Done Anything About Ransomware Yet?
Updated: Mar 20
If you or your organization have been wondering where to take those first steps on the road to ransomware prevention, The White House Open letter to Companies from June 2021 is more than relevant in light of the continuing uptick in ransomware attacks.
The letter, found here: Memo-What-We-Urge-You-To-Do-To-Protect-Against-The-Threat-of-Ransomware.pdf (whitehouse.gov), lays out some concrete guidance on security steps every company should be taking to protect themselves from ransomware. The guidance in the letter tracks with the recent Executive Order on Cybersecurity which requires the US government to begin developing and adopting a Zero-Trust Security Model (a topic near and dear to Isaac's heart and discussed previously).
Like all things Cybersecurity, however, the letter can be a bit dense and even oblique, not unlike that last sentence. For Instance, the letter references five best practices but then goes on to illuminate a list of eight (still very relevant) security requirements. Unless you're Decker counting Replicants, we would recommend not letting a little thing like a perplexing numbering miscount distract you from an otherwise solid and useful message.
Which, in a nutshell, is to implement these security measures and practices with all due haste (quoting almost directly from the above-referenced executive order): The 'Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity' Executive Order is being implemented with speed and urgency across the Federal Government because these best practices are high impact:
Multifactor authentication (because passwords alone are routinely compromised),
Endpoint detection & response (to hunt for malicious activity on a network and block it),
Encryption (so if data is stolen, it is unusable) and
a Skilled, empowered security team (to patch rapidly, and share and incorporate threat information in your defenses).
These practices will significantly reduce the risk of a successful cyberattack.
Backup your data, system images, and configurations, regularly test them, and keep the backups offline: Ensure that backups are regularly tested and that they are not connected to the business network, as many ransomware variants try to find and encrypt or delete accessible backups. Maintaining current backups offline is critical because if your network data is encrypted with ransomware, your organization can restore systems.
Update and patch systems promptly: This includes maintaining the security of operating systems, applications, and firmware, in a timely manner. Consider using a centralized patch management system; use a risk-based assessment strategy to drive your patch management program.
Test your incident response plan: There’s nothing that shows the gaps in plans more than testing them. Run through some core questions and use those to build an incident response plan: Are you able to sustain business operations without access to certain systems? For how long? Would you turn off your manufacturing operations if business systems such as billing were offline?
Check Your Security Team’s Work: Use a 3rd party pen tester to test the security of your systems and your ability to defend against a sophisticated attack. Many ransomware criminals are aggressive and sophisticated and will find the equivalent of unlocked doors.
Segment your networks: There’s been a recent shift in ransomware attacks – from stealing data to disrupting operations. It’s critically important that your corporate business functions and manufacturing/production operations are separated and that you carefully filter and limit internet access to operational networks, identify links between these networks and develop workarounds or manual controls to ensure ICS networks can be isolated and continue operating if your corporate network is compromised. Regularly test contingency plans such as manual controls so that safety critical functions can be maintained during a cyber incident
Perhaps the toughest of these to actually accomplish is empowering and reviewing your Security team. At principia/RAID, we know that not every company has the budget for a well-trained security team with clearly defined policies and tight procedures, and security can often be an afterthought or a collateral duty. It's why we created our fractional vCISO services. principia/RAID can help you. Reach out today to talk about how.