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Ransomware Information from Cyber Division

Prevention Considerations

  • Focus on awareness and training. Since end-users are targeted, employees should be made aware of the threat of ransomware, how it is delivered, and trained on information security principles and techniques.
  • Patch the operating system, software, and firmware on devices. All endpoints should be patched as vulnerabilities are discovered. This can be made easier through a centralized patch management system.
  • Ensure anti-virus and anti-malware solutions are set to automatically update and regular scans are conducted.
  • Manage the use of privileged accounts. Implement the principle of least privilege. No users should be assigned administrative access unless absolutely needed. Those with a need for administrator accounts should only use them when necessary, and they should operate with standard user accounts at all other times.
  • Implement least privilege for file, directory, and network share permissions. If a user only needs to read specific files, they should not have write access to those files, directories, or shares. Configure access controls with least privilege in mind.
  • Disable macro scripts from office files transmitted via e-mail. Consider using Office Viewer software to open Microsoft Office files transmitted via e-mail instead of full office suite applications.
  • Implement software restriction policies (SRP) or other controls to prevent the execution of programs in common ransomware locations, such as temporary folders supporting popular Internet browsers, or compression/decompression programs, including those located in the AppData/LocalAppData folder.

Business Continuity Considerations

  • Regularly back up data and verify its integrity.
  • Secure your backups. Ensure backups are not connected to the computers and networks they are backing up. Examples might be securing backups in the cloud or physically storing them offline. Some instances of ransomware have the capability to lock cloud-based backups when systems continuously back up in realtime, also known as persistent synchronization. Backups are critical in ransomware; if you are infected, backups may be the best way to recover your critical data.

Other Considerations

Some other considerations that can be highly dependent on organizational budget and system configuration include:

  • Implement application whitelisting. Only allow systems to execute programs known and permitted by a security policy.
  • Use virtualized environments to execute operating system environments or specific programs.
  • Categorize data based on organizational value, and implement physical/logical separation of networks and data for different organization units. For example, sensitive research or business data should not reside on the same server and/or network segment as an organization's e-mail environment.
  • Require user interaction for end-user applications communicating with websites uncategorized by the network proxy or firewall. Examples include requiring users to type information or enter a password when their system communicates with a website uncategorized by the proxy or firewall.

The Ransom

The FBI does not advocate paying a ransom to an adversary. Paying a ransom does not guarantee an organization will regain access to their data. In fact, some individuals or organizations were never provided with decryption keys after paying a ransom. Paying a ransom emboldens the adversary to target other organizations for profit and provides a lucrative environment for other criminals to become involved. Finally, by paying a ransom, an organization is funding illicit activity associated with criminal groups, including potential terrorist groups, who likely will continue to target an organization. While the FBI does not advocate paying a ransom, there is an understanding that when businesses are faced with an inability to function, executives will evaluate all options to protect their shareholders, employees, and customers.

In all cases, the FBI encourages organizations to contact their local FBI Cyber Task Force immediately to report a ransomware event and request assistance. The FBI works with federal, state, local, and international partners to pursue cyber actors globally and assist victims of cybercrime. Victims are also encouraged to report cyber incidents to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Contact the Cyber Task Forces at www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field and the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov

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