SMBs

Unexpected Side Effects: How COVID-19 Affected our Click Habits

Phishing has been around for ages and continues to be one of the most common threats that businesses and home users face today. But it’s not like we haven’t all been hearing about the dangers of phishing for years. So why do people still click? That’s what we wanted...

Key Considerations When Selecting a Web Classification Vendor

Since launching our web classification service in 2006, we’ve seen tremendous interest in our threat and web classification services, along with an evolution of the types and sizes of cybersecurity vendors and service providers looking to integrate this type of...

4 Ways MSPs Can Fine-Tune Their Cybersecurity Go-To-Market Strategy

Today’s work-from-home environment has created an abundance of opportunities for offering new cybersecurity services in addition to your existing business. With cyberattacks increasing in frequency and sophistication, business owners and managers need protection now...

Ransomware: The Bread and Butter of Cybercriminals

Imagine a thief walks into your home and rummages through your personal belongings. But instead of stealing them, he locks all your valuables into a safe and forces you to pay a ransom for the key to unlock the safe. What choice do you have? Substitute your digital...

3 Ransomware Myths Businesses Need to Stop Believing ASAP

Despite the rising ransomware numbers and the numerous related headlines, many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) still don’t consider themselves at risk from cyberattacks. Nothing could be further from the truth. Smaller organizations are a prime target, and ransomware authors have only upped the ante in their methods to ensure they get paid. For example, many ransomware groups now threaten to expose or sell company data stolen in a breach if victims refuse to pay, meaning the business in question could have to shell out for heavy fines due to GDPR and similar regulations. In many cases, paying the ransom may be the most cost effective (and least publicly embarrassing) option. But what if your business can’t afford it? Or if the downtime from the attack is too much to recover from? And what’s the long-term psychological and emotional toll?

Here are 3 myths about ransomware that businesses need to stop believing to stay resilient against these evolving and insidious attacks.

Myth #1: My company is small, so attackers won’t bother.

Today, any business is a target for ransomware, no matter its size. Since 2018, up to 86% of SMBs have reported being victims of ransomware each year. And, according to Verizon, “[Ransomware] is a big problem that is getting bigger, and the data indicates a lack of protection from this type of malware in organizations.”

We’ve put this myth at the top of our list because it’s particularly dangerous. For many small organizations, a single cyberattack could put them out of business. Bigger enterprises with more robust data recovery and bigger security budgets are much more likely to weather an attack, while a smaller business may have no way of making up for the loss of time, revenue, and damage to customer trust that an attack could have.

Ransomware is not going away, and it’s getting more costly for SMBs. Businesses can’t afford to underestimate the risk.

Myth #2: There’s no way to prepare for a ransomware attack.

The sad truth in today’s cyber climate is that an attack is practically inevitable. The trick is reducing the likelihood of an attack, and making sure critical data is protected in case an attack succeeds. To prepare your business to weather the storm, there are a few key steps you can take.

  1. Proactively defend against ransomware attacks.
    Ransomware typically gets into an organization by tricking a user into downloading a file and/or enabling macros. Combining reliable endpoint protection that can stop macros and malicious scripts with security awareness training for end users is an excellent step toward a proactive and in-depth defense.
  2. Protect your data.
    The ransomware business model works because losing access to your data can cause serious damage. A strong backup solution is vital. Full-server backups or asking end users to manage their own backups aren’t the most feasible options. But with the right solution set, there are significantly more efficient ways to ensure data on endpoint devices, servers, and within the Microsoft 365 suite is secured.

Myth #3: I already have a backup, so I’m safe.

If your business gets hit with an attack, you can and should expect some downtime. And if we accept the maxim “time is money,” then any amount of downtime is costly and potentially damaging. Having backups in place is crucial, but you also need to be able to recover the data you need quickly from safe backups that haven’t also been infected with the ransomware.

Bigger organizations have more resources to invest in redundant servers in secondary locations, but these protections can come at too high a cost for many SMBs. If that sounds like you, you’re not alone. We recommend you look into disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS), so you can leverage the cloud to ensure that critical business systems are online and accessible, no matter what happens on your network.

Next Steps

The one-two combination of proactive prevention and recovery is key for staying cyber resilient. If you start working to address the tips in this blog, you’ll drastically improve your chances of avoiding a ransomware attack entirely; and getting through it successfully if you do get breached.

For more details on these and other misconceptions to watch out for, get your free copy of our guide, Rip the Target Off Your Back: Debunking the Top 5 Myths about Ransomware and SMBs.

Who’s Hacking You?

One of the reasons why there’s so much cybercrime is because there are so many ways for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities and circumvent even the best defenses. You may be surprised to find that one of the biggest vulnerabilities is users. Many successful attacks could actually be prevented if users just knew what to look for. In that spirit, we put together this blog post to explain the different hacker types and methods they use against us.

For even more tips from Webroot IT security experts Tyler Moffitt, Kelvin Murray, Grayson Milbourne, George Anderson and Jonathan Barnett, download the complete e-book on hacker personas.

Take a deep dive into the three main hacker types and get tips on how to defend against them by downloading the e-book, Hacker Personas: a deeper Look Into Cybercrime.

The Impersonator

Today’s cybercriminals are masters at exploiting basic human trust. Pretending to be someone else, these hackers manipulate their victims into opening doors to systems or unwittingly sharing passwords or banking details. This type of cybercriminal is skilled at masking their true intentions behind seemingly harmless requests or legitimate-looking websites. Impersonators are increasingly sophisticated, often hosting malicious content on legitimate sites.

The Opportunist

Opportunists exploit common human traits such as trust and familiarity. They rely on targeted or focused attacks, and carry out their crimes against specific businesses or individuals. These hackers thoroughly research their targets, often running tests before launching the actual attack. Opportunists look for existing weaknesses or vulnerabilities they can exploit at scale to pull as many victims as possible into their nets.

The Infiltrator

Infiltrators rely on virtual back doors and unprotected points-of-entry to slip through hidden

cracks. Hiding in the shadows, this type of cybercriminal watches and waits for the opportunity to invade systems. DNS (Domain Name System) is especially vulnerable. Once the criminal redirects internet traffic to malicious websites or takes control of servers, the damage is inevitable.

One of the most common methods of infiltration includes internet-based attacks, such as Denial of Service (DoS), Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) and DNS poisoning. By default, DNS traffic is unencrypted, allowing internet service providers and other third parties to monitor website requests, surveil browsing habits, and even duplicate web servers to redirect traffic. However, cybercriminals can also use legal DNS traffic surveillance to their advantage.

Cybersecurity Tips for Individuals and Businesses

Aside from arming yourself with the knowledge you need to identify attacks, it’s important to install threat detection and remediation software on your devices. Be sure to update and patch software and firewalls as well as network security programs. You should also be skeptical of any requests for financial information or passwords, and scrutinize all COVID-related emails, links or apps. To learn more tips on how to identify and prevent attacks, download the complete e-book below.

Reducing the Time to Discovery: How to Determine if You Have Been Hacked

For most small businesses, the chances of falling prey to a long-term covert surveillance operation by well-resourced, likely state-backed actors are slim. To recap, that is what the evidence suggests happened in the SolarWinds compromise discovered last December. Many believe the company’s Orion update was used to conduct cyber espionage for months prior to being discovered.

However, data shows the time to detect a data breach for businesses averages 280 days, according to research conducted by IBM and the Ponemon Institute; a significant gap between the time a network is compromised and its discovery. This shows that stealthily surveilling a network is not a tactic exclusive to highly sophisticated threat actors targeting enterprise businesses.

What would reducing the time to discovery mean for small businesses? Likely it would mean less of their data on the dark web, fewer important pieces of intellectual property leaked, ransomware attacks thwarted or less reputational damage to companies.

Here are some ideas IT admins can use to detect a network compromise sooner, potentially limiting the damage of an adverse cyber event.

Consider booby trapping your network

As swashbuckling as it sounds, adopting an “offensive defensive” posture against cyberattacks can help your organization level the playing field against attackers. Because so much of cybersecurity relies on passive forms of protection (think firewalls, antivirus solutions, password protection, etc.), hackers have an asymmetrical advantage when probing defenses. Passive protection is good and necessary, to be sure, but network “booby traps,” sometimes called canary tokens, can help reduce the advantage held by hackers.

These measures may include setting up a domain administrator account that is bound to look like a juicy target to a network intruder. It may be configured according to default settings or with a particularly weak password – some way that makes it easy for a determined hacker to access. Once inside, though, the intruder’s presence triggers alarms alerting IT staff that an attack is underway and even locking out the suspicious user.

Researchers have laid out several ways booby trapping could work, but all rely on the principal of an action being taken by an attacker that would typically not occur otherwise. While they may not reveal who is behind the attack or their motivations, booby traps trigger a response alerting admins and allowing time to react.

Configure and pay close attention to failed login attempts

Allowing attackers unlimited tries at cracking passwords is never wise, but sometimes the configurations for preventing this are overlooked. This is especially dangerous when remote desktop protocol (RDP) is enabled. RDP-enabled machines can often be located using search engines like Shodan.io, making them sitting ducks for attackers armed with brute-force tools.

When configured properly, however, RDP and other password protected tools should lock users out after a given number of incorrect attempts and alert an admin. This would force a user, legitimate or otherwise, to wait some predetermined time before attempting to login again. Reaching out to the locked-out user could then help determine if the credentials have been stolen or if it is a genuine case of “fat fingers.”

If credentials have been compromised, it is a good idea to force password resets and keep an eye out for further failed login attempts. If there is no limit to the number of times a password can be tried without being timed out, an organization may never know it is in an attacker’s crosshairs.

Monitor anomalous web traffic

Skilled threat actors like those involved in the SolarWinds attack take steps to conceal their true locations when attempting to compromise a network. This can prevent alarm bells from ringing when, suddenly, an IP address from Eastern Europe is trying to connect to a network housed in Silicon Valley. Other times, malicious hackers do not have the skills or resources to cover their tracks. Their attack may also be so broadly aimed they simply do not care to.

That is why the difference between looking for malware and looking for “weird stuff” matters. It takes time to gather the data to truly know what constitutes “anomalous activity,” but once it is there it can automatically alert admins when it occurs. This could include communication with previously unknown IP addresses or uncommon application traffic patterns. In other words, a platform that has never talked to a domain in China but now does so often should be cause for alarm.

Monitoring access lists, including who is logged into what and whether anything is out of the ordinary, is another good option for spotting potential breaches early on. These so-called “spot-checks” can be too resource intensive for small businesses without dedicated IT positions, and too expensive to farm out to MSPs, but they are good to consider for businesses with dedicated IT resources.

Staying on guard against attacks

The best strategies for ensuring cyberattacks are not successful – and do not go unnoticed if they do – involve a mix of active and passive defenses. But poor configurations can undermine both. While small businesses are unlikely to become targets of highly skilled state-sponsored attackers, there are steps they can still take to make sure defenses are not undermined by the same common tactics.  

Here are a few quick tips:

  • Do not rely on the default configuration for RDP. Enforce 2FA and passwords time outs.
  • Disable powerful tools like PowerShell, Office macros and WMI where not needed.
  • Limit access rights on your internal network so that only those who need access have it.
  • Strictly control access to the dev and QA processes if these take place within your organization.

How IT Will Prevail in the 2021 Cyber-Demic

While we can all rejoice that 2020 is over, cybersecurity experts agree we haven’t seen the last of the pandemic-related rise in cyberattacks. Throughout the last year, we’ve seen huge spikes in phishing, malicious domains, malware and more, and we don’t expect that to slow down. As employees around the world continue to work from home, 2021 is shaping up to be another year of record highs in terms of malicious online activity.

What is the cyber-demic?

Cybercriminals have always been opportunistic, taking advantage of all possible avenues that disrupt businesses, steal data, trick end users, and more to turn a profit. As the threat reports Webroot produces each year have shown — not to mention the increasing number of major hacks in the headlines — threats keep evolving, and their growth is often exponential. That means even before the pandemic, cyberattacks and resulting data loss were already becoming a case of “when,” not “if.”

Still, the COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented surges in threat activity as cybercriminals capitalized on chaos and security gaps caused by the switch to WFH. Particularly by targeting vaccine production and distribution, COVID-19 trackers, videoconference applications, and other pandemic-related topics in their scams, criminals have upped the ante on what would have already been a record year; hence “cyber-demic.”

What types of malicious activities should we expect?

“It’s all about data,” says Matt Seeley, senior solutions consultant at Carbonite + Webroot, OpenText companies.

“Whether you’re a business or an individual at home, your data is important to you. Not having access to corporate data can put companies out of business. Not having access to your personal files can also have devastating consequences. The scammers know how important data is. That’s why stealing it, misusing it, holding it for ransom, or threatening it in some other way is such an effective way to get what they want – i.e., the money.”

– Matt Seeley, sr. solutions consultant, Carbonite + Webroot, OpenText companies

Recent trends in ransomware back up these insights. Thought to be pioneered by the Maze ransomware group, a new tactic emerged in 2020 in which ransomware authors changed their business model. Instead of infiltrating systems to encrypt data and demand a ransomware to unlock it, they instead encrypted the data and further incentivized ransom payment by threatening to expose that data if the victim chose not to pay. Using leak/auction websites, criminals can display or auction off victim’s data to the highest bidder; the cake-topper here is that organizations that are subject to privacy regulations, such as GDPR, PCI, etc., would also have to pay the fines associated with improperly securing sensitive data.

Additionally, the modular nature of modern malware means many malware groups are teaming up to increase their chances of a successful payday. For example, a phishing email might drop a botnet/Trojan that listens for domain credentials. Once the criminals have domain credentials, they can disable security and/or tamper with backups. That way, when they eventually drop ransomware, businesses may have no choice but to pay, since their backups are also compromised.

How IT will Prevail in 2021

“The answer, once again, is data,” says Seeley, “though, in this case, it’s part of overall cyber fitness. If your data isn’t secured, properly segmented, backed up and tested, then 2021 is likely to be a bad year.”

Stressing the need to combine comprehensive cybersecurity layers with proven backup and disaster recovery solutions, Seeley explains, “To bring your cyber fitness up and become more resilient, I recommend businesses start off by assuming they will definitely get breached this year, even if they’ve been lucky and have never been breached before. Once you accept that as your foundation, you can prepare for it. It’s that preparation that’s going to be key.”

Here are his top 3 tips for businesses to stay safe.

  1. Know your data.
    “This is the #1 most important advice I can offer. You can’t secure data if you don’t know where it lives or how important it is. The folks who don’t know their data, who don’t know all the places it resides, how up-to-date it is, or what kind of security it needs, are the ones who are going to suffer the worst if they get attacked or experience some kind of physical damage, like hardware failure or a natural disaster. They’re the ones who, even if they have backups in place, will go to restore their data and realize they don’t have the right information after all. You don’t want to have to learn that the hard way.”
  2. Classify your data.
    “This is part of knowing your data. If you accept that the data breach is going to happen sooner or later, then you need to know which data is mission-critical to get through your day, vs. other historical data that is nice to have, but won’t make or break your business if you lose access for a little while. Once you know the timing of which systems and data need to be available this second and which ones can wait a few days or weeks, you can properly plan your disaster recovery strategy and choose the right backup solutions and schedules.”
  3. Test your data recovery plan.
    “The biggest obstacle to your cyber fitness is overconfidence. Just because you have antivirus and backups doesn’t guarantee your protections will be there and functional when you need them. Bad actors are going to keep getting craftier. They’re going to keep finding new ways to target data. You need to regularly monitor and test your backup and disaster recovery strategy to ensure that your data is exactly as safe and available as you need it to be.”

    For more details on stress testing your disaster recovery plan, read his blog on the subject.

While these tips apply more to businesses than home users, Seeley says the same fundamental principles apply to anyone. “Think about all the data you could lose if your personal computer crashed right now and the hard drive died. Do you have it backed up? Are those backups secure? Do you know all the places your data lives? Do you have protection for it? Whether you’re a business, an MSP, a regular person at home, a student… These are the types of questions we should all be asking ourselves, so we can all be more resilient in this cyber-demic.”

Staying a Step Ahead of the Hack

Hackers, never at a loss for creative deception, have engineered new tactics for exploiting the weakest links in the cybersecurity chain: ourselves! Social engineering and business email compromise (BEC) are two related cyberattack vectors that rely on human error to bypass the technology defenses businesses deploy to deter malware.

Social Engineering

Social Engineering is when hackers impersonate trusted associates or acquaintances to manipulate people into giving up their passwords, banking information, date of birth or anything else that could be used for identity theft. As it turns out, it’s easier to hack our trust than our computers. Social engineering covers a range of tactics:

  • Email from a friend or family member – A hacker gets access to the email password of someone you know. From there, they can send you a malicious link in an email that you’re more likely to click on because it came from someone you trust.
  • Compelling story (pretexting) – This includes urgently asking for help. This can read like, “Your friend is in danger and they need your help immediately – please send me money right away so they can get treatment!”
  • Standard phishing tactics – Phishing techniques include website spoofing emails appearing to come from an official source asking you to reset your password or confirm personal data. After clicking the link and entering the info, your security is compromised.
  • “You’re a winner” notifications ­– Whether a lottery prize or a free trip to Cancun, this tactic catches many off guard. It’s known as “greed phishing” and it takes advantage our fondness for pleasure or weakness for the word “free.”

Business Email Compromise

Business email compromise is a targeted attack against corporate personnel, usually someone with the authority to request or fulfill a financial transaction. Victims execute seemingly routine wire transfers to criminals impersonating legitimate business associates or vendors.

This form of fraud relies on a contrived pretext to request a payment or purchase be made on the attacker’s behalf. According to the FBI, BEC attacks resulted in more than $26 billion (you read that right) between June 2016 and July 2019. Here are a few tips for protecting users and businesses from BEC attacks:

Slow down – BEC attacks combine context and familiarity (an email from your boss) with a sense of urgency (I need this done now!). This causes victims to lose their critical thinking capabilities.

Don’t trust, verify – Never use the same channel, in this case email, to verify the identity of the requester. Pick up the phone and call, or use video chat.

Prepare for the inevitable – Use all the technology at your disposal to ensure a BEC attack doesn’t succeed. Machine learning-enabled endpoint security solutions can help identify malicious sites.

Address the weakest link – Train users to spot BEC attacks. Webroot testing shows that phishing simulations can improve users’ abilities to spot attacks.

Perfecting Your Posture

Webroot Security Intelligence Director, Grayson Milbourne, offers several suggestions that companies can do to increase their security posture. First, he says, “Whenever money is going to be sent somewhere, you should have a two-factor verification process to ensure you’re sending the money to the right person and the right accounts.”

Milbourne is also a big advocate of security awareness training. “You can really understand the security topology of your business with respect to your users’ risk factors,” he says. “So, the engineering team might score one way and the IT department might score another way. This gives you better visibility into which groups within your company are more susceptible to clicking on links in emails that they shouldn’t be clicking.”

With the increase in scams related to the global COVID-19 pandemic, timely and relevant user education is especially critical. “COVID obviously has been a hot topic so far this year, and in the last quarter we added close to 20 new templates from different COVID-related scams we see out in the wild,” Milbourne says.

“When we look at first-time deployment of security awareness training, north of 40% of people are clicking on links,” Milbourne says. “Then, after going through security awareness training a couple of times, we see that number dip below 10%.”

Where to learn more

Our newest research on phishing attacks and user (over)confidence, “COVID-19 Clicks: How Phishing Capitalized on a Global Crisis” is out now, check it out!

Why Workers Aren’t Confident in their Companies’ Security (and What to Do About it)

According to data from a recent report, only 60% of office workers worldwide believe their company is resilient against cyberattacks. Nearly one in four (23%) admit to not knowing, while nearly one in five (18%) flat-out think it isn’t.

In the anonymous, write-in responses to the survey, many workers agreed that their employers could be doing more to support them and ensure their security. When asked to elaborate on why they didn’t believe their company was resilient against attacks, the most-repeated answers were along the following lines:

  • My company has been hacked before.
  • My company doesn’t prioritize security/security spend.
  • My company’s equipment and software are poorly maintained.
  • My company outsources its security, so we have no direct control.
  • I still get phishing emails. Our filtering must not be good enough.

These types of responses highlight two things: a general lack of faith in the company’s security and the perception that companies aren’t investing enough in security systems OR their employees. When considered alongside another question from the survey, there seems to be a third factor at play: there is also confusion as to who should be responsible for a company’s cyber resilience in the first place.

Overall, only 14% of office workers worldwide consider cyber resilience to be a responsibility all employees share. If workers also feel their companies don’t invest enough in them or the tools that protect them, it makes sense that they might not feel like cyber resilience is something they should worry about. If a person feels their employer doesn’t value them appropriately or empower them with the right tools to do their jobs, then the notion of having to expend one’s own time and energy on the company’s security could rankle. So how do you overcome the challenge of personal investment?

How to empower your people and your security

Investment

Dr. Prashanth Rajivan, cybersecurity and human behavior expert, says businesses that want to foster a feeling of personal investment must first tackle the notion of shared responsibility. He explains that, when people perceive themselves to have a greater responsibility to others, their average level of willingness to engage in risky behavior decreases.

“If you’re asking individuals to make changes to their own behavior for the greater safety of all, then you need to make it clear that you are willing to invest in them. By creating a feeling of personal investment in the individuals who make up a company, you encourage the employees to return that feeling of investment toward their workplace. That’s a huge part of ensuring that cybersecurity is part of the culture.” – Prashanth Rajivan, Ph.D.

One way to both empower your workforce to become a strong first line of defense while also demonstrating investment is by implementing a security awareness training program with phishing simulations, as well as giving employees enough time to carefully and thoughtfully complete the learning exercises and understand any applicable feedback.

Consistency

According to Phil Karcher, principal product manager in charge of Webroot® Security Awareness Training, running regular, up-to-date training on an ongoing basis is one of the best ways to help end users avoid attacks and become a strong first line of defense for the company as a whole.

“Data from Webroot® Security Awareness Training shows that, if you want people to make lasting changes to their behavior, you have to run consistent, relevant training courses and phishing simulations that are also varied enough that people won’t get bored or find them predictable. Running a second simulation makes a dramatic impact — and it only gets better from there.”

– Philipp Karcher, principal product manager, Carbonite + Webroot, OpenText Companies
Number of Phishing SimulationsClick-through Rate
111%
2-38%
4-106%
11-145%
15-174%

Feedback

Dr. Rajivan also reminds us that human behavior is shaped by experience and reinforcement. He and Phil agree that consistency is key for empowering your workforce to become more resilient. But Dr. Rajivan also stresses the importance of feedback over consequences.

“Without appropriate feedback, no amount of training will be effective. And because the average person handles uncertainty poorly, training must include a variety of different scenarios. Human behavior is shaped through varied experiences, with a mix of positive and negative outcomes and applicable feedback.

This feedback and incentive structure needs to be carefully calibrated. Too much could lead to heightened anxiety and false alarms, but too little could lead to underweighted risk, i.e. people knowing the correct actions, but not taking them.”

– Prashanth Rajivan, Ph.D.

Next steps

As phishing attacks continue to be a primary way that businesses get breached, the need for consistent end user education is clear. And by implementing a regular training regimen, you can demonstrate care and investment in your people, educate employees on scams, risks and what to do if the unthinkable happens, and successfully build cyber resilience into your overall company culture.

To take the first step towards cyber resilience and trial an engaging Security Awareness Training program, Take a Free Trial.  

Small Businesses are Counting on Their MSPs this Small Business Saturday

This November 28 may be the most important Small Business Saturday since the occasion was founded by American Express in 2010.

As early as July, nearly half (43 percent) of small businesses had closed at least temporarily, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Research also suggests that 30 percent of small businesses expect to exhaust their cash on hand before year’s end. Eighty-eight percent have already spent the funds allocated to them by the U.S. government’s Paycheck Protection Program loan.

While hopes will be buoyed for some by recent positive developments in the search for a vaccine, uncertainty and hard times no doubt still lie ahead. That’s why Webroot encourages advocates and partners to shop small this November 28. For our customers, we aim to be a source of support and sound consultation as we recover together.

Challenges and opportunities for small businesses and MSPs

Many of the small businesses affected by COVID-19 are among Webroot’s clientele. Many more, especially managed service providers, count small businesses as their most important customers. We’ve heard from many who are suffering from lost contracts following office closures, fewer onsite projects, disappearing budgets for business development projects and a general slowdown of new business.

Others are witnessing a shift in the work they do and the services most in-demand. For some, COVID-related challenges have presented opportunities to step up and offer services made necessary by new realities. Unsurprisingly, the already trending adoption of cloud infrastructure has quickened its pace in the age of remote work.

“We’ve had to speed up migrating some clients on-premise file servers to online cloud solutions,” according to Russell Harris, a support engineer and project manager at Maya Solutions Ltd., a UK-based MSP specializing in Apple product support

For David Yates, president of Geeks R Us, a West Coast provider of various technical services, the shift to remote work was the push some of his customers needed to leave physical servers behind.

“A few clients who were reluctant to move to the cloud have now embraced it. This was the impetus that they needed to finally migrate away from on-premise servers,” he said.

Many MSPs have also taken it upon themselves to guide their clients through the transition to remote work, especially in terms of security.

“We’ve had to shift to more cloud, VPN and helping our clients work remotely,” says Nathan Hardester, a telecoms administrator with Whidbey Tech Solutions, a Washington-based MSP.

Cybersecurity education is another opportunity for MSPs looking to help small business clients up their cyber resilience. We know that many office workers are overly confident in their ability to detect a phishing attack, so MSPs should position themselves as educators. Already, in the COVID-era, some are finding themselves do exactly that.

Asked what’s changed at Maya Solutions since the pandemic, Harris responds “needing to provide additional training on online safety due to many working from home on their own devices.”

Making it through together

Many MSPs—often small businesses themselves—rely on their small business clients run for their success. And on this Small Business Saturday, small businesses need us all more than ever. Despite the challenges, there are opportunities for MSPs to step up and guide their clients through the changing way we work.

For more tips on staying cyber resilient through COVID-19 and beyond, stay tuned to our Community threat and check out these tips for MSPs looking to help small businesses bounce back.

The Nastiest Malware of 2020

For the third year running, we’ve examined the year’s biggest cyber threats and ranked them to determine which ones are the absolute worst. Somewhat unsurprisingly, phishing and RDP-related breaches remain the top methods we’ve seen cybercriminals using to launch their attacks. Additionally, while new examples of malware and cybercriminal tactics crop up each day, plenty of the same old players, such as ransomware, continue to get upgrades and dominate the scene.

For example, a new trend in ransomware this year is the addition of a data leak/auction website, where criminals will reveal or auction off data they’ve stolen in a ransomware attack if the victim refuses to pay. The threat of data exposure creates a further incentive for victims to pay ransoms, lest they face embarrassing damage to their personal or professional reputations, not to mention hefty fines from privacy-related regulatory bodies like GDPR.

But the main trend we’ll highlight here is that of modularity. Today’s malicious actors have adopted a more modular malware methodology, in which they combine attack methods and mix-and-match tactics to ensure maximum damage and/or financial success.

Here are a few of nastiest characters and a breakdown of how they can work together.

  • Emotet botnet + TrickBot Trojan + Conti/Ryuk ransomware
    There’s a reason Emotet has topped our list for 3 years in a row. Even though it’s not a ransomware payload itself, it’s the botnet that is responsible for the most ransomware infections, making it pretty darn nasty. It’s often seen with TrickBot, Dridex, QakBot, Conti/Ryuk, BitPaymer and REvil.

    Here’s how an attack might start with Emotet and end with ransomware. The botnet is used in a malicious spam campaign. An unwitting employee at a company receives the spam email, accidentally downloads the malicious payload. With its foot in the door, Emotet drops TrickBot, an info-stealing Trojan. TrickBot spreads laterally through the network like a worm, infecting every machine it encounters. It “listens” for login credentials (and steals them), aiming to get domain-level access. From there, attackers can perform recon on the network, disable protections, and drop Conti/Ryuk ransomware at their leisure.
  • Ursnif Trojan + IcedID Trojan + Maze ransomware
    Ursnif, also known as Gozi or Dreambot, is a banking Trojan that has resurfaced after being mostly dormant for a few years. In an attack featuring this troublesome trio, Ursnif might land on a machine via a malicious spam email, botnet, or even TrickBot, and then drop the IcedID Trojan to improve the attackers’ chances of getting the credentials or intel they want. (Interestingly, IcedID has been upgraded to use steganographic payloads. Steganography in malware refers to concealing malicious code inside another file, message, image or video.) Let’s say the Trojans obtain the RDP credentials for the network they’ve infected. In this scenario, the attackers can now sell those credentials to other bad actors and/or deploy ransomware, typically Maze. (Fun fact: Maze is believed to have “pioneered” the data leak/auction website trend.)
  • Dridex/Emotet malspam + Dridex Trojan + BitPaymer/DoppelPaymer ransomware

Like TrickBot, Dridex is another very popular banking/info-stealing Trojan that’s been around for years. When Dridex is in play, it is either dropped via Emotet or its authors’ own malicious spam campaign. Also like TrickBot, Dridex spreads laterally, listens for credentials, and typically deploys ransomware like BitPaymer/DoppelPaymer.

As you can see, there are a variety of ways the attacks can be carried out, but the end goal is the more or less the same. The diverse means just help ensure the likelihood of success.

The characters mentioned above are, by no means, the only names on our list. Here are some of the other notable contenders for Nastiest Malware.

  • Sodinokibi/REvil/GandCrab ransomware – all iterations of the same ransomware, this ransomware as a service (RaaS) payload is available for anyone to use, as long as the authors get a cut of any successful ransoms.
  • CrySiS/Dharma/Phobos ransomware – also RaaS payloads, these are almost exclusively deployed using compromised RDP credentials that are either brute-forced or easily guessed.
  • Valak – a potent multi-functional malware distribution tool. Not only does it commonly distribute nasty malware such as IcedID and Ursnif, but it also has information stealing functionalities built directly into the initial infection.
  • QakBot – an info-stealing Trojan often dropped by Emotet or its own malspam campaigns with links to compromised websites. It’s similar to TrickBot and Dridex and may be paired with ProLock ransomware.

Combine protections to combat combined attacks.

If businesses want to stay safe, they need to implement multiple layers of protection against these types of layered attacks. Here are some tips from our experts.

  • Lock down RDP. Security analyst Tyler Moffitt says unsecured RDP has risen over 40% since the COVID-19 pandemic began because more businesses are enabling their workforce to work remotely. Unfortunately, many are not doing so securely. He recommends businesses use RDP solutions that encrypt the data and use multi-factor authentication to increase security when remoting into other machines.
  • Educate end users about phishing. Principal product manager Phil Karcher points out that many of the attack scenarios listed above could be prevented with stronger phishing/spam awareness among end users. He recommends running regular security training and phishing simulations with useful feedback. He also says it’s critical that employees know when and how to report a suspicious message.
  • Install reputable cybersecurity software. Security intelligence director Grayson Milbourne can’t stress enough the importance of choosing a solution that uses real-time threat intelligence and offers multi-layered shielding to detect and prevent multiple kinds of attacks at different attack stages.
  • Set up a strong backup and disaster recovery plan. VP of product management Jamie Zajac says that, particularly with a mostly or entirely remote workforce, businesses can’t afford not to have a strong backup. She strongly recommends regular backup testing and setting alerts and regular reporting so admins can easily see if something’s amiss.

Discover more about the 2020’s Nastiest Malware on the Webroot Community.

It’s Time to Talk Seriously About Deepfakes and Misinformation

Like many of the technologies we discuss on this blog—think phishing scams or chatbots—deepfakes aren’t necessarily new. They’re just getting a whole lot better. And that has scary implications for both private citizens and businesses alike.

The term “deepfakes,” coined by a Reddit user in 2017, was initially most often associated with pornography. A once highly trafficked and now banned subreddit was largely responsible for developing deepfakes into easily created and highly believable adult videos.

“This is no longer rocket science,” an AI researcher told Vice’s Motherboard in an early story on the problem of AI-assisted deepfakes being used to splice celebrities into pornographic videos.

The increasing ease with which deepfakes can be created also troubles Kelvin Murray, a senior threat researcher at Webroot.

“The advancements in getting machines to recognize and mimic faces, voices, accents, speech patterns and even music are accelerating at an alarming rate,” he says. “Deepfakes started out as a subreddit, but now there are tools that allow you to manipulate faces available right there on your smartphone.”

While creating deepfakes used to require good hardware and a sophisticated skillset, app stores are now overflowing with options creating them. In terms of technology, they’re simply a specific application of machine learning technology, says Murray.

“The basics of any AI system is that if you throw enough information at it, itcan pick it up. It can mimic it. So, if you give it enough video, it can mimic a person’s face. If you give it enough recordings of a person, it can mimic that person’s voice.”

There are several ways deepfakes threaten to redefine the way we live and conduct business online.

Deepfakes as a threat to privacy

A stolen credit card can be cancelled. A stolen identity, especially when it’s a mimicked personal attribute, is much more difficult to recover. The hack of a firm dedicated to developing facial recognition technology, for instance, could be a devastating source of deepfakes.

“So many apps, sites and platforms host so many videos and recordings today. What happens when they get hacked? Will the breach of a social media platform allow a hacker to impersonate you,” asks Murray.

Businesses must be especially careful about the data they collect from customers or users, asking both if it’s necessary to collect and if it can be stored safely afterwards. If personal data must be collected, security must be a top priority, and not only for ethical reasons. Governments are starting to enact some strict regulations and doling out some stiff fines for data breaches.

Ultimately, Murray thinks those governments may need to weigh in more heavily on the threat of deepfakes as they become even more indistinguishable from reality.

“We’re not going to stop this technology. It’s here. But people need to have the discussion about where we’re heading. In the same way GDPR was created to protect people’s data, we’re going to need to have a similar conversation about deepfakes leading to a different kind of identity theft.”

Deepfakes as a cybersecurity threat to businesses

It’s important to note the ways in which deepfakes can be used to target businesses, not just to spoof individuals.

“These business-related instances aren’t too common yet,” says Murray. “But we’re at the beginning of a wave right now in terms of AI-enabled threats against businesses.

A late 2019 attack against a U.K. energy firm could be a sign of scary things to come. Rather than video, this attack took advantage of voice-spoofing technology to pose as an executive’s manager, insisting he wire nearly $250 thousand to a “supplier” immediately. In the aftermath of the scam, the victim reported being convinced by both the accent and the rhythm of the fake speech pattern.

To safeguard against what could be a rising attack method, Murray recommends businesses understand what deepfakes are capable of and follow best practices for avoiding fraud, no matter the technology.

“Have well-defined protocol for changing account details and signing off on any invoices,” he advises “Train financial and accounting teams especially rigorously on these protocols and encourage them to pick up the phone and double-check when anything seems strange or off. In these days of increased working from home it’s also tougher for financial staff to walk up to other finance or sales colleagues and make informal double checks.”

Deepfakes and misinformation campaigns

Soon after deepfakes went mainstream, implications for politics and the weaponization of misinformation became clear, prompting the U.S. Senate to address the issue in 2018.

While initially used to humiliate or extort people, mostly women, malicious actors began to see them as a way to sway public opinion or sow chaos. Deeptrace, a company dedicated to uncovering deepfakes, has noted instances where manipulated video was used to promote social discord and scandal across the globe.

“Deepfakes further undermine our ability to believe what we read, and now even watch, on the internet,” says Murray. This leads to widespread distrust, especially on issues where understanding is crucial, like the coronavirus pandemic, where misinformation is bountiful.

To combat misinformation, Murray advises to keep in mind how much of it is out there. Always consider the source of the information you’ve received before acting on it, especially if it makes you angry or elicits some other strong emotional response.

Deepfakes will likely make the internet even more difficult to rely on as a source of information in the years to come. But reducing their impact starts with understanding how far they’ve come and what they’re capable of.

To learn more on Deepfakes and misinformation, listen to the podcast.

False Confidence is the Opposite of Cyber Resilience

Have you ever met a person who thinks they know it all? Or maybe you’ve occasionally been that person in your own life? No shame and no shade intended – it’s great (and important) to be confident about your skills. And in cases where you know your stuff, we encourage you to keep using your knowledge to help enhance the lives and experiences of the people around you.

But there’s a big difference between being reasonably confident and having false confidence, as we saw in our recent global survey. Featured in the report COVID-19 Clicks: How Phishing Capitalized on a Global Crisis, the survey data shows that, all over the world, people are pretty confident about their ability to keep themselves and their data safe online. Unfortunately, people are also still getting phished and social engineering tactics aimed at employees are still a major way that cybercriminals successfully breach businesses. These data points strongly suggest that we aren’t all being quite as cyber-safe as we think.

Overconfidence by the Numbers

Approximately 3 in 5 people (59%) worldwide think they know enough to stay safe online.

You may think 59% doesn’t sound high enough to earn the label of “false confidence”. But there were two outliers in our survey who dragged the average down significantly (France and Japan, with only 44% and 26% confidence, respectively). If you only take the average of the five other countries surveyed (the US, UK, Australia/New Zealand, Germany and Italy), it’s a full ten percentage points higher at 69%. UK respondents had the highest level of confidence out of all seven regions surveyed with 75%.

8 in 10 people say they take steps to determine if an email message is malicious.

Yet 3 in 4 open emails and click links from unknown senders.

When so many of us claim to know what to do to stay safe online (and even say we take steps to determine the potential sketchiness of our emails), why are we still getting phished? We asked Dr. Prashanth Rajivan, assistant professor at the University of Washington and expert in human behavior and technology, for his take on the matter. He had two important points to make.

Individualism

According to Dr. Rajivan, it’s important to note that Japan had the lowest level of confidence about their cybersecurity know-how (only 26%), but the survey showed they also had the lowest rate of falling victim to phishing (16%). He pointed out that countries with more individualistic cultures seem to align with countries who ranked themselves highly on their ability to keep themselves and their data safe.

“When people adopt a less individualistic mindset and, instead, perceive themselves to have a greater responsibility to others, their average level of willingness to take risks decreases. This is especially important to note for businesses that want to have a cyber-aware culture.”

– Prashanth Rajivan, Ph.D.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

Another factor Dr. Rajivan says may contribute to overconfidence in one’s ability to spot phishing attacks might be a psychological phenomenon called the “Dunning-Kruger Effect”. The Dunning-Kruger Effect refers to a cognitive bias in which people who are less skilled at a given task tend to be overconfident in their ability, i.e. we tend to overestimate our capabilities in areas where we are actually less capable.

How These Numbers Affect Businesses

Only 14% of workers feel that a company’s cyber resilience is a responsibility all employees share.

The correlations between overconfidence and individualism may also translate into a mentality that workers are not responsible for their own cybersecurity during work hours. While 63% of workers surveyed agree that a cyber resilience strategy that includes both security tools and employee education should be a top priority for any business, only 14% felt that cyber resilience was a shared responsibility for all employees.

How to Create a Cyber Aware Culture

The short answer: a strong combination of employee training and tools.

The long answer: when asked what would help them feel better prepared to avoid phishing and prevent cyberattacks, workers worldwide agreed that their employers need to invest more heavily in training and education, in addition to strong cybersecurity tools. Dr. Rajivan also agrees, stating that, if employers want to build cybersecurity awareness into their business culture, then they need to invest heavily in their people.

“By creating a feeling of personal investment in the individuals who make up a company, you encourage the employees to return that feeling of investment toward their workplace. That’s a huge part of ensuring that cybersecurity is part of the culture. Additionally, if we want to enable employees to assess risk properly, we need to cut down on uncertainty and blurring of context lines. That means both educating employees and ensuring we take steps to minimize the ways in which work and personal life get intertwined.”

– Prashanth Rajivan, Ph.D.

Additionally, he tells us, “Human behavior is shaped by past experiences, consequences and reinforcement. To see a real change in human behavior related to phishing and online risk-taking habits in general, people need frequent and varied experiences PLUS appropriate feedback that incentivizes good behavior.”

Ultimately, the importance of training can’t be emphasized enough. According to real-world data from customers using Webroot® Security Awareness Training, which provides both training courses and easy-to-run, customizable phishing simulations, consistent training can reduce click rates on phishing scams by up to 86.5%.

It’s clear a little training can go a long way. If you want to increase cyber resilience, you have to minimize dangerous false confidence. And to do that, you need to empower your workforce with the tools and training they need to confidently (and correctly) make strong, secure decisions about what they do and don’t click online.

Learn more about Security Awareness Training programs.

Unexpected Side Effects: How COVID-19 Affected our Click Habits

Phishing has been around for ages and continues to be one of the most common threats that businesses and home users face today. But it’s not like we haven’t all been hearing about the dangers of phishing for years. So why do people still click?

That’s what we wanted to find out when we conducted our most recent survey. We checked in with thousands of office workers across seven different countries to get a global perspective on phishing and people’s individual click habits. Then we partnered with Dr. Prashanth Rajivan, assistant professor at the University of Washington, to gain a deeper understanding of phishing and those habits, as well as how things have shifted during COVID-19 in our new report: COVID-19 Clicks: How Phishing Capitalized on a Global Crisis.

In this blog post, we’ve summarized this comprehensive report and included tips for how to stay safe, but we strongly encourage you to check out the full writeup.

Why do people still click?

3 in 10 people worldwide clicked a phishing link in the past year. Among Americans, it’s 1 in 3.

According to Dr. Rajivan, what we need to consider is that human beings aren’t necessarily good at dealing with uncertainty, which is part of why cybercriminals capitalize on upheaval (such as a global pandemic) to launch attacks.

“People aren’t great at handling uncertainty. Even those of us who know we shouldn’t click on emails from unknown senders may feel uncertain and click anyway. That’s because we’ve likely all clicked these kinds of emails in the past and gotten a positive reward. The probability of long-term risk vs. short-term reward, coupled with uncertainty, is a recipe for poor decision-making, or, in this case, clicking what you shouldn’t.”

– Prashanth Rajivan, Ph.D.

Tip # 1

  • For businesses: Ensure workers have clear distinctions between work and personal time, devices, and obligations. This helps reduce the amount of uncertainty that can ultimately lead to phishing-related breaches.
  • For individuals: Hackers often exploit security holes in older software versions and operating systems. Update software and systems regularly to help shut the door on malware.

Has phishing increased since COVID-19 began

At least one in five people have received a phishing email related to COVID-19.

There’s no doubt that the global COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot about how we live and work. According to our survey, 54% of workers spend more time working from home than they did before the pandemic. With more people connecting to the internet outside of corporate networks and away from the watchful eyes of IT teams, it’s to be expected that cybercriminals would take advantage.

“[We’ve seen] massive spikes […] in phishing URLs targeting COVID-related topics. For example, with more people spending time at home, use of streaming services has gone up. In March alone, we saw a 3000% increase in phishing URLs with ‘youtube’ in the name.

– Grayson Milbourne, security intelligence director, Carbonite + Webroot, OpenText Companies

Regardless, the majority of people surveyed still think they are at least the same level of prepared or more prepared to spot phishing email attempts, now that they’ve spent more time working from home

“People are taking increased physical safety measures in the pandemic, including mask wearing, social distancing, more frequent hand-washing, etc. I think this heightened level of precaution and awareness could cause people to slightly overestimate their overall safety, including their safety regarding online threats.”

– Prashanth Rajivan, Ph.D.

Tip #2

  • For businesses: Know your risk factors and over prepare. Once you’ve assessed the risks, you can create a stronger data breach response plan.
  • For individuals: Stay on your toes. By being vigilant and maintaining a healthy dose of suspicion about all links and attachments in messages, you can significantly decrease your phishing risk.

People say they know better. Do they really?

81% of people say they take steps to determine if an email message is malicious. Yet 76% open emails and click links from unknown senders.

When we asked Dr. Rajivan why these numbers don’t line up, he said the difference is between knowing what you should do and actually doing it

“There are huge differences between knowing what to do and actually operationalizing that knowledge in appropriate scenarios. I suspect many people don’t really take the actions they reported, at least not on a regular basis, when they receive suspicious emails.”

– Prashanth Rajivan, Ph.D.

Tip #3

  • For businesses: Back up data and ensure employees can access and retrieve data no matter where they are. Accidents happen; what matters most is being able to recover quickly and effectively. Don’t forget to back up collaboration tools too, such as Microsoft® Teams and the Microsoft® 365 suite.
  • For individuals: Make sure important data and files are backed up to secure cloud storage or an external hard drive. In the case of a hard drive, make sure it’s only connected while backing up, so you don’t risk backing up infected or encrypted files. If it’s a cloud back up, use the kind that lets you to restore to a specific file version or point in time.

What’s the way forward?

All over the world, workers say that in order to be better prepared to handle cyberattacks, they need more education.

According to global respondents, more knowledge and better understanding is key for stronger cyber resilience. The top three things people everywhere said would help them better prepare themselves to handle cyber threats like phishing were: knowing which tools could help prevent an attack, knowing what to do if you fall victim to an attack, and understanding the most common types of attacks.

Dr. Rajivan points out that, if businesses are asking individuals to make changes to their own behavior for the greater safety of all, then they need to make it clear they are willing to invest in their people.

“By creating a feeling of personal investment in the individuals who make up a company, you encourage the employees to return that feeling of investment toward their workplace. That’s a huge part of ensuring that cybersecurity is part of the culture. Additionally, if we want to enable employees to assess risk properly, we need to cut down on uncertainty and blurring of context lines. That means both educating employees and ensuring we take steps to minimize the ways in which work and personal life get intertwined.”

– Prashanth Rajivan, Ph.D.

Tip #4

  • For businesses: Invest in your people. Empower your people with regular training to help them successfully avoid scams and exercise appropriate caution online.
  • For individuals: Educate yourself. Even if your company provides training, Dr. Rajivan recommends we all subscribe to cybersecurity-related content in the form of podcasts, social media, blogs, and reputable information sources to help keep strong, cyber resilient behavior top-of-mind.

Want more details on click habits and shifting risks during COVID-19?
Read our full report, COVID-19 Clicks: How Phishing Capitalized on a Global Crisis, to start building out your cybersecurity education today. And be sure to check back here on the Webroot blog for the latest in news in phishing prevention.          

Ransomware: The Bread and Butter of Cybercriminals

Imagine a thief walks into your home and rummages through your personal belongings. But instead of stealing them, he locks all your valuables into a safe and forces you to pay a ransom for the key to unlock the safe. What choice do you have?

Substitute your digital space for your home and encryption for the safe and you have what’s known as ransomware. Ransomware is a type of malware. After the initial infection, your files are encrypted, and a note appears demanding payment, which is usually in the form of cryptocurrency such as bitcoin because transactions can’t be stopped or reversed. Once your files are encrypted, you can’t access them until you pay the ransom.

The roots of ransomware can be traced back to 1989. The virus, known as PS Cyborg, was spread through diskettes given to attendees of a World Health Organization International AIDS conference. Victims of PS Cyborg were to mail $189 to a P.O. box in Panama to restore access to their data.

Historically, ransomware was mass distributed indiscriminately which happened to be mostly personal machines that ended up getting infected. Today, the big money is in attacking businesses. Most of these infections go unreported because companies don’t want to expose themselves to further attacks or reputational damage.

Criminals know the value of business data and the cost of downtime. Because they service multiple SMB customers simultaneously, managed service providers (MSPs) are now an especially attractive target. A successful attack on an MSP magnifies the impact of attacks and the value of the ransom.

Primary ransomware attack vectors – with more detailed descriptions below – include:

  • Phishing
  • Cryptoworms
  • Polymorphic malware
  • Ransomware as a Service (RaaS)
  • Targeted attacks

Want more on ransomware and how it’s advancing? Click here for a new Community post.

Phishing: Still the No. 1 Ransomware threat

Ninety percent of all Ransomware infections are delivered through email.  The most common way to receive ransomware from phishing is from a Microsoft Office attachment. Once opened the victim is asked to enable macros. This is the trick. If the user clicks to enable the macro, then ransomware will be deployed to the machine. Phishing remains a significant and persistent threat to businesses and individuals. The Webroot 2020 Threat Report showed a 640% increase in the number of active phishing sites since 2019.

Cryptoworms

Cryptoworms are a form of ransomware that able to gain a foothold in an environment by moving laterally throughout the network to infect all other computers for maximum reach and impact. The most spectacular incarnation of a cryptoworm was WannaCry in 2017, where more than 200,000 computers were affected in 150 countries causing hundreds of millions in damages.

Polymorphic malware

One of the more notorious forms of ransomware circulating today is polymorphic malware, which makes small changes to its signature for each payload dropped on machine – effectively making it a brand new, never before seen file. Its ability to morph into a new signature enables it to evade many virus detection methodologies. Studies show that 95% of malware is now unique to a single PC. This is largely due to the shape-shifting abilities of polymorphic malware code. Today, nearly all ransomware is polymorphic, making it more difficult to detect with signature-based, antivirus technologies.

Ransomware as a Service (RaaS)

Ransomware has become so lucrative and popular that it’s now available as a “starter kit” on the dark web. This allows novice cybercriminals to build automated campaigns. Many of these kits are available free of charge for the payload, but criminals owe a cut (around 30% but this can vary based on how many people you infect) to the author for a ransom payment using their payload. Grandcab, also known as Sodinokibi, was perhaps the most famous to use this tactic.

Targeted attacks

Cybercriminals are moving away from mass distribution in favor of highly focused, targeted attacks. These attacks are typically carried out by using tools to automatically scan the internet for weak IT systems. They are usually opportunistic, thanks to the vulnerability scanners used. Targeted attacks often work by attacking computers with open RDP ports. Common targets include businesses with lots of computers but not a lot of IT staff or budget. This usually means education, government municipality, and health sectors are the most vulnerable.

Stay cyber resilient with multi-layered defense

As you can see, ransomware authors have a full quiver of options when it comes to launching attacks. The good news is, there are as many solutions for defending systems against them. The best way to secure your data and your business is to use a multi-layered cyber resilience strategy, also known as defense in depth. This approach uses multiple layers of security to protect the system. We encourage businesses of all sizes to deploy a defense-in-depth strategy to secure business data from ransomware and other common causes of data loss and downtime. Here’s what that looks like.

Backup

Backup with point-in-time restore gives you multiple recovery points to choose from. It lets you roll back to a prior state before the ransomware virus began corrupting the system.

Advanced threat intelligence

Antivirus protection is still the first line of defense. Threat intelligence, identification and mitigation in the form of antivirus is still essential for preventing known threats from penetrating your system.

Security awareness training

Your biggest vulnerability is your people. Employees need to be trained on how to spot suspicious emails and what to do in case they suspect an email is malicious. According our research, regular user training can reduce malware clickthrough rates by 220%.

Patch and update applications

Cybercriminals are experts at identifying and exploiting security vulnerabilities. Failing to install necessary security patches and update to the latest version of applications and operating systems can leave your system exposed to an attack.

Disable what you’re not using

Disable macros for most of the organization as only a small percentage will need them. This can be done by user or at the group policy level in the registry. Similarly, disabling scripts like HTA, VBA, Java, and Powershell will also stop these powerful tools that criminals use to sneak infections into an environment.

Ransomware mitigation

Make sure your IT staff and employees know what to do when a ransomware virus penetrates your system. The affected device should immediately be taken offline. If it’s a networked device, the entire network should be taken down to prevent the spread of the infection.

Want to learn more about how to protect your business or clients from ransomware? Here are five actionable tips for better defending against these attacks.