4 Techniques for Early Ransomware Detection

It’s predicted that a ransomware attack will occur every 11 seconds in 2021, and the expected average cost of a ransom?

$84 thousand

However, more is at stake than just your bottom line. From downtime halting operations and disrupting productivity to dealing with the fallout of stolen data, the wide-reaching impact of a successful ransomware attack can be detrimental.

Ransomware has come a long way from its beginnings as a nuisance strain of malware. Bad actors and nation-state hackers have successfully leveraged ransomware to attack organizations of all sizes and across multiple verticals.

There is big money in ransomware, too. Cybercriminals are increasingly leveraging it to encrypt as much of a network as possible as their targets, hoping to extort ransoms ranging from thousands to millions of dollars.

Stop Ransomware from Encrypting Your Network by Stopping Lateral Movement

Many are even upping the stakes with tactics like double extortion, as seen in the recent PLEASE_READ_ME incidents, where the bad actors ensured a profit by auctioning-off data exfiltrated from breached MySQL servers if a ransom went unpaid.

Unfortunately, there is no known “silver bullet” solution to protect organizations today. Still, you can put a few best practices in place to reduce the impact of ransomware and other similar threats.

Why is Detecting and Preventing Lateral Movement Key?

Outdated technology and “good enough” defense strategies focused solely on perimeters and endpoints are not enough to stop today’s evolving ransomware campaigns.

A ransomware attack begins with an initial breach, often enabled by a phishing email or vulnerability in the network perimeter. From its landing point, the malware will start to move through your network and attempt to maximize damage. Typically, bad actors seek to seize control of a domain controller, compromise credentials and locate and encrypt any backups in place to prevent operators from restoring infected and frozen services.

Because ransomware relies on lateral movement to execute a successful attack, it’s where organizations should focus their effort. Any organization that can detect and block unauthorized lateral movement early in the attack chain will be in a better position to reduce the impact of ransomware and other similar threats.

Checklist for Early Ransomware Detection

Despite the best perimeter defenses, breaches are inevitable, and if you receive a ransom note, it’s likely too late. Most of your network will already be encrypted.

Early detection is key, but it can be a challenge for many organizations. However, achieving swift detection will allow you to act fast and stop an attack early in the kill chain before it spreads within your network and impacts critical applications and services.

To successfully spot an attack before it’s too late, you’ll need the following:

✓ Strong Visibility – Don’t get caught by surprise. Understanding east-west traffic activity in your network will give you insight into unauthorized lateral movement as any ransomware attempts to spread. Strong visibility will also give you an advantage when it comes to defense, allowing you to identify potential attack vectors to critical applications from your broader IT assets.

✓ Segmentation Policies – If you’ve created informed segmentation policies, you’ve hopefully based them on the observed normal communication flows between assets in your environment. Configuring policies to alert you to anything outside the routine activity will give you an early warning of unusual activity, so you can investigate and take action if needed.

✓ IDS System and Malware Detection Tools – These will help you detect ransomware operators’ propagation attempts, whether this means using predefined rules and signatures for known exploits or more general or automated anomaly detection.

✓ Deception Tools – Setting up lures, honeypots or a distributed deception platform that can identify unauthorized lateral movement can also be an effective way to discover an active breach in progress with high-fidelity incidents.

Learn More About Building a Strong Ransomware Defense Strategy

Early detection is only one piece of the puzzle in addressing ransomware, and its threat to organizations isn’t going away any time soon. Since 2018, the number of ransomware attacks spiked by 350%, the average ransom payment amount rose by more than 100% and downtime increased by 200%.

The world can expect to continue experiencing a higher frequency of sophisticated attacks with even more costly ransom demands — all with the potential for downtime and data exfiltration.

Is your ransomware threat mitigation strategy comprehensive enough?

activereach have teamed up with Guardicore to improve your security posture against ransomware. For more information on Micro Segmentation visit our solutions page, contact us here or call 0845 625 9025

The above blog was written by Avishag Danielyon of Guardicore on March 22, 2021