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Staying Safe: How to Prepare for Ransomware

RansomwareThe cybercrime game can be faddish at times, with cyber crooks all briefly piling on the “flavor of the month” attack before collectively moving on to the next big thing. One thing we can be certain of after the past year, however, is that ransomware has been added to the regular menu. It’s here to stay.

How Ransomware Works

It’s no wonder the dark underbelly of the internet is so taken with ransomware attacks. For keyboard-based ne’er-do-wells it really is the gift that keeps on giving.

A ransomware attack begins much like any other cyberattack. The bad guys get into the target system by the usual methods; most frequently via a phishing email or a spear-phishing email. This opening is used to plant the malware, and it is the nature of this malware package that sets ransomware apart.

The malware, once it gains access to the system, encrypts all the data it can find with an encryption key known only to the bad guys, who then demand lots and lots of money in exchange for getting the data back.

To Pay or Not to Pay?

A business that has been hit with a successful ransomware attack usually has only 2 options: say goodbye to the data, or pay the money.

No business can afford to lose all their data, so most companies end up paying the ransom, but this has unintended consequences. Now that the bad guys have access to the system, it’s trivial for them to get back in at a later date – some even go so far as to install a backdoor into the system so they can come and go as they please. Having walked away richer the first time, what’s to stop them from going back to the well a second or even third time? They know that the company is willing to pay, and so they make the company pay.

Thankfully, while the consequences of a ransomware attack can be more dire than other types of attack, they are no more difficult to prevent, or to deal with afterwards – given a certain amount of preparation.

Ransomware Defense

The first line of defense is prevention, and this involves solid email security that can detect and remove email-based threats before they reach the recipient. Another key part of prevention, or at least mitigation, is implementing a multi-layered security solution so that breaches can’t compromise the entire system. 

Finally, under preparation and aftermath, companies need to establish and follow a business continuity plan that incorporates real-time backups of all important data.

Real-time backups can allow companies to more or less ignore ransom demands. If infected with ransomware, they can simply roll back the clock to a point before the malware hit the system and continue on, as if nothing had happened, with minimal data or productivity loss.


According to the FBI, ransomware attacks in 2015 were responsible for ransom payments of just over $1.5 million. In 2016 that amount was almost a thousand times more – close to $1 billion. This huge increase is because of two factors: ransomware attacks are hard to stop, and the bad guys are almost impossible to catch.

If the numbers above are any indication, it will be almost impossible for most businesses to avoid a ransomware attack in 2017. Given an environment where ransomware attacks are an inevitability, being properly prepared is the only viable option.

How to Keep Customers’ Personal Information Private

shutterstock_135054332The increased collection of detailed personal information by private companies is a major concern among consumers. As security breaches become more frequent, companies are under increased pressure to ensure the safety of customers’ personal information.

Consumers concerns center are the unauthorized release of personal data including chat logs, files, images and emails. These worries aren’t unwarranted, as an unsecured firm can be compromised to the point where customers’ private data could be accessed by third parties. It is the organizations’ responsibility to avoid security breaches.

Here are tips for organizations to help keep customer data safe.

Tips for Maintaining Privacy of Customer Data

  1. Make sure that your network, email protection and endpoint can effectively avoid dangerous types of files, malware and spam.
  2. Keep staff trained on how to effectively identify, report and deal with potentially dangerous emails, such as messages that include suspicious attachments or possible phishing links.
  3. Implement a patch assessment tool that automatically applies security updates to programs and operating systems, preventing potential exploits.
  4. Having a secure gateway and/or endpoint protection application can identify and prevent exploits before your systems can be hit.
  5. While many companies might believe that attackers could be satisfied with only a few pieces of private data, the reality is that these criminals want to gain full access to user databases and entire networks, where they can access all available personal information en masse. To avoid this, you might want to separate each of your own internal departments with multiple top-of-the-line firewalls, as opposed to relying on a single firewall that, once exploited, can leave all of your systems vulnerable.
  6. Device control strategies can be effective in keeping dangerous removable storage devices away. Companies can make it so that any personal data for customers is impossible to store on external devices, and avoid potential exploit kits that might be stored on them.
  7. When sharing any sensitive information internally, utilize full disc protection and securely encrypt all private information that’s located on private servers or any external devices.
  8. Make sure that you aren’t using any applications that are unnecessary and potentially detract from system security.
  9. Create and stick with a data protection policy that provides detailed instructions on how to keep all private information secure from possible threats.
  10. When transitioning to cloud services, organizations should make data encryption a top priority.

How Consumers Can Help

  1. Consumers should create strong passwords that aren’t easy to figure out, avoiding the use of any information that others may know. A good password consists of a complex combination of letters, numbers, punctuation and capitalization to make it more difficult to compromise, but consumers should create one that’s not difficult for them to recall.
  2. When making purchases with independent sellers on eBay or other online outlets, consumers should stick with PayPal or credit card payments in order to avoid scams.
  3. Consumers should always look carefully through emails before clicking on links or opening attachments. If they are from people with whom they’ve had no previous contact, or if the email doesn’t include enough detail to appear legitimate, it could be an email intended to phish personal information or infect computer systems with malware.

As network technology continues to develop, so does that of crooks looking to steal personal information, This is why both businesses and consumers need to put in more effort in securing data.

Five Ways Session Border Controllers Keep Businesses Safe

Internet firewallWith reports in the news of high-profile hack attacks against major corporations like Sony, many businesses are wisely looking at their own defenses and asking “Are we vulnerable?” By and large, the answer is probably “Yes.”

The state-of-the-art hacking and intrusion techniques currently in use are generally effective well beyond the usual security measures installed by businesses. Firewalls are typically only installed near the access level, well inside the network, leaving the network border just as open as an unprotected physical border between nations.

Like national borders, proactive measures at the network border are far more effective than tracking intrusions after they’ve occurred. This is a key reason Enterprise Session Border Control (SBC or eSBC) is quickly becoming a necessity. The combination of smart, proactive Intrusion Prevention Systems and firewalls along a network border delivers more robust internal security.

Five Reasons eSBC Is A Necessity For Modern Business Security

#1. Distributed Denial-of-Service Prevention

Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks are among the biggest fears in modern corporate security. The attacks are easy for hackers to launch, and currently there are no security systems which can entirely defeat a large DDoS attack.

That said, large-scale attacks (involving millions of bots) are generally reserved for high-profile targets. For most smaller businesses, eSBC will provide adequate warning and protection against smaller attacks.

#2. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Traffic Control

Internet traffic management, a standard addition to eSBC packages, provides software or hardware control over the number of VoIP connections allowed in and out of a business’ network.  These systems monitor traveling data packets for any sign of malicious activity. Newer DDoS variations target VoIP systems rather than primary servers. eSBC can prevent these types of intrusions as well.

#3. Hidden Topography

Many forms of packet requests used by hackers, such as VoIP transmissions, will send back information about the topography of the network. Similar to bank robbers “casing” a bank before a crime, it is common for hackers to use such techniques to probe a network and map out its structure in preparation for more specific targeted attacks.

eSBC systems can combat network probing by preventing network information from being sent back to attackers. When hackers can’t see the internal network topography, they are likely to pick a more vulnerable target instead of pursuing a full attack.

#4. Toll Fraud Protection

Toll fraud is niche of system cracking that is dedicated entirely to getting access to a company’s on-site VoIP system and relaying calls through so they are more expensive. The costly charges are passed on to the business. eSBC technology can prevent this by automatically blocking all secondary dial tone sources.

#5. Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) Encryption Services

SIP, a technology used to negotiate VoIP sessions is also a vulnerable part of a business network. Most SIP packets are in plain text, making them easy to intercept, exploit, or mimic. eSBCs use Secure Realtime Protocol with encrypted handshakes to remove this weak point in system defenses.

The Year Of Computer Security

A power imbalance in computer security, tilted heavily in favor of hackers, currently exists. The year 2015 is likely to be one that separates companies that are serious about security from those who are not. It is very likely that a network-reliant company without Enterprise Border Security will be among those companies that are open to attack.