Ransomware: What Is It and How to Manage the Risk

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Cybersecurity is a hot topic in the healthcare industry right now, and for good reason. Attacks on healthcare organizations have become increasingly prevalent in recent years. Among one of the most common and dangerous types of attacks seen are ransomware attacks. Let’s explore what that means and how you can mitigate your risk.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a victim’s data and holds it for ransom. As a result, the victim is unable to access applications, files, or databases, and must pay a ransom in order to regain access. Often the demand for a ransom comes with a deadline, and if the victim doesn’t pay on time either the data is lost forever or a new, higher ransom is demanded.

The two most common types of ransomware are encryptors and screen lockers. Encryptors, as their name suggests, encrypt a system’s data, making it useless without a decryption key. Screen lockers, on the other hand, block access to the system using a “lock” screen which claims that the system is encrypted. For all types of ransomware, this type of malware is always designed to spread quickly in order to paralyze an entire organization.

How to Manage the Risk

Ransomware has the potential to completely derail a practice’s operations, but there are ways to manage the risk in hopes of avoiding an attack. Let’s explore 10 ways to manage the risk of a ransomware attack.

  1. Back up your data. Keep copies of your data in a safe place, such as an external hard drive or the cloud, in case you are ever unable to access it for any reason, including a ransomware attack. Having an up to date backup will allow you to wipe your system completely and reinstall the data so that you can get back up and running as quickly as possible without paying a ransom.
  2. Secure your backups. Having backups is important, but it’s possibly more important that those backups are not accessible from your main system. Ransomware is programmed to look for backups as it invades a server, with the goal of encrypting or deleting that data as well in an effort to increase the odds of the ransom being paid.
  3. Use security software and keep it updated. Comprehensive security software is important to keep your system protected, but this software must be kept up to date as each new release typically repairs flaws that could increase your cyber risk.
  4. Remain vigilant. Sometimes preventing a cyber attack is as simple as being aware and cautious. Only click links that you’re positive are safe. If an attachment isn’t from a known, trusted source, don’t download or open it. Application downloads should be limited to trusted sources. If something seems suspicious, that probably means it is. Trust your gut.
  5. Use only secure networks. Public Wi-Fi, while convenient, usually isn’t secure, so it’s best to avoid using it when possible. Instead, use a VPN to maintain a secure connection at all times.
  6. Stay educated. Keep up to date on the latest cyber threats and tactics so you’re aware of what to look for and how to best protect yourself.
  7. Prioritize security awareness in your organization. Regular security training should be standard for every member of your organization. It’s important that everyone understands their role and responsibilities in regards to cybersecurity. It’s also wise to conduct tests and drills regularly to check for understanding.
  8. Use strong authentication controls. Strong passwords are a must, but to take it to the next level utilize multifactor authentication in order to combat unauthorized access to accounts.
  9. Use anti-virus and spam filters. These applications can scan emails and downloads for ransomware and stop you before you download something that can cost your organization dearly.
  10. Employ a cybersecurity firm to manage your organization’s network. While there are many ways you can work to protect your organization from cyber attacks yourself, allowing experts in the field of cybersecurity to optimize your protection offers a higher level of peace of mind.

Ransomware has the potential to cause major problems for any business, but especially medical practices. Thankfully, with some awareness and diligence it’s possible to mitigate the risk to a fair extent. At Henry Schein SolutionsHub we understand how important it is to have the right tools to keep your practice safe. That’s why we offer Black Talon Security, a firm made up of highly credentialed security experts who take a customer-focused approach to cybersecurity.

For more information, visit henryscheinsolutionshub.com or talk to one of our Solutions Consultants today.