Ransomware is a form of malware designed to encrypt files on a device, rendering any files and the systems that rely on them unusable. Malicious actors then demand ransom in exchange for decryption. In recent years, ransomware incidents have become increasingly prevalent among the Nation’s state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) government entities and critical infrastructure organizations.
Anyone with a computer connected to the internet and anyone with important data stored on their computer or network is at risk, including government or law enforcement agencies and healthcare systems or other critical infrastructure entities.
Ransomware can be devastating to an individual or an organization. Some victims pay to recover their files, but there is no guarantee that they will recover their files if they do. Recovery can be a difficult process that may require the services of a reputable data recovery specialist.
Ransomware incidents can severely impact business processes and leave organizations without the data they need to operate and deliver mission-critical services. The monetary value of ransom demands has increased, with some demands exceeding $1 million. Ransomware incidents have become more destructive and impactful in nature and scope. The economic and reputational impacts of ransomware incidents, throughout the initial disruption and, at times, extended recovery, have also proven challenging for organizations large and small.
Malicious actors have adjusted their ransomware tactics over time to include pressuring victims for payment by threatening to release stolen data if they refuse to pay, and publicly naming and shaming victims as secondary forms of extortion. Malicious actors engage in lateral movement to target critical data and propagate ransomware across entire networks. These actors also increasingly use tactics, such as deleting system backups, that make restoration and recovery more difficult or infeasible for impacted organizations.
Malicious actors can be nation-state actors trying to cause harm to critical infrastructure, or cybercriminals trying to enrich themselves.
- Update software and operating systems with the latest patches. Outdated applications and operating systems are the target of most attacks.
- Never click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails.
- Back up data on a regular basis. Keep it on a separate device and store it offline.
- Follow safe practices when using devices that connect to the Internet.
In addition, CISA also recommends that organizations employ the following best practices:
- Restrict users’ permissions to install and run software applications, and apply the principle of “least privilege” to all systems and services. Restricting these privileges may prevent malware from running or limit its capability to spread through a network.
- Use application allow listing to allow only approved programs to run on a network.
- Enable strong spam filters to prevent phishing emails from reaching the end users and authenticate inbound email to prevent email spoofing.
- Scan all incoming and outgoing emails to detect threats and filter executable files from reaching end users.
- Configure firewalls to block access to known malicious IP addresses.