In a recent letter addressed to corporate executives and business leaders, the White House emphasized that
bolstering the nation’s resilience against cyberattacks is a main priority for President Joe Biden’s administration.
Specifically, as ransomware attacks continue to rise in both cost and frequency throughout the country, the
federal government is urging businesses to take this evolving cyber threat seriously.
These attacks—which entail a cybercriminal deploying malicious software to compromise a business’s network or
sensitive data and demand a large payment be made before restoring this technology or information—have
quickly become a growing concern across industry lines. In fact, the latest research provides that ransomware
attacks have increased by nearly 150% in the past year alone, with the median ransom payment demand
totaling $178,000 and the average overall loss from such an attack exceeding $1 million.
While the White House has begun working with both domestic and international partners on various strategies to
prevent ransomware attacks, the Biden administration is also encouraging businesses to play their part in
minimizing this rising cyber concern. Rather than viewing ransomware attacks as a minor cyber risk, the federal
government is instructing businesses to view these attacks as a significant exposure—one with the potential to
wreak havoc on their key operations.
As such, the Biden administration is recommending that businesses convene with their senior leadership teams
to review their ransomware exposures and implement these top cybersecurity measures:
- Utilize the federal government’s best practices. Businesses should be sure to incorporate the best
practices outlined in the Biden administration’s Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity. This
includes the following practices:
o Implementing multi-factor (MFT) authentication on all workplace technology
o Leveraging endpoint detection and response tools to identify and deter suspicious network activity
o Encrypting sensitive data to make it less accessible to cybercriminals
o Developing a trusted and skilled workplace cybersecurity team
- Ensure an effective incident response plan. All businesses should have cyber incident response plans in
place. These plans outline proper response protocols and offer steps for minimizing potential damages during
cyberattacks. Businesses should make sure to include several ransomware attack scenarios within their
response plans and routinely test these scenarios with their cybersecurity teams. Based on test results,
businesses should revise their response plans accordingly.
- Conduct frequent data backups. In addition to the federal government’s best practices, businesses should
also prioritize securely backing up all sensitive data, images and other important files on a regular basis.
Conducting such backups can help businesses remain operational and continue to access crucial data in the
event that any workplace technology is compromised in a ransomware attack. Data backups should remain
offline (not connected to key business networks) and be routinely tested.
- Keep critical networks separated. In order to keep ransomware attacks from fully disrupting their operations, businesses should attempt to segment their various workplace networks (e.g., sales production, and corporate) from one another rather than having a unified network. Access to each network should be restricted to those who use them to conduct their job tasks. Networks should only allow internet access as needed. That way, businesses can avoid becoming completely compromised by single-network ransomware attacks and continue performing critical functions.
- Maintain updated security software. To help safeguard workplace technology from ransomware threats,
businesses should equip their systems and devices with adequate security software—such as antivirus
programs, firmware protections and firewalls. Further, this software must be regularly updated to remain
effective. That being said, businesses should also consider utilizing centralized patch management systems to
keep security software on a consistent update schedule.
- Review workplace cyber security protocols. Apart from testing their response plans, businesses should
also regularly assess whether their existing workplace cybersecurity policies, procedures and software are
sufficient in protecting against current risks—such as ransomware threats. In particular, businesses should
consider using a third-party penetration tester to review their ransomware defense tactics and overall
cybersecurity capabilities. Businesses should work with their trusted cybersecurity teams and IT experts to
make workplace adjustments as needed (e.g., updating policies or purchasing new security software).
For additional risk management guidance and insurance solutions email me James Buscarini, PCA at email@example.com or call me at 813.367.7574.