How to Secure Office 365 from Ransomware
Ransomware has become extremely prevalent in the last few years. Malware and viruses have historically been used to steal personal information from unsuspecting users. However, ransomware introduces a kind of malware that not only steals personal information but completely locks down the data as well. It does this by encrypting the data and forcing the user to pay a specified sum for it to be released. As the prominence of cryptocurrency skyrockets, ransomware has fully embraced it as its go-to payment method. The anonymity and quick delivery of crypto provides a perfect system for would-be cybercriminals to grab the cash and disappear without a trace.
Ransomware attacks are especially devastating to businesses since the data they use to run the business is stored on their servers and workstations. The attack completely locks access to data and the encryption on the data prevents any salvage operations after infection. As a result, it is incredibly important for businesses to take extra precautions to secure and protect their networks from malicious actors. It is not only difficult to get data back from cybercriminals using ransomware, but there is also no guarantee that the data would not have already been sold even if the ransom is paid.
Though phishing and malicious websites are the most common vehicles for ransomware, Microsoft Office 365 can now be added to that list. Cybercriminals have begun to exploit the service, spreading ransomware to unsuspecting victims. Though Microsoft works diligently to patch security vulnerabilities as they are discovered, there is always the possibility of something slipping through the cracks. In this article we discuss the most common ways Office 365 can be exploited by ransomware and the steps to mitigate them.
SharePoint is an online collaborative platform that integrates with Office 365. The service uses emails and weblinks to allow users to share, collaborate, and edit documents and files. Unfortunately, cybercriminals have found they can use the service to spread authentic-looking emails that link back to malicious files.
These emails can be dressed up in different ways, but most often as an email from a coworker or employee sharing a seemingly innocent document. The document itself may then have a link to a malicious website or file that can then install the ransomware onto the workstation.
Typically email phishing can be controlled through email filtering and email security gateways (SEGs). However, SharePoint phishing has found a way to bypass Microsoft’s own SEGs. Thankfully, using SEGs will prevent the majority of phishing emails from getting into an organization’s network, but it pays to prepare for the few that do get through. Ensuring employees are adequately trained and prepared for these phishing attempts can shore up security even more. Employees should be trained on how to identify phishing emails as well as the steps to take if one is discovered.
Exchange Server Vulnerabilities
Setting up filters and gateways on servers can certainly pay off in preventing malicious activity, but what if the server itself is hacked? That’s exactly what happened when a group of hackers exploited four vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s Exchange Server software, which affected over 60,000 organizations. These types of attacks are difficult to prevent because the problem resides outside the organization’s control.
Microsoft takes security very seriously and proactively provides security patches as soon as a vulnerability is discovered. As a result, it’s extremely important that business organizations endeavor to keep their software and hardware up to date. Workstations and servers should be updated immediately to ensure that any security vulnerabilities are closed as soon as a patch is available.
Additionally, in the case that a security breach does happen, it’s imperative that the issue is isolated and prevented from spreading through the network. As discussed earlier, training employees to identify potential threats is extremely beneficial to preventing the proliferation of malware. When an employee spots a possible threat, IT needs to be alerted immediately to ensure the issue can be quickly resolved without causing damage.
Effectively Guarding Against Ransomware
Ransomware is a very real threat in today’s increasingly interconnected world. The internet is one of the most powerful business tools ever created, but it certainly comes with its downsides. Taking precautions to safeguard against ransomware can prevent events like the WannaCry ransomware attack that locked out a third of UK hospital trusts and cost an estimated $110 million dollars in damage. The ransomware took advantage of a vulnerability in the Windows operating system and used it to get inside and lock out thousands of computers.
Ensuring software and hardware are kept up to date is critical to safeguarding against similar threats. However, the most important step to thwarting malicious actors who seek to spread ransomware is user education. Providing training to help employees know what to look for and avoid, as well as the steps to take during a breach, is essential to effectively guarding against ransomware.
Businesses looking for help or advice in securing their network and safeguarding their data will benefit from working with IT experts like Outsource IT. Outsource IT brings years of experience and in-depth knowledge in IT security best practices to ensure business organizations stay safe and secure. Contact an Outsource IT account manager to learn how we can help.