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Ransomware protection -- what you may be missing

Robert C. Covington | July 26, 2016
Unless you have been living on a remote island with no internet access, you are no doubt familiar with ransomware.

ransomware moneybag

Unless you have been living on a remote island with no internet access, you are no doubt familiar with ransomware.

It is a simple but frightening concept -- making all of your files unavailable, and then demanding that you pay to get them back. Ransomware is definitely a growth industry, with a 30% increase in cases in Q1 of 2016 alone, according to Security Intelligence.

We should not be surprised at all by this trend, as it seems to be the nearly perfect crime. It is an easy business to start, with most of the needed tools being available inexpensively on the dark web. Their customer base, those whose files are being held hostage, is highly motivated, since their files are unusable -- and since payment is typically being made via Bitcoin, the transactions are difficult or impossible to trace.

While ransomware has hit individuals and industries indiscriminately, it can cause the most trouble in industries like healthcare, where the impact of an infected system can reach far beyond inconvenience. In recent months, the information security world has seen an increase in targeted attacks, focusing on businesses and organizations over individuals. According to Security Week, this is not surprising, given that corporations can afford to pay more, and can ill afford to have their operation shut down by an infection.

In the past few months, I have lost track of the number of articles I have read on the topic of ransomware protection. Sadly, most of the ones I read are remarkably similar, with the same top 10 or so approaches to prevention, including having a good anti-virus package, good backups, and well trained users.

These are all good and appropriate approaches, but if you are engaged like me, you have seen them over and over, causing your eyes to glaze over at some point. As the saying goes, sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees. We are so used to seeing the top 10 prevention techniques, we sometimes miss the lesser discussed approaches. These are important, because the purveyors of ransomware read the same articles with the common approaches, and can use these as a road map to improve their  techniques.

One of my customers is a large healthcare institution, and one of my major focuses with them has been to take a deep look at approaches to ransomware prevention and recovery. In the process, I have found many things that organizations can do that are not often discussed in the trade press. Since we in the business world need all the help we can get at this point, these can be very important. Consider a few of these:


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