In recent years, especially in the post-pandemic world, the incidences of cyberattacks have gone up considerably. More importantly, it is not just the big websites that are a target, but even smaller, beginner-level websites are falling prey to various types of online threats. One of the most important ways of mitigating a cyber security risk is knowing how to detect it, what it entails and the ways to keep it at bay.
In this article, we will take a closer look at one of the popular cyber security threats – ransomware attacks and discuss:
- What is a ransomware attack?
- How to detect a ransomware attack?
- How to protect your site from a ransomware attack?
So, let’s get started.
What is a Ransomware Attack?
Ransomware is a type of malware, a malicious piece of code, that’s injected into your network. It usually results in you being denied access to some important data or your entire machine. The idea behind ransomware is, of course, ransom. You pay the ransom, and the hackers give your data back to you.
Ransomware can enter your network in many ways. Untrusted links, unverified attachments, downloads from a spam website — the possibilities are truly endless.
How does Ransomware Malware Work?
Encryption is the name of the game here. When you click on an attachment that carries the ransomware code, it’ll automatically install itself on the server and modify the extensions of all files.
There are many notorious extensions like .crypt, .aaa, .locky, and so on. These change from attack to attack. Once the files have been modified, a unique encryption code is generated. The code created is unique for each system. You need a matching key to decrypt the files, and as you may have guessed, the hackers have the decryption tool.
How to Detect a Ransomware Attack?
Detecting any kind of malware, including ransomware, is extremely tricky as most attackers hide the ransomware files inside authorised software to miss detection. Once infected, most ransomware spread very quickly across the network. Targeted businesses become aware of the attack only after the critical files have been encrypted by the ransomware and the attacker sends the ransom mail.
To detect malware, site owners need to adopt a combination of malware analysis and automated security tools to identify the malware files at the early stages of the attack. But considering the nature and efficiency of most attacks, it becomes difficult to anticipate and detect one until it is too late. But organisations can follow the below steps to reduce the risk and enable early detection:
- Inform and educate your staff
- Regularly monitor your systems
- Create honeypots – fake file repositories to lure the attackers
- Install automated security software with anti-malware and anti-ransomware capabilities
- Install necessary firewalls such as WAF (Web Application Firewall)
- Add a filter on emails
Are Small and Medium-sized Businesses Affected by Ransomware?
Websites, which are small to medium-sized businesses, get attacked with ransomware all the time. In fact, they’re a popular target for hackers. The reasoning is quite simple.
Small and medium-sized businesses have smaller cyber security budgets. This means that overall website protection is poor. Additionally, large corporations are less likely to pay the ransom.
A ransomware attack has more impact on the overall functioning of a small business than it has on a big company. So, instead of targeting corporations and asking for millions, hackers just attack small businesses and ask for hundreds of dollars. They make up for the difference in the sheer volume of attacks.
How to Protect Your Business Website from Ransomware Attacks?
Get your hosting plan from a reputed company
This is one of the most important things that you can do to protect your websites. There are literally hundreds of web hosting providers, and not all of them are reliable.
Leading web hosting companies have a reputation at stake and have thousands of websites hosted on their servers. So they have the budget to protect their servers better. Web hosting companies that prioritise security have additional firewalls, system admins, enterprise-level malware detection programs, and so much more in place.
These additional layers of security do make a difference. So, when you’re looking to buy a web hosting plan, get it from one of the industry leaders.
Update your applications and OS regularly
Updates often contain important security patches that prevent all sorts of cyberattacks. Vulnerabilities are discovered all the time, and patches to the problems are sent via updates. Updating your applications and the operating system adds to the security of your network.
The best way to update all your applications and OS is to have a schedule. Make sure that you routinely update all your applications and the OS if they’ve received updates. Routine and timely updating can protect your website from a lot of risks.
Use cloud-based website protection software
Proactive defence — that’s what your website needs to protect against ransomware attacks. Cloud-based website security software, such as SiteLock Website Security, can help better protect your website. These are usually a collection of tools packaged into a single software for seamless integration of those tools.
They include malware protection, antivirus, daily website scanning to check for vulnerabilities, virus and malware removal tools and so on. Some tools like SiteLock will scan your website every day to ensure that your website has maximum security.
Consider installing a WAF
WAF stands for Web Application Firewall, and it’s a piece of software that guards your server against malicious traffic.
WAFs have a huge database of blacklisted and suspect IP addresses. A WAF essentially sits in front of the server and checks all incoming traffic to see if any incoming requests are from known spam sources. If they are, the requests aren’t allowed to go to the server.
Learn to recognise phishing attacks
Unfortunately, one of the reasons why ransomware is so effective is because a lot of people easily fall for a simple phishing attack.
It could be an email that promises vacations, tax rebates, or even the income tax department. Other times, emails are disguised as those coming from law enforcement agencies like the police or lawyers. However, most of these emails have one thing in common — they’re often too flashy and loud in imagery, designed to draw your attention and specifically persuade you to click on a link.
Ransomware can also be hidden in images and attachments. The fact is that you need to be extremely cautious about opening links when the emails are from an email id that isn’t trusted.
If you haven’t had previous interaction with the particular id before, carefully go through the email id itself. One way to target people is by misspelling popular names hoping that you don’t notice.
And finally, if your website employs people other than you, it falls on you to educate them too. When all the employees are connected to one network, one weak link will compromise the whole network.
Cyber attacks, unfortunately, are on the rise, and there’s no indication of that trend changing. So, the onus is on you to do everything that you can to protect your website. The foundation, again, is your web hosting company.
Partnering with a reliable web hosting company makes a difference in security, especially when you’re choosing a hosting plan where multiple websites share the resources of a single server like Shared Hosting. In these circumstances, a website with weak security can potentially put all other websites at risk.
At HostGator India, we adopt fair usage practices and best-in-class security practices for all our hosting platforms and plans, including the entry-level Shared Hosting plans. We ensure state-of-the-art hardware and software solutions for our servers, which, in turn, secure your websites.