How to Recover From a Ransomware Attack

The global rise in ransomware attacks means businesses must proactively protect themselves from the impact of these threats, which may include data losses and disruptions in business operations. In 2021, ransomware incidents were reported across 14 sectors within both the private and public domains in the United States, suggesting any organization can be at risk for these attacks.

If you’re wondering how to recover from a ransomware attack, it all starts with developing a solid recovery plan. With a ransomware recovery plan in place, you can have peace of mind knowing your business is protected from the impact of an attack if and when one occurs.

Understanding Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware is a type of malicious software (malware) built to limit the usability or accessibility of a target’s data or systems. When cybercriminals deploy these attacks, they may steal a company’s sensitive data or deny access to systems or data altogether until victims pay them a ransom to return access to these assets. 

Although some ransomware attacks can be easily stopped, some are very advanced and can be more challenging to thwart once cybercriminals infiltrate your systems.

Common ransomware infection vectors and attack techniques include:

  • Social engineering – One of the top ways cybercriminals can access their targets’ systems is through social engineering scams like phishing. Here, the criminals lure unsuspecting individuals into clicking on malicious links in emails, after which they can gain unauthorized access to data or system information. Read about a few different types of phishing attacks you should watch for.
  • Credential abuse – Cybercriminals can also steal victims’ credentials and use them to force their way into secured systems like servers and remote desktops. With the help of ransomware, these attackers can try multiple combinations of access credentials until at least one works to bypass a target’s security systems.
  • Exploitable software vulnerabilities – Ransomware attackers understand that not all systems are up-to-date with the latest security configurations, also known as patches. They take advantage of this flaw and attack unpatched systems, which are more vulnerable to being compromised than patched, secured ones. Brush up on these patch management best practices to boost your IT security.

Awareness of the common channels cybercriminals use to launch ransomware can help you stay ahead of these threats and protect your business from interruptions. 

Steps to Recovering From a Ransomware Attack

So, how can you recover from a ransomware attack? Let’s explore six key steps:

#1 Initial Response and Containment

Upon discovering a ransomware attack, you must respond to it immediately and appropriately. Although the specific response might look different depending on the extent of the attack, isolating affected systems will help prevent the attack from spreading. The last thing you want is for your entire cloud infrastructure to be compromised by a single uncontained download from a ransomware email.

Once you’ve discovered and isolated these systems, it’s critical to notify relevant stakeholders, such as the IT and security teams, about the incident. Keeping all necessary parties in the loop ensures a timely and effective response to the incident.

#2 Assessing the Damage

Characterizing the damage caused by ransomware starts with identifying the scope of the attack and the extent to which encrypted data was compromised. Some types of ransomware are easy to contain with rudimentary cybersecurity resourcing, whereas others require specialized expertise. 

Here, you can determine the type of ransomware cybercriminals used to deploy the attack and its specific characteristics. 

Examples of ransomware include:

  • Locker ransomware, which uses social engineering and credential stuffing to bypass a system’s security and block users from accessing it until they pay a ransom to regain access
  • Crypto ransomware, which leverages malicious links in emails or downloads to encrypt a victim’s files or systems until the victim pays a ransom to decrypt them 

#3 Data Recovery Options

When a ransomware attack occurs, chances are everyone’s thinking about restoring systems and data to their original state. But, that’s only possible if a backup was already established at the time of the attack. When you’re planning to recover data from backups, it’s crucial to regularly back up using the data recovery tools and services that best meet your needs.

Investing in immutable storage options on the cloud ensures your business is not disrupted by data losses, especially if that data is proprietary or may be subject to privacy and security risks. Beyond protecting you from data loss after a ransomware attack, data recovery via immutable storage also safeguards your business from accidental file deletion and ensures data remains authentic throughout its lifetime.

Collaborating with cybersecurity experts like Helixstorm will help you explore decryption possibilities to ensure you remain fully protected in the event of a ransomware attack.

Related reading: Steps for Designing a Foolproof Recovery Plan

#4 Rebuilding and Strengthening Security

If your infrastructure is compromised by a ransomware attack, the logical step after recovering precious data is to rebuild the systems affected by the attack. 

Safely rebuilding these components of your infrastructure requires some forward-thinking to ensure you’re proofed against future attacks, should they occur. Typically, this might involve implementing enhanced security measures to mitigate future attacks from unfolding. 

Another important measure that can help strengthen your company’s long-term security is to patch vulnerabilities you may have detected in the affected systems, which likely requires updating security software to the latest industry-recommended configurations.

#5 Communication and Reporting

Regardless of the scope of the ransomware incident, communicating and reporting its details is essential to achieving full recovery. Doing so involves crafting transparent and accurate communication that can be disseminated to stakeholders, clients, and employees to keep them abreast of the situation as it evolves.

Additionally, you may be required to report the attack to relevant regulatory authorities, especially if sensitive data has been compromised. Certain compliance frameworks like HIPAA expect organizations impacted by ransomware (or any other type of cyber attack) to report the incident within a specified duration.

#6 Preparing for the Future

Ultimately, mitigating future attacks from unfolding comes down to proactively securing your company’s systems and data from risks that could develop into threats. In general, implementing basic hygiene across your organization can stop most cybersecurity risks from turning into high-impact threats.

One of the most effective ways to do so is to conduct employee training and awareness to strengthen your cybersecurity posture. Until the members of your organization are fully aware of the scope of security risks that could develop into ransomware attacks, they aren’t fully empowered to do their part in securing the organization.

Beyond such training, it’s essential to institute policies that enforce practices like reasonable workstation security, helping your workforce to proactively safeguard the organization from a wide range of cybersecurity threats.

Long-Term Ransomware Mitigation with Helixstorm

Ransomware recovery starts with deploying an immediate response to mitigate an attack, evaluating the extent of damage, recovering data, rebuilding your security, communicating about the incident to the necessary parties and preparing for a more secure future. 

Regardless of the type of cyberattack your company experiences, being ill-prepared for recovery can be disastrous. A ransomware attack can result in irrecoverable data losses, significant business disruptions, lawsuits related to data breaches and drops in revenue following reputational damage. 

Mitigating these attacks requires the expertise of cybersecurity experts like Helixstorm, who provide services ranging from fully-managed backups for data recovery to disaster-recovery planning and more. 
To learn more about how Helixstorm can help, request a consultation today.