Once a ransom note appears on your screen, it’s too late.
Ransomware has already entered the system. The files have been locked and the threat actor is the only one that can help you safely decrypt sensitive documents.
For a business, this means that access to part of the infrastructure has been blocked or that it’s not possible to resume working without the critical files that have been encrypted by malware.
Last week’s ransomware attack on the Royal Mail on the 12th of January 2023, the UK’s main delivery service, has shown how destructive ransomware can be. After the attack that occurred on Wednesday, their international shipments ceased — they haven’t been able to send letters and parcels.
At the moment, the incident is being investigated and it’s not clear whether the company is going to pay the ransom in crypto and when they’re going to continue their international shipments.
Popular online newspaper The Guardian has also been the victim of ransomware in December of 2022. The hackers took their opportunity while teams were working remotely before Christmas. A successful attack is likely to be a result of a phishing scheme.
The company said no data has been leaked and writers could continue working from their homes. However, the return to their offices has been delayed until February as the IT teams restore both the network and system.
How to prepare an organization for such cyber incidents?
Besides having layered security that consists of multiple solutions that aid teams to find and mitigate specific threats within the infrastructure, it’s also important that the security is managed on a regular basis.
Here, we discuss how attack surface management can prevent ransomware attacks.
Detecting Critical Flaws Early
Attack surface management is an automated cybersecurity tool that is designed to discover, analyze, and test the software environment (anything that can be attacked by a criminal).
The solution points to any high-risk weaknesses so that security analysts can repair them before hackers find and exploit them. That enables them to make fast decisions and fix flaws before threat actors get a chance to gain unauthorized access.
It runs in the background 24/4 to discover any vulnerabilities before they escalate into incidents.
The report is continually updated on the dashboard, allowing security analysts a comprehensive birdseye view of the complete attack surface and its weak points — anything that could enable the deployment of attacks such as ransomware.
For testing purposes, tools such as Breach and Attack Surface (BAS) are used to determine whether the infrastructure can be breached.
BAS attacks the network as a cybercriminal would, simulating neutral attacks to test the security and uncover weak parts of the existing protection against hacking.
The attack surface management testing tools are also linked to the knowledge base of the hacking exploits known as MITRE ATT&CK Framework, which is regularly updated with the new types of criminal methods that could endanger the company.
Classifying and Guarding Data
The main goal of ransomware is to lock data that is valuable to a company. To encrypt the files for which the business will be willing to pay the suggested sum in crypto to get it back.
Although it further finances criminal activity, many businesses end up paying the ransom to regain access to files that would otherwise be lost or leaked online by a threat actor if the demand is not met.
Namely, in case the information is exposed to the public, the users become vulnerable to possible identity fraud.
Therefore, when strengthening the attack surface, it’s essential to prioritize critical issues that could lead to stolen and released information.
How does the attack surface management system know which weaknesses have to be fixed first?
It identifies and catalogs the information and assets based on their nature. If the flaw that is uncovered compromised the personal user data, patching up for this vulnerability becomes a priority since it presents a high risk for an organization.
For security teams who are usually overwhelmed with alerts coming from multiple dashboards, having the means of prioritizing tasks based on risk-focused analysis means that they can react faster and protect the private data of users and employees.
Preventing Unauthorized Access
To plant the ransomware malware on a device, the cybercriminal needs to gain access that allows them into the network —such as stolen user credentials. The malware can also be installed after an employee downloads it from the attachment in the infected email.
Cybercriminals can also obtain such information from hacking forums or get it via email phishing schemes that trick employees into giving away their passwords.
To prevent that, attack surface management nowadays also includes the discovery and analysis of external attack surfaces.
The tool external attack surface management scours the web to find what is available and could compromise the company — such as credentials leaked on the hacking forums.
Moreover, it utilizes automatic assets discovery that reveals which digital assets are available to outsiders and could be used to breach the network.
Versatile Threat Prevention With Attack Surface Management
Attack surface management is a solution that can aid security teams to prevent varied hacking threats — one of them being ransomware.
It reduces the chance of ransomware by aiding teams to discover weaknesses that the hacker could misuse to enter an otherwise well-guarded system.
While there are also security solutions made to detect the signature of ransomware malware, a holistic approach is needed to guard the company against modern threats.
That is, attack surface management is a good security habit that can be implemented and guard the infrastructure against different hacking exploits.
Its key advantage is the automation of testing and discovery of the assets that are available on the internet.
The earlier the vulnerabilities are fixed, the fewer chances the hacker has to exploit weaknesses in the system for monetary gain.