Remote Ransomware is a Big Problem

Remote work comes with a myriad of security concerns, and ransomware is one of the major cybersecurity issues for businesses of all sizes. Ransomware – where cybercriminals make money by demanding a ransom payment in exchange for a decryption key to unlock an encrypted system – has been rising alongside remote work.

Although paying the ransom seems like it will only encourage further attacks, many businesses who have been victimized feel as though they have no choice if they want to retrieve their files. Businesses who have a remote workforce can have a proactive plan in place to prevent these attacks before they are faced with negotiations.

professional business man remote working online from home typing on laptop in office.

The Threat Landscape

Ransomware attacks are growing in frequency as the media gives more attention to ransomware gangs, which in turn gives them more power. While this is an issue for all ransomware attacks, it is particularly dangerous for remote workers, as the threat landscape exploits the vulnerability of remote work setups. In local ransomware attacks, the initial infection that comes via malware, exploitation, or another method infects one machine, and then moves through the rest of the connected network. Managed and host-based security measures can detect the malware before the ransomware can take hold, and the issue can be contained.

In remote ransomware, the infection begins the same way, but since the machine that has been compromised is remote without management, the host-based measures cannot detect the ransomware, as it is only present on an unmanaged machine. The malicious activity cannot be detected until it has already begun to move through the system, with shared drives, files and machines all infected and the files on remote machines encrypted.

Vulnerabilities of Remote Work

Remote work is here to stay, and has many benefits for both employees and employers, but it does come with unique security risks. The absence of centralized security measures and a lack of employee cybersecurity awareness can contribute to a higher risk of cyberthreats such as ransomware. Employees who are working remotely often do not take the same security precautions that they do when working in an office setting. Cybercriminals know to look for the weak spot in the security of the network, and an under-protected device can compromise the entire network and all connected devices. Remote workers who are using their personal wireless network, even if they are using a business device, are still introducing risk from that unprotected network. Many employees who are working remotely are downloading software onto their devices, and even an innocent application used to stream music or a cloud storage application could be potentially compromised. In an office setting, the download could be screened and managed, but in a remote setting, employees can be tricked into downloads that can cause problems.

Prevention Strategies

The most effective strategy for preventing ransomware attacks due to remote work is educating all employees about best practices in cybersecurity. When compared with an office setting, it can be easy for remote employees to let certain security measures slide, so education and training in cybersecurity cannot be a one-time event. Businesses of all sizes need to stress the importance of consistent best practices and the real risks from lapses in protocol. Remote employees need to ensure that they have regular software and system updates on any device they are using that is connected to the business, which will give them the latest security patches, updates, and features. All employees should always focus on maintaining robust cybersecurity protocols, even when they are in their own homes. Employees should be aware of all the tactics that cybercriminals employ, and be extremely cautious about their behavior on any corporate devices, including basic security measures like looking at emails and texts carefully to verify their authenticity and refraining from clicking on any links that cannot be verified-even if they look legit.

The Role of Remote Ransomware in the Future

Attack methods are always evolving, which is what makes cybersecurity such a challenging issue. Continuous adaptation is necessary to ensure continuous protection, which means that all employees, but particularly remote employees, need continuous training on cybersecurity best practices and need to make sure that their devices are always updated and in compliance. Ransomware gangs are beginning to target more systems, launching attacks outside of business hours, and adopting atypical programming languages.

Ransomware is becoming more sophisticated, with ransomware gangs beginning to structure themselves more formally. As the media engages with ransomware gangs, they are able to apply even more pressure to their victims, gaining tactical and strategic advantages. As ransomware continues to evolve, the focus should not be on giving these groups notoriety, but on continuing to educate employees on best practices to plug any potential leaks that can be exploited as weak spots. All employees, whether remote or in-office, need to stay vigilant in best practices and keep security as a focus at all times.

Rebuilding a network that has been encrypted is an incredibly difficult and time-consuming task, and the loss a business will take during the rebuilding process is often too much to bear, which is why so many businesses feel that they have no choice but to pay the ransom and hope that the ransomware gangs follow through with their promise to provide the decryption key. A much better strategy is to do as much as possible to prevent any remote ransomware attacks in the first place. This can be done by making sure that remote employees are always incorporating cybersecurity best practices. To learn more about how you can keep your data secure, contact AccuShred today!