Between 2019 and 2020, the number of ransomware attacks in the US more than doubled. These attacks, typically involving a criminal group hacking into a company’s system to hold vital data for ransom, have become more coordinated over the years, to the point where organizations of all sizes have been victims of an attack.
For many organizational leaders the size and scope of these ransomware attacks is truly daunting: small companies pay out an average of $300,000 per attack. How can teams prepare for the worst without undermining their ability to do their best work every day?
The fact is the right strategy and buy-in can support an organizational infrastructure that’s more resilient to ransomware attacks. In fact, with new developments in Device as a Service (DaaS) and Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), TEM technology can underpin many of the most-effective methods of providing effective ransomware and fraud protection.
Moreover, these improvements go hand-in-hand with the shift organizations have made to a remote or hybrid work environment. It’s no longer untenable to adopt a work-from-anywhere culture while simultaneously building and maintaining an environment that’s ready to negate ransomware attacks before they begin. Doing so involves knowing the most common risks for such cybersecurity breaches, how to prevent them, and how to bring cybersecurity protection into your organization through cloud-based telecom expense management.
Common Entry Points for Ransomware Attacks
Ransomware attacks have grown in popularity because such hacks are financially lucrative, particularly when compared with other types of cybercrime. By gaining access to a user’s account, the criminal can plant software that searches for data throughout an organization’s servers, going so far as to lock other users out and restrict access until a ransom is paid. Ransomware attackers may even threaten to leak information if they don’t receive payment, an additional cost which can run into the millions of dollars and is typically sent through Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency.
Hackers use several methods to facilitate these actions, including:
- Phishing. Likely the most common means of enacting a ransomware attack, phishing involves sending an employee an email with a malicious link or attachment. Once opened, the material opens a door for malware installation, enabling the hacker to access data and information.
- Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). This network protocol allows users to access desktops via the internet. When the password is compromised or hackers find an exploit that grants them access to this system, installing malicious software on the computer becomes as easy as a few clicks.
- Unused software. Infamously used in the Colonial Pipeline attack, hackers will often go looking for passwords to forgotten or seldom-used software in order to remain unseen during their attack. In the case of Colonial Pipeline, one exposed password on a forgotten VPN software was all it took to shut down the company—and secure a $4.4 million ransom, much of which was later recovered by the FBI.
Regardless of the manner of entry, a ransomware attacker has a specific goal: To encrypt your vital data and demand a ransom in exchange for granting access. Until then, you and your team members are locked out of all needed functionalities. Even a full backup probably won’t work to grant you access. If the ransom isn’t paid, the hacker may try to sell it to a third-party via the dark web or leak it for free on blogs and other websites out of spite.
It’s because of all this that prevention is so essential. With that in mind, what are the steps organizations can take to make themselves resilient in the face of potential hacking, using the technology available through their TEM platform?
Managing Device Security with DaaS
Training employees to identify phishing emails, never sharing passwords, and limiting access to ransom-worthy data has long been the first step in preventing cybersecurity attacks. Yet ransomware attacks continue to increase in number regardless of effort spent on this training. While there’s no reason to do away with cybersecurity awareness—hackers still rely on user errors to gain access—a more unified, centralized approach to organization cybersecurity is needed.
One way to achieve this is by ensuring employees are using the right devices with the highest level of cybersecurity protection, from hardware that requires biometric information (such as a face or fingerprint scan) to access valuable data, to software that’s kept up-to-date and aware of any new exploits currently in use. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to simply tell employees to handle this on their own, particularly when one weak link out of hundreds or thousands can shut down the entire system. The risk is increased exponentially when one considers the sheer number of mobile and IoT devices increasingly in use.
The model for having this needed device oversight in one place is part of Device as a Service, or DaaS. In the DaaS model, workers are kept up to date with the latest equipment, and gain access to self-service ordering to replace or update devices when needed. All devices come loaded with the latest software, with the DaaS IT team checking to ensure all security software is kept up-to-date remotely, while the device user focuses on their duties and responsibilities.
Rather than relying on the end user’s cybersecurity awareness, organizations working under a DaaS model get real expertise across their devices, all of which can be easily replaced and sent to employees regardless of their location. This ensures outdated equipment is replaced in short order, while crucial cybersecurity software stays updated and monitored instantaneously thanks to remote device management.
Improving Fraud Protection with UCaaS
A holistic approach to security involves reducing instances of fraud, in addition to protecting against attacks. Usage monitoring, as part of Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), allows organizations to gain insight into the number, duration, and location of calls, shedding light on potential fraud and misuse.
By identifying calls made to companies on blocklists or flagging communications occurring on weekends or after hours, organizations can move more quickly to step in before fraud cases occur. This kind of information is crucial toward building the more resilient capabilities organizations need to thrive in a security-focused future.
There’s no one method to ensure ransomware attacks and fraud attempts are negated before they’re even attempted. By adopting the right cutting-edge services to maintain oversight, awareness, and communication across increasingly remote and dispersed teams, any attempt by an outside party to illegally access or control data can be negated before it grows into a real threat. Hackers rely on going unnoticed in order to undermine and extort their victims—with the right device management and communication tools, however, organizations can keep control of their entire enterprise while supporting their teams with secure productivity tools.