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Security Think Tank: Ransomware defence requires focus on three key areas

What is the best strategy for business to protect against ransomware?

Ransomware attacks involve a targeted device, such as a laptop, smartphone or tablet, being locked and the only person who has the key to unlock the device is the attacker. The attacker typically demands money (usually in Bitcoin) in return for the unlock key.

Ransomware is a form of malware, and no organisation or individual is immune from ransomware attacks. These are profit-driven attacks and the perpetrators do not care who they get their money from.

The easier the target, the more likely an individual or organisation is to be attacked. The widely varying statistics that can be found about ransomware attacks have one thing in common: the crime is increasing. Intel experts said recently that they find more than 13,000 ransomware attacks every day.

The guiding principle is that all individuals who have access to an organisation’s information and systems should be made aware of the risks from malware and ransomware, and the actions required to minimise those risks. The three key areas are:

1. Organisations and individuals should continue to follow good practice around patching of operating systems and software, ensuring that virus scanners and malware protection are up to date, and performing regular back-ups.

2. Malware and ransomware can also be introduced by anyone with access to the organisation’s IT, so Information Security Forum good practice recommends that anyone with access to the IT (for example, customers, partners and suppliers) is educated about ransomware and is asked to provide appropriate security controls on connecting devices.

3. Employees must be provided with continuous knowledge and learning about malware and ransomware. This education cannot be a one-off exercise and should be reinforced frequently. On personal devices, individuals should follow technical good practice and also be vigilant about email attachments, executables from unknown sources and advertisements.


Maxine Holt is principal analyst at the Information Security Forum (ISF)................................................................................................................................................

This was last published in February 2016

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