How to deploy cyber hygiene to prevent ransomware attacks

Timur Kovalev, chief technology officer, Untangle

Cyberattacks are becoming more and more common, and in many cases, they can be avoided by training employees and engaging in good IT hygiene practices.

Poor IT hygiene can put organizations at unnecessary risk of falling victim to these growing and increasingly sophisticated threats. SMBs, in particular, are susceptible to threats because they may not have the manpower to train employees properly or monitor their network activities adequately. There is an opportunity here to both inform SMBs and help them institute effective cyber hygiene policies within their organization.

While larger organizations may have an individual or team responsible for cybersecurity across the enterprise, smaller organizations may not even have a dedicated IT person on staff. It’s imperative, therefore, to fill in the gaps with best practices that, in particular, easy to understand and simple to follow. How can you arm your organization with good cyber hygiene?

First, keep it simple by tackling the basics:

  • Create an inventory of users, systems/devices and software to root out unapproved devices, applications and access. Don’t need it? Shut it down, remove it or uninstall it. Remember, this can include IOT devices that connect to the internet, like surveillance systems, POS systems and smartwatches.
  • Have a patch plan. By keeping software up to date, you minimize the risk of leaving known vulnerabilities available to hackers.
  • Back up data both on site and in the cloud. Data is vulnerable to everything from a natural disaster to a ransomware attack. Distribute the risk by backing up in multiple locations, including one or more in the cloud. Keep in mind that backing up isn’t a one-time occurrence. Backups need to happen regularly. Even better, test that restoring from a backup is an easy (or at least well-documented) process to ensure business continuity should the need arise.
  • Protect those passwords. Passwords only work if they are kept secret. Make sure employees choose complex passwords that aren’t subject to dictionary-based attacks. Never use the same password twice, and don’t write it on a sticky note. Password manager apps can help.
  • Invest in system recovery tools. If a device does get infected, having a system recovery tool allows you to flash the computer and recover the data from the cloud.

When it comes to ransomware, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It’s essential that businesses ensure that ransomware never reaches their networks, users or devices by safeguarding them at the gateway to the internet with a next-generation firewall that can identify and block malware attacks like ransomware. If possible, you should look to choose a vendor who includes a cloud scan for a second layer of protection. Combined with endpoint security, next-gen firewalls will protect the network from ransomware attacks and provide visibility to network administrators to see which threats are being blocked.

While enterprise security teams deploy a layered approach to security to keep an organization’s systems protected, SMBs often rely on a single security approach like endpoint antivirus or a basic firewall router, feeling that they don’t have the resources for a more comprehensive, layered approach. However, this not only leaves them vulnerable but isn’t necessarily true. A layered security doesn’t have to be costly and complex and can be deployed in businesses of all sizes. Choosing a next-generation firewall solution specifically designed for SMB can reduce the cost and complexity while providing enterprise-grade protection. When combined with endpoint security and good cyber hygiene, next-gen firewalls can prevent threats from ever reaching users and their data.

About the author:Timur Kovalev serves as the CTO at Untangle and is responsible for driving technology innovation and integration of gateway, endpoint, and cloud technologies.

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