Ransomware Training

Chris Swagler | December 31st, 2023


According to Verizon’s “2023 Data Breach Investigations Report,” 74% of breaches involve a human factor, whether through negligence, stolen passwords, or falling prey to phishing scams. With the average overall cost of a ransomware breach is $5.13 million, companies must undergo ransomware training to assist employees in recognizing and mitigating the threat. Anyone’s favorite work isn’t cybersecurity awareness training, but if it helps prevent an expensive ransomware attack, it’s worth the time and effort. However, the trainings aren’t one-and-done, check-the-box activities. Ongoing training must contain reminders of the threats and how to deal with them, and because ransomware is a growing problem, training must include new variants and attack methods as they develop.

Importance of Ransomware Training

Employees may be the weakest link in companies, but they’re also the first line of protection against ransomware and other cyber threats. The training should include supplementing existing security awareness training with ransomware-specific instructions or hosting unique ransomware instructional sessions to emphasize the severity of the threat and the role employees play in mitigating it. It’s crucial to emphasize the relevance of humans in prevention to create a strong security culture and a workforce that knows its members are critical parts of the broader cybersecurity puzzle. Employees who identify the attack warning signs and can adopt prevention measures will go a long way toward fostering a security awareness culture and keeping threat actors and malware out of networks. Users who are educated aid companies in avoiding the financial, legal, and reputational repercussions of ransomware attacks.

What the Ransomware Training Needs to Include

Before inundating employees with information, ensure they grasp the fundamentals of ransomware. Given its prominence in the news, this is probably not a new topic for anyone, but make sure to explain what ransomware is and underline the critical role employees play in ransomware prevention, detection, and mitigation. Once employees have become acquainted with the concept of ransomware as part of their regular cybersecurity training, go deeper into the specifics, such as types of ransomware attacks and attack vectors, indicators of a ransomware infection, and how to respond to potential ransomware attacks.

Different Ransomware Attacks and Attack Vectors

There are numerous types of ransomware. Comprehending the differences may not be as critical to employees as comprehending the intended effects of ransomware attacks: data encryption, data loss, data exfiltration, potentially pricey ransom, and time-consuming recovery for victims. It might be useful to understand the numerous types of ransomware users may encounter, even though they all frequently appear under the same pretence. Locker, crypto, scareware, extortionware, wiper malware, double extortion, triple extortion, and ransomware-as-a-service are all types of ransomware. More significantly, employees should understand how threat operators breach networks. This will help employees understand what to look for and how to avoid it. The following are the top three ransomware attack vectors:

  1. Social Engineering and Phishing – Threat operators employ relatively ordinary emails with malicious links or attachments to deceive users into downloading malware unwittingly.
  2. Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and credential abuse – Threat operators get into business systems through RDP. This protocol allows remote access, using legitimate credentials, which are typically obtained through brute-force or credential-stuffing attacks or purchased from the dark web.
  3. Software Vulnerabilities – Threat operators use unpatched or insecure software versions to gain access to companies’ networks.

Drive-by download attacks, malvertising, portable media including USBs, and pirated software can all be used by ransomware to penetrate systems.

Indications of Ransomware Infection

Teach employees to spot the indicators of potential ransomware attacks. These could include receiving additional phishing emails or receiving notifications that someone is attempting to alter their passwords. Some infection signs are clear. Pop-up windows informing users that their devices are locked, for example, speak for themselves. Other indicators, including device performance decline, are less obvious. Unknown files or programs may appear unexpectedly on devices, or their contents may become inaccessible or their file names may become scrambled. Another red flag is the introduction of valid but previously uninstalled software. Malicious actors frequently employ legitimate programs, such as port or network scanners, to determine the best approach to further breach target systems. Inform users that any suspicious emails, files, applications, or device behaviors should be reported to management and the IT department.

Responding to Potential Ransomware Attacks

Companies should instruct their employees to disconnect their devices from the internet if a ransomware attack is suspected. This may aid in preventing malware from propagating to other devices. Assure remote employees that other devices on their home network may be affected as well. Similarly, personnel at the office should be aware that devices connected to corporate networks could be compromised. Companies should advise employees to call their bosses, security teams, IT teams, or other designated incident response teams. Encourage employees to report any suspicious devices or system activities, and any communications from supposedly malicious threat operators. It’s always preferable to be safe than sorry. Even though employees are rarely the primary target of ransomware attacks, teach them what to do if they receive ransom notes from ransomware groups. Inform employees that they must never negotiate or converse with the attackers.

Best Practices in Preventing Ransomware

There are two ways to prevent ransomware. Follow these best practices as an end user:

  • Keep an eye out for phishing and social engineering schemes, such as emails, text messages, social media messaging, and collaborative platform messages. Typos and bad grammar are common indicators of phishing messages.
  • Double-check senders’ email addresses. Never click on links or download files from strangers. Similarly, be wary of texts from unknown phone numbers.
  • Be cautious of malicious URLs. Do not click or copy and paste email URLs. Hovering over links may assist in determining whether it’s real, however, some threat operators also spoof the link hover text, so this isn’t always reliable.
  • Never use portable media, including USBs, if its origin is unclear or if it could have fallen into the hands of the wrong people at any time.
  • Save and back up data regularly.
  • Keep home network software and devices patched and updated.
  • Make use of strong passwords and multifactor authentication.

Enterprises should follow these important ransomware prevention best practices:

  • Maintaining Defense-In-Depth Security Programs – Antimalware and antivirus software, firewalls, online filtering, email security filtering, application, and website allowlisting or denylisting, and other security tools and processes should all be included.
  • Use Advanced Protection Technologies – These can include extended detection and response, managed detection and response, user and entity behavior analytics, and zero-trust security.
  • Update and Patch Regularly – Maintain the patching and updating of all applications, operating systems, devices, services, servers, and infrastructure.
  • Make Backups Frequently – Back up data frequently ensuring access if threat operators lock and encrypt it.

Employees should be trained regularly on ransomware awareness. Running ransomware tabletop exercises is critical for disaster recovery and other IT and security personnel. However, enrolling all personnel in regular training sessions on how to detect and prevent ransomware is one of the best ways to strengthen human defenses. Following best practices for cybersecurity awareness and cyber hygiene, personalize training to employees’ responsibilities in companies, cybersecurity knowledge levels, and learning styles. Ensure that trainings are not only instructive and comprehensive, but also engaging and enjoyable. Additionally, conducting phishing and ransomware simulations could be an important component of a ransomware awareness program, allowing employees to experience an incident and practice responding in a real-world setting. Consider sending newsletters or emails on the latest ransomware news and any pertinent advice between training to keep employees updated on ransomware.

Today, every company must deal with ransomware. Ensuring that employees understand what to do in the event of a ransomware attack can considerably reduce its impact if, or rather when a ransomware attack occurs. At SpearTip, our cybersecurity awareness training educates individuals and organizations about best cybersecurity practices and provides the knowledge and skills necessary to protect their systems and data from cyber threats. Our training covers topics such as password security, phishing scams, social engineering, malware, data protection, and network security. By providing cybersecurity awareness training, organizations, and their employees can better understand the risks of the cyber landscape and develop impactful cybersecurity practices that can reduce the likelihood of cyberattacks. Cybersecurity awareness training is an essential component of any comprehensive strategy to protect sensitive information, such as personal data, financial information, or intellectual property, and to prevent data breaches, system downtime, and other negative consequences that can result from cyberattacks.

If your company is experiencing a breach, call our Security Operations Center at 833.997.7327 to speak directly with an engineer.


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