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    How the White House Urges Corporate Executives and Business Leaders to Protect Against Ransomware

    Earlier this summer, Anne Neuberger, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology addressed a letter to corporate executive and business leaders urging steps to be taken to protect against ransomware threats. 

    Ransomware attacks and threats have significantly increased in volume as well as size. It can not be reiterated enough how increasingly important it is for your business to have cybersecurity protocols in place, especially to defend against cyber attacks such as ransomware. Ransomware has reached a point that the Federal Government is taking steps to disrupt and deter ransomware actors. Per the letter from the White House, these efforts from the Federal Government include: disrupting ransomware networks, working with international partners to hold countries that harbor ransomware actors accountable, developing cohesive and consistent policies towards ransom payments and enabling rapid tracing and interdiction of virtual currency proceeds. 

    The importance of participation in cybersecurity efforts in the private sector is also addressed. It is imperative that companies understand that absolutely no one is immune to cyberattacks and malicious actors. Companies of all industries, sizes, and locations are targeted. Not protecting your company could cost you more than you could ever even imagine, especially when it comes to ransomware. The importance of implementing and reviewing cybersecurity policy and protocol is immediate and leaders are encouraged to convene swiftly to ensure safety and protection. 

    The U.S. Government’s recommended best practices: 

    Implement the five best practices from the President’s Executive Order: President Biden’s Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity Executive Order is being implemented with speed and urgency across the Federal Government. We’re leading by example because these five best practices are high impact: multifactor authentication (because passwords alone are routinely compromised), endpoint detection & response (to hunt for malicious activity on a network and block it), encryption (so if data is stolen, it is unusable) and a skilled, empowered security team (to patch rapidly, and share and incorporate threat information in your defenses). These practices will significantly reduce the risk of a successful cyberattack.  

    Backup your data, system images, and configurations, regularly test them, and keep the backups offline: Ensure that backups are regularly tested and that they are not connected to the business network, as many ransomware variants try to find and encrypt or delete accessible backups. Maintaining current backups offline is critical because if your network data is encrypted with ransomware, your organization can restore systems.  

    Update and patch systems promptly: This includes maintaining the security of operating systems, applications, and firmware, in a timely manner. Consider using a centralized patch management system; use a risk-based assessment strategy to drive your patch management program.  

    Test your incident response plan: There’s nothing that shows the gaps in plans more than testing them. Run through some core questions and use those to build an incident response plan: Are you able to sustain business operations without access to certain systems? For how long? Would you turn off your manufacturing operations if business systems such as billing were offline?  

    Check Your Security Team’s Work: Use a 3rd party pen tester to test the security of your systems and your ability to defend against a sophisticated attack. Many ransomware criminals are aggressive and sophisticated and will find the equivalent of unlocked doors.  

    Segment your networks: There’s been a recent shift in ransomware attacks – from stealing data to disrupting operations. It’s critically important that your corporate business functions and manufacturing/production operations are separated and that you carefully filter and limit internet access to operational networks, identify links between these networks and develop workarounds or manual controls to ensure ICS networks can be isolated and continue operating if your corporate network is compromised. Regularly test contingency plans such as manual controls so that safety critical functions can be maintained during a cyber incident. 

    The Federal Government continues to work with countries around the world to provide accountability for ransomware actors and the countries that hold them. Ransomware attacks disrupt and tear down organizations large and small, not just in the United States, but all across the world. The U.S. Government continuously reiterates that ransomware is not something to take lightly and not something that it can fight on its own. With the help of the private sector and global leaders, malicious actors such as ransomware actors can be held accountable and attacks can be prevented.  

    It is crucial that you take the proper steps protect your business itself from the damages that can be caused by cyberattacks. Protect your business, your employees, and your customers. Implement these best practices to put up a fight against ransomware and to discourage other ransomware actors.

    If you need any direction or assistance with implementation of these initiatives, ThreatAdvice is here to help.