A team of government agents executing ransomware protection methods

How Can State and Local Municipalities Protect Themselves from Ransomware?

This post was last updated on November 3rd, 2021 at 09:54 am

The extent of ransomware attacks among government entities was especially revealed when the world, particularly the US, was countering the pandemic. It’s now clear that cybercriminals might continue halting delivery of essential services unless state and local municipalities do something to end the ransomware madness, which is a pandemic by itself.

For a clear perspective, an FBI report shows about $25 million were lost by US government-based organizations in 2020 in terms of downtime expenses and recovery costs. Remember, only 3 in 1000 attacks are reported to the FBI, meaning this figure is just the tip of the iceberg.

What makes ransomware malware targeting government entities disastrous is the obvious critical role these agencies have. They help provide essential services to the public, including health care, water & sewerage, education, transport, and other vital amenities. This translates to mean that threats to them affect many people, either directly or indirectly. For instance, there were 79 ransomware attacks targeted at federal, state, and local governments last year. While this is a 35% drop from 2019, 71 million US citizens were potentially affected, considering that the attacks hit almost 2,400 government facilities. Perhaps, this is what led the IST Ransomware Task Force to note that “Ransomware attacks impacting local governments are catastrophic not only for the organizations themselves, but also for the constituents they serve.”

Nevertheless, all is not lost; government-affiliated facilities and organizations can up their game towards ransomware protection methods to avert being hit in the first place. In addition, employing informed response & recovery plans can reduce downtime and retrieval costs in the event of a ransomware attack.

Cyber Hygiene and Antivirus are a Must

Just like bodily hygiene is essential to protect one from diseases, so is cyber hygiene important in ransomware protection for organizations. This includes maintaining the best cybersecurity practices and proactive virus and malware scans, detection, and removal. On the same note, government agencies need to adhere to these security practices to reduce the chances of getting besieged by criminals who want easy money through the hefty ransoms they demand. Some of these practices include:

  • Cybersecurity risk assessment: Federal, state, and local governments should conduct a comprehensive threat assessment to reveal vulnerabilities and corresponding measures they can take to avoid criminals taking advantage of them. With Infocyte assess, organizations can take advantage of live volatile memory analysis that shows past, current, and future events.
  • Patching: Outdated software or existing vulnerabilities in the application might be fertile grounds for malware attacks. One example is the Kaseya VSA bug, which has since been patched. Patching helps prevent Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs).
  • Up-to-date anti-malware/antivirus: Your first line of defense is having a reputable antivirus program that proactively and automatically scans systems and networks on a regular schedule for any malware software.
  • Remote device encryption: While it’s good to have encryption in the workplace, failing to implement data encryption for devices such as mobiles and PCs accessing the government systems and network remotely will still leave you susceptible — now that work from home and hybrid workplace is the “new normal.”
  • Access protection: This ransomware protection hygiene includes network firewalls, router protection, strong password policy, and multi-factor authentication.
  • Education: It’s also important for workers in the government sector to undergo cybersecurity training. This is important for ransomware protection because workers need to learn how to detect unauthorized access attempts or avoid falling victims to phishing scams (e.g., phishing emails) and other threats.

Managed Detection and Response Helps by Catching Attacks as they Happen

Endpoint Detection and Response platforms scan behaviors or events on your endpoints and use an advanced algorithm to generate an automated analysis of the systems and possible response strategies. When something fishy pops up, the response is sent to a security team for human investigation. This factor gives your security team an advantage of using more than just indicators of compromise (IoCs) to protect your systems, but few teams have the bandwidth to monitor alerts 24×7. Nights and weekends tend to be popular attack times, for this exact reason. This is where MDR comes in.

Managed Detention and Response closes the loop of depending only on your internal staff to react to security alerts. By engaging with an MDR provider who offers 24/7/365 support, you can respond to after-hours threats much more quickly.

MDR works in a 3-step process — Detect > Respond > Recover

1. Detect

Ransomware attacks are evolving, and so is the need to use more sophisticated tools to detect them. Attackers nowadays prefer sitting in a quiet-and-wait mode on the network, looking for any vulnerability or chance to strike. Cybercriminals have begun using cracked versions of Cobalt Strike, a widely used software globally by security teams for proactive testing and detection. Finding the right MDR provider like Infocyte ensures you go beyond by applying detection measures such as live volatile memory analysis to detect fileless malware.

2. Respond

Once a threat has been detected the Security Operations Center, or SOC, will need to respond to it appropriately. The Infocyte EDR platform makes this easy with its click-to-respond feature, but opting for managed detection and response provides even more support. An experienced analyst will quarantine the threat if that is the appropriate next step to mitigate the problem.

3. Recover

The goal of MDR is to reduce downtime without ignoring the fact that careful measures must be put in place before restoring normal operations. A good remediation process should ensure restoration of systems to the pre-threat state, ejection of all malware and intruders, and military-grade defense against persistent threats.

Infocyte’s instant global remediation and agentless threat assessment allow you to respond to threats within minutes, not days or weeks. We also ensure that there is post-incident verification to detect any loophole the attacker might have created in the network or system to carry out persistent attacks once the operations are up and running again.

States, local municipalities, and other government institutions can use MDR to prevent and respond to ransomware attacks threatening to halt public services. With more than 70% of state CIOs stating that ransomware is one of their top concerns, the governments can take advantage of affordable MDR services instead of trying to build full-fledged in-house cybersecurity teams with their limited IT budget

Infocyte MDR uses advanced detection and response techniques to automatically distinguish incoming endpoint data for any malicious activity or behaviors. And take appropriate action in case of abnormality by sending alerts and masking the system from any further possible exploitation.

Where are You Outsourcing MDR Services for Ransomware Prevention?

MDR is crucial in protecting state and local agencies from ransomware. However, choosing the best-managed detection and response vendor is vital to ensuring that your organization’s cybersecurity is not in jeopardy.

Our MDR works by remotely monitoring, detecting, and responding to threats such as ransomware attacks. We use advanced live forensic analysis, real-time threat alerts, and fast incident response to give your security team a straightforward way to isolate any affected system, analyze unknown threats, and reduce downtime. Protect from ransomware by scheduling a demo with our sales team.