What to Do After a Ransomware Attack

Wondering what to do after a ransomware attack? If you’ve suffered a ransomware incident, time is of the essence. You’ll need to act quickly to restore the continuity of your business with minimal disruption to your employees and customers.

A ransomware infection can be devastating for its victims, causing them to suffer weeks, months, or even years of data loss. The good news is you can avoid that risk by acting swiftly. Below, we’ll discuss everything you need to know, from what to do after a ransomware attack to how to prevent these attacks in the first place.

What is a Ransomware Attack?

A ransomware attack is a cyber security incident in which the attacker installs malicious software on a computer or network, uses it to encrypt sensitive or valuable data, and then demands a ransom to restore access. Ransomware uses a highly sophisticated encryption algorithm, making the contents nearly impossible to unlock without the corresponding decryption key.

Ransomware attackers often use social engineering techniques to trick users into installing malicious applications on their devices. Once this malware is present within the network, it uses lateral movement to spread itself to other endpoints and systems, maximizing its potential damage.

There are a number of ransomware strains that savvy IT security professionals should know about. The types of ransomware include:

  • CryptoLocker: This is one of the first ransomware attacks to achieve widespread notoriety. The CryptoLocker was estimated to have infected more than 250,000 computers in 2013 and 2014.
  • WannaCry: The WannaCry attack, launched in 2017, was estimated to infect more than 200,000 computers and inflict at least hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. The attack affected a wide range of companies, hospitals, and universities, and it is suspected to be the action of North Korea.
  • Petya and NotPetya: First discovered in 2016, Petya (and the related variant NotPetya) targets Windows computers, seeking a ransom in BitCoin. A massive cyberattack of the NotPetya strain in 2017 was believed to target Ukrainian companies, with the perpetrators suspected to be linked to the Russian military.

What Steps Should You Take After a Ransomware Attack?

In the immediate aftermath, knowing how to fix ransomware attacks is crucial. While simple ransomware attack fixes may not exist, you can use several valuable techniques to mitigate the incident’s effects.

Below are the most important ransomware steps to follow:

  • Contain the problem. As soon as the presence of ransomware has been detected, you must contain the issue to prevent further spread. This involves taking all the infected systems offline and disconnecting them from your enterprise network.
  • Identify the ransomware. Knowing the ransomware strain can be invaluable information. You can try identifying it with an identification tool such as ID Ransomware, which tries to detect the malware’s unique fingerprint.
  • Try to decrypt the files. If the ransomware strain is known, you may be able to unlock an encrypted file using decryption tools like No More Ransom. These websites store the encryption keys for many versions of ransomware, allowing you to unlock your files without paying.
  • Decide to pay. Although paying the ransom can seem like a tempting option for desperate businesses, it should only be a last resort—and only if you can afford to lose all the money you spend. One study found that only 19 percent of companies who pay a ransom get access to all their files back. (Keep Reading: How to determine if paying ransomware is the right decision)
  • Contact law enforcement. Ransomware is a serious crime and should be immediately reported to the appropriate authorities. This may include your local police department or the FBI’s Cyber Division.

What are the Best Ways to Prevent Ransomware Attacks?

Effectively handling ransomware incidents is one thing. Blocking ransomware attacks in the first place is another.

Below are the most valuable prevention measures for ransomware:

  • XDR platforms: XDR (extended detection and response) software is the first line of defense against ransomware. These platforms use threat intelligence and behavioral analysis to identify known ransomware threats and monitor your network for suspicious activity in real-time.
  • Training and education: Ransomware often enters a network when users are fooled into downloading an attachment or visiting a website. Training and education programs help your employees avoid falling prey to ransomware infection.
  • Backups and disaster recovery: Keeping regular cloud-based backups of your mission-critical files and applications ensures that any ransomware attack will have a limited impact. Even if your network is infected, you can quickly restore files from backup, losing only a small amount of work in the worst case.

How to Defend Against Ransomware

Knowing what to do during a ransomware attack (and after) is essential. Even better, however, is detecting ransomware as soon as it enters your network—before it can start wreaking havoc.

That’s why more and more companies are using an XDR (extended detection and response) system for their cyber security needs. The UncommonX unified BOSS XDR platform offers cutting-edge IT security insights, helping companies do everything from protecting against threats to responding and recovering after an incident.

Want to learn more about how UncommonX’s XDR platform can keep you safe from ransomware and other threats? Get in touch with our team of IT security experts today to schedule a ransomware readiness assessment and a demo of the BOSS XDR solution.

You can also read our exclusive white paper Combatting the growing threat and costs of ransomware attacks.

Want to keep learning? Check out the differences between the following security solutions:

  • EDR vs. XDR
  • MDR vs. XDR
  • XDR vs. SIEM

About the Author

At the center of our U.S.-based Security Operations Center (SOC) is a distinctly skilled team of security architects, engineers, analysts, and data scientists. Each is an expert in their respective field and dedicated to protecting our customers 24/7.