Ransomware – How Can You Protect Your Organization?

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The ransomware attack that has hit globally this week has sent many organizations scrambling to recover data and protect themselves from the consequences of an attack that they were not prepared for. EY, a leading global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services, is urging organizations worldwide to take immediate action  to mitigate the effect of these attacks and help protect themselves against future attacks.

Paul van Kessel, EY Global Advisory Cybersecurity Leader, says:

“The recent wave of cyber-attacks is proof that cyber criminals are becoming more aggressive and sophisticated, simultaneously targeting all kinds of interconnected organizations across the globe. A cyber criminal’s greatest ally is complacency. Whether you are a Fortune 500 company or a family-owned business, if you don’t take cybersecurity seriously, you are at significant risk of being attacked. EY is closely monitoring the attacks and we urge everyone to take steps that can help keep critical systems and data safe.”

The risk of being attacked increases exponentially when preventative measures have not been taken. Failure to take incident response equally seriously can mean the difference between hours and days versus weeks and months of system compromise and outage. EY recommends six actions organizations can take now to help protect their systems, their most valuable assets and their customers, while mitigating against potential damage from emerging threats:

  1. Disconnect infected machines from the network and take all backups offline because they also could become encrypted if left connected to the network.
  2. Activate your incident response plan and don’t treat the investigation as merely an IT issue or exercise. Ensure there is cross-functional representation in the investigation team, including legal, compliance, information security, business, public relations, human resources and other departments.
  3. Identify and address vulnerabilities in your connected ecosystem; sufficiently install security updates, malware detection and anti-virus detection to complicate attackers’ efforts to get back in; enhance detection and response capabilities for future attacks; and prepare for eradication events.
  4. Ensure your systems are patched before powering up PCs. Keep systems up to date with a robust enterprise-level patch and vulnerability management program. This should include a formal, repeatable life cycle to manage vulnerabilities based on risks as they evolve, and a comprehensive asset model that focuses on the exposure of assets to these risks, including any connectivity to other assets.
  5. Activate business continuity plans. Prepare data based on varying requirements for regulatory reporting, insurance claim and dispute, litigation, threat intelligence and/or customer notification.
  6. Collect and preserve evidence in a forensically sound manner so that it is conducive to investigation, and reliable and usable in civil or regulatory matters.

David Remnitz, EY FIDS Global Forensic Technology and Discovery Services (FTDS) Leader, says:

“Malware outbreaks such as WannaCry require companies to respond in a comprehensive and defensible manner. Even after the data is restored, companies sometimes face allegations that sensitive personnel-related or other business information had been compromised in the ransomware attack. Third parties and other stakeholders may require the company to demonstrate forensically that, even if the data was accessed, it was not stolen.”

This may be the most widespread ransomware attack we have seen, but it is not the first and it is very unlikely to be the last. Organizations and individuals need to be taking action now to ensure that they are not victims of the next wave, this is not something that can be delayed, think smart and take action now!

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Carlos Casanova is an internationally known speaker, IT architect, leadership advisor and the co-author of “The CMDB Imperative”. He has over two decades of hands on experience guiding CIOs and Sr. Leadership to achieve effective IT operations and improve ROI from infrastructure investments. His expansive experience enables him to quickly assess their true needs and achieve better business outcomes. He takes the complexity out of today's cluttered IT and business environments to simplify their goals in order to accelerate achievement and success.