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    January 11, 2024

    Small Business IT Guide: Defending Against Ransomware

    Ransomware attacks are on the rise, with small and medium businesses increasingly targeted. Limited security resources make these organizations vulnerable, but IT teams can take steps to reduce risk. This guide covers practical strategies to defend your small business against ransomware.

    Challenges Facing Small IT Teams

    Smaller IT and security teams juggle many responsibilities with limited headcount. Keeping infrastructure running smoothly often takes priority over proactive security. Tight budgets also restrict access to advanced tools and training.

    Despite these constraints, small businesses face immense threats. Ransomware attackers have expanded beyond large enterprises to target organizations of all sizes. Healthcare, manufacturing, professional services, and other sectors are impacted.

    Without proper controls, a ransomware infection can cripple business operations. Recovery costs easily surpass six figures, even for small companies. Many lack cyber insurance or find policies inadequate.

    Securing Potential Ransomware Vectors

    The first step is closing common entry points exploited in ransomware attacks. Unsecured remote access tools like RDP and VPNs enable attackers to infiltrate networks. Enforcing multi-factor authentication (MFA) and restricting internet exposure significantly reduce the risk.

    RDP Security

    Remote desktop protocol (RDP) was the top initial infection vector for ransomware in 2020. Attackers can brute force credentials or exploit vulnerabilities to gain access. Once inside, they often leverage legitimate tools to encrypt files and data.

    Best practices to prevent against this include:

    • Disabling RDP internet access entirely
    • Requiring MFA for all users
    • Blocking IP address ranges known for attacks
    • Prohibiting login caching to thwart credential dumping

    VPN Security

    Vulnerable VPN servers provide ransomware groups simple access, so you should aggressively patch VPN software, restrict exposure, and implement MFA. Another best practice is to monitor vendor notifications to quickly address remote code execution flaws that are frequently disclosed.

    Lastly, segment VPN traffic to limit network visibility when compromised credentials are used. Scrutinize your VPN architecture and necessity to minimize your attack surface.

    Enabling Early Threat Detection

    Stopping ransomware requires visibility into suspicious activities indicating initial compromise. Endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools check for malware execution but have blind spots.

    Deploy Sysmon for Broader Visibility

    Microsoft Sysmon logs detailed process activity across Windows systems, even capturing in-memory attacks. Analyzing Sysmon data reveals ransomware behaviors like internal reconnaissance, lateral movement, and data exfiltration.

    EDR solutions miss many ransomware indicators that Sysmon exposes. Small teams should roll out Sysmon alongside EDR for robust visibility. We recommend feeding both data sources into your security information and event management (SIEM) solution.

    Implement Decoys to Identify Threats

    Strategically placing decoys (honeypots) in your environment tempts attackers into engaging. Any interaction immediately alerts you to malicious activity.

    Use honeypots to detect unauthorized lateral movement and credential dumping. Alerts from honeypots have high confidence since they only attract unauthorized access attempts.

    Maintaining Reliable Backups

    If ransomware successfully encrypts data, recovery requires clean offline backups. Storing backups on easily compromised networks allows attackers to destroy your restore points, so you should keep recent backups as well as older archives. Verify their integrity to avoid restoring from tainted versions that reintroduce malware. Additionally, you should store backups across multiple regions to mitigate localized disasters.

    Another best practice is to test restoring from backups regularly. When disaster strikes, the last thing you want is to find your backups unusable, putting your business at the mercy of ransomware criminals.

    Conclusion

    Defending against ransomware with limited security resources is difficult but achievable. Carefully securing potential intrusion vectors provides a solid foundation, and augmenting visibility and detection capabilities allows small IT teams to identify threats early. Maintaining usable offline backups enables recovery, should the worst happen.

    Leveraging these practical strategies tailored for resource-constrained environments will significantly strengthen your security posture against ransomware. Protect your business without overextending your IT team.

    Learn how Blumira can help protect your business against ransomware.

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