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How do you recover from a ransomware attack?

Ransomware attacks use malware to encrypt information and systems. Cybercriminals hold your system and data hostage for the purpose of asking for ransom for decrypting the files. If you haven’t implemented data protection strategies, a ransomware attack can disrupt business continuity and result in a data breach.  

Read on to learn how to develop an effective ransomware data recovery strategy.

What is a ransomware attack?

Ransomware is a type of cybercrime that involves malware. The malware holds company data hostage once downloaded to the user’s device, making it unreadable through encryption or locking out users, until the company pays a ransom to restore it.

There are two types of ransomware: 

  • Locker-ransomware – Prevents users from accessing documents instead of encrypting them, before asking for a ransom for the files to be unlocked.
  • Crypto-ransomware – Encrypts an organization’s information and demands a ransom to have the documents decrypted and returned safely. 

In both scenarios, attackers demand payment, threatening to remove the data permanently from the system or publish private information if the victim refuses to pay the ransom. But how does ransomware get onto your system?

It usually starts with a trojan (a malware that disguises itself as legitimate software, making victims think it’s harmless). Trojans are spread through spam emails. When recipients click on the URL or open the attached file, they download the trojan unknowingly, which steals sensitive information.

How to recover from a ransomware attack

Ransomware attacks can be devastating for businesses. Many hours can be spent removing the malware and getting systems working again while irreplaceable and valuable files can be lost permanently. Here are some things you can do to prevent ransomware:

  1. Do not pay the ransom

You should not need to pay the ransom because you have copies of your information stored elsewhere. If this is not the case, you have to weigh up the demanded ransom vs the data loss cost. Remember you’re dealing with a criminal. So paying the ransom doesn’t guarantee you will get back your information. 

Also, if you pay, you’re proving that the criminal’s process works and can encourage them to target more companies that will pay up as you did, making it a vicious circle. Additionally, paying the ransom can double the cost of dealing with cyberattacks. 

If you don’t get back your information, the infection will still be on your systems, requiring you to cleanse it thoroughly. You’ll also pay for device cost and downtime on top of the ransom.

  1. Report the attack immediately

This will help the authorities discover the attackers and how they’re choosing their victims and prevent other companies from becoming targets of the same attacks. You can call your local police to link you with their cybercrime investigations department. 

If you’re in the US, you can report through the On Guard Online website or via the Action Fraud website if you live in the UK. 

  1. Cleanse your servers

Some software packages claim to remove ransomware from your servers. However, there are two issues with this. First, you can’t be sure that someone else other than the attacker can remove the malware completely. Second, even if your server is cleansed successfully, you may still not be able to access your information.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a decryption tool available for different types of ransomware. Additionally, encryption involves running the original file and decryption key through a function to recover original documents. Again, sophisticated ransomware uses a unique key for every victim, which can take experts years to find the right key for individual victims. 

Because of this, the best action is to cleanse your storage devices, start afresh and reinstall everything. This will ensure there aren’t any traces of malware and you’ll have a clean system to restore your information

  1. Restore your data

If your company has implemented the right backup strategy to counteract cyberattacks, you can recover quickly by accessing the backed-up information and avoiding costly downtime. You can carry out a DIY system restore to recover your data.

Although this method is easy to do and cost-effective, there could be traces of infection buried in the information you’re trying to restore, making it difficult to recover any personal documents. Using a strong backup solution such as third-party disaster recovery is highly recommended.

It captures a point-in-time recovery copy of all your systems, databases, and files. It also writes out those copies to a secondary storage device that’s isolated from your local servers. While this method is costly, all of your files will be recovered securely. You won’t also manage the recovery alone, the vendor will help you.

How to prevent future attacks

Once hacked, it’s important to put in place strategies that can prevent a second attack. Here are some measures you can implement to stop future ransomware attacks:

Use endpoint detection and response solutions

While cleansing your servers of malicious files is a good starting point, you need to know what caused the breach and what the attackers did before locking down or encrypting your data. Endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions monitor all outgoing and incoming traffic continuously for potential threats on a network. 

The software isolates the affected computer if a threat is detected so that the malware doesn’t spread. EDR also keeps a record of the events that caused the attack, allowing you to view the registry keys, processes, and files the attacker accessed. This helps you see where the attack began and how it progressed. 

Implement secure email gateways (SEGs)

Secure email gateways filter outgoing and incoming email communications to identify and prevent malware from reaching the intended victims. They also block phishing attacks. However, they may allow some highly-personalized or targeted communications to slip through. 

If this occurs, a Post-Delivery Protection software can detect it using stylometry and powerful AI algorithms to identify advanced attacks and alert organizations by including warning banners into high-risk emails.

Implement web filtering solutions

Web filtering solutions such as DNS (domain name system) and cloud-based protect users from downloading content from malicious websites and accessing phishing pages. DNS web filtering software filters traffic based on DNS lookups. 

Note that different websites have unique IP addresses that browsers link to the domain name to load pages. DNS filters sit between the domain and browser to prevent the browser from loading harmful websites.

Cloud-based filtering software filters malicious sites by scanning harmful codes and filtering malicious URLs. They also prevent web-based threats from being downloaded to users’ devices. 

Juniper Networks Switches Routers prevent attackers from tampering with, encrypting, or deleting your sensitive information for a specified period of time, creating a firm defense against ransomware attacks. 


Maclean Odiesa
Maclean Odiesa
Maclean is a tech freelance writer with 7+ years in content strategy and development. She is also a pillar pages specialist and SEO expert.

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