments using AppLocker enforced via group policy. 
 
Tip 3: Limit the Impact
Use the principle of least privilege to provide remote access with only low privilege accounts to login. Regularly review permissions for all the staff including internal and external employees. Create separate accounts for corporate and production environments.Segregate obsolete systems from the rest of the network to maintain a small attack surface. 
 
Tip 4: Education
User education and awareness training plays key role in stopping malware. Cyber security importance in the user training should address at the least these facts:
 
• Defending against phishing
• Strong authentication practices 
• Securing your devices
• Reporting incidents 
 
There should be zero exceptions for this awareness training exercise. Topics such as remote working securely, insider threats, cyber security tips for businesses in easy to understand language should be included. Consider your supply chain to ensure better cyber security posture.
 
Tip 5: Backups
Make regular backups of most important data to the organisation. Find out which data is critical to the organisation, and test backup data restore regularly to ensure it is working as expected. At the least, create one offline backup that is stored at a different location (offsite) from your network and systems. 
 
 
Be Prepared
The saying ‘we are too small’ - this isn’t applicable as malware and ransomware attacks target businesses irrespective of their size. Identify the critical assets and determine the impact in case your business is under attack. Identify the attack vectors possible in your business context, and mimic the exercise using third party penetration testing companies. 
 
What To Do When Your Company Is Hacked?
 
Malware Attack: Follow these steps immediately to limit the impact of a malware attack:
 
1. Disconnect the infected systems, devices immediately from all network connections (wired, wireless or mobile).
2. Reset credentials, especially privileged accounts.
3. Securely wipe the infected devices and reinstall the operating system from gold build. In case of an incident you need investigating into, get professional help from third party security providers. 
4. Double check that the underlying system is clean before restoring backup. 
5. Now connect these devices to network to download, install and update the software installed.
6. Install antivirus and run a full scan. Schedule periodic scans and on-access scanning capabilities. 
7. Monitor network traffic across the company to identify any similar behaviors. 
 
Ransomware Attack: A good initiative No More Ransom, supported by Europol European Cybercrime Centre and private companies, provides prevention advice and decryption tools from anti-virus vendors, which may help. 
 
Conclusion
Cybersecurity is a must-have for anyone who is heavily reliant on the internet for lifestyle, work, or leisure purposes. Too many attackers have made a foothold in the cybersphere, which means that staying safe must be everyone’s priority. 
 
Harman Singh: is Managing Consultant at Cyphere Ltd
 
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