10 ways to protect against ransomware and other advanced threats

by Chris Crellin, Senior Director, Product Management, Intronis MSP Solutions by Barracuda

Chris Crellin, Senior Director, Product Management, Intronis MSP Solutions by Barracuda

The ransomware outbreak shows no signs of slowing down. Like a digital plague, it doesn’t discriminate, infecting anyone from individual users to small businesses to multinational corporations.

It works by encrypting data in computers, preventing users from accessing their own files. To regain access, users must pay for a decryption key, but this doesn’t always guarantee the user will get their data back. In 2016, ransomware attacks cost victims roughly $1 billion, according to the FBI, but that figure accounts for only the reported incidents.

Protecting clients against ransomware and other advanced threats, such as zero-day exploits and drive-by downloads, has become one of MSPs’ greatest responsibilities. Your clients count on you to keep their data secure. With that in mind, here are 10 ways to protect them:

  1. Know the Dangers

You can’t protect clients if you don’t understand the threats, so you must stay informed. The threat landscape evolves constantly, with new threats being released by the minute, and you need to be aware of them to build the proper defenses.

  1. Erase Client Misconceptions

Some clients, especially in small businesses, often believe cybercriminals target only big companies. But the reality is everyone is a target — even individuals — so make sure your clients know it.

  1. Educate Users

Users who aren’t educated about advanced threats are bound to take actions that invite malware attacks. Most ransomware attacks start with phishing, so it’s critical to teach users not to click on email attachments and URLs indiscriminately, especially when they come them from unknown senders.

  1. Keep Systems Up to Date

Some of the most common vulnerabilities attackers exploit result from unpatched systems or software that hasn’t been kept up to date. Any security strategy you implement for clients must include performing patch management and system updates whenever available.

  1. Secure as Many Attack Vectors as Possible

Attackers get into networks through various paths, including web applications, email, remote access, and even devices such as USB sticks. It is absolutely critical to secure all entry, but in the case of USB sticks especially, it’s really hard for IT organizations to protect against a device such as this that was brought in from elsewhere. The fact is you can’t protect against everything. This is why it is so important that you approach security and data protection in a way that doesn’t rely on any single tool but, rather, a combination of technologies, protocols, and practices.

  1. Assess Risks Regularly

Keeping in mind that threats evolve and morph constantly, you should perform risk assessments in client networks on a regular basis. This includes conducting port and vulnerability scans, disabling unused applications and services, checking that all systems are up to date, and making sure all users are following security rules.

  1. Deploy Advanced Security

The evolving nature of the threat landscape requires technology that can identify zero-day, ransomware, and other advanced threats. This means implementing technology such as machine learning to identify those threats, as well as behavior analysis, sandboxing, and threat intelligence collection.

  1. Back Up Regularly

A reliable automated backup and data recovery solution can go a long way to defeating ransomware attacks. A business hit by ransomware can simply restore all its files to resume operations without paying ransom.

  1. 24/7 Monitoring

MSPs know the value of real-time monitoring. An effective security defense requires round-the-clock monitoring to check for anomalies and block attacks by automatically initiating remediation when necessary.

  1. Unified Management

Keeping track of all the moving pieces in a security apparatus without a centralized dashboard is difficult and may even hurt a business’ security posture. All security tools and protocols should be visible and managed from a single pane of glass to simplify administration, minimize risks, and optimize defenses.

The ransomware plague isn’t going away anytime soon, but you can certainly help your clients avoid an attack. Following these steps will keep them safe — and keep you in their good graces.

Chris Crellin is Senior Director of Product Management for Intronis MSP Solutions by Barracuda, a provider of security and data protection solutions for managed services providers, where he is responsible for leading product strategy and management.

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