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How to Mitigate Ransomware Attacks with MFA

It just takes on lackadaisical click by an employee to install malware that results in ransomware. Ransomware has gone up 150% since the pandemic, and the U.S. government has deemed ransomware a form of cyber terrorism. That’s why ransomware mitigation is so important, and MFA plays an important role in any ransomware prevention and response strategy.

In this post, we’ll talk about how ransomware attacks work and how you can use MFA to help interrupt an attack. And for more information on protecting against ransomware, be sure to check out our ebook: Protecting Against Ransomware: Zero Trust Security for a Modern Workforce.

What is ransomware?

Simply put, ransomware uses a variety of tactics to target victims predominately through malware infections, usually beginning with email phishing, a stolen password or a brute force attack. A ransomware attack can be achieved by encrypting files or folders, preventing system access to the hard drive, and manipulating the master boot record to interrupt the system’s boot process. Once the malware has been installed and spread, hackers can gain access to sensitive data and backup data, which they encrypt to hold the information hostage. Hackers can either move quickly during a ransomware attack or spend months poking around undetected to understand the network infrastructure before launching an attack.

The data hijack is meant to elicit fear and urgency from victims. Their information is inaccessible until payment (primarily in Bitcoin) can be made. Even then, companies may not get back all their data.

There are many ransomware variants, but for the most part, cryptoransomware dominates the field today. However, due to polymorphism (malware that constantly changes), there are many variants that can avoid detection.

Quote, which reads: Ransomware is big business run by professional crime organizations and cyber gangs.

Ransomware is big business run by professional crime organizations and cyber gangs

Bad actors have established ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS), a fully integrated out-of-the-box solution, allowing anyone to deploy a ransomware attack without knowing how to code. Just like Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products, RaaS gives relatively cheap and easy access to these types of malicious programs for a fee smaller than the cost of creating your own. RaaS providers generally take a 20%-30% cut of the ransomware profit generated. There are now subscription and affiliate models to help complete successful attacks.

Graphic that illustrates seven ways that ransomware is installed. These are: 1) stolen credentials through email or phishing, 2) brute force attacks, 3) unpatched systems and known vulnerabilities, 4) insecure remote access or VPN, 5) third parties that are not secured, 6) visiting and downloading ransomware from a fake website, 7) social media and instant messaging

Mitigating ransomware attacks using MFA

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is very effective at protecting credentials and limiting attackers’ access to company resources. Stealing credentials is the number-one way hackers can gain access to your systems and install ransomware. Protecting credentials is a top priority and MFA is a simple solution offering maximum protection

What’s more, more and more compliance regulations are requiring MFA to combat ransomware. The Department of Justice (DOJ), Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and Homeland Security are moving towards mandatory MFA.​ Electronic Prescriptions for Controlled Substances (EPCS), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS) 4.0 and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are requiring MFA.​

More regulations will require MFA in the future because it is a strong cybersecurity solution that works to mitigate the threat of ransomware attacks.​ It makes sense to get ahead of the upcoming regulations by implementing MFA now. MFA is also a mandatory requirement by insurers to qualify for cyber liability insurance.

Why Duo MFA is better MFA

Duo is easy to use and install, it scales up or down and it works with both on-prem and cloud applications. It's also vendor agnostic and you can deploy quickly to meet compliance regulations fast.

Additionally, here are three reasons why enterprises commonly choose Duo MFA:

1. Duo MFA offers flexible, strong authentication methods to establish trusted access

MFA requires:

  • Something you have, like a device

  • Something you know, like a password

  • Something you are, like a biometric​

Duo MFA takes many forms, including Push, Verified Push, One-Time Password, Soft and Hard Tokens, Biometrics and Passwordless, SMS, Phone Calls, U2F and Wearables. This gives your workers flexible MFA options.

Text that reads: Duo MFA offers flexible strong authentication methods to establish trusted access. The graphic then shows the methods that Duo MFA offers, including: push notifications, push notifications with number matching, one-time passwords, tokens, FIDO2 (WebAuthn) passwordless authentication, SMS, and phone call. Finally, the graphic read: Duo works on-prem with legacy applications and in the cloud and is platform agnostic

2. Duo offers opportunities to update your defenses beyond MFA

Verify users’ identities with secure and flexible multi-factor authentication methods.​ ​Then, deliver a consistent login experience with Duo's Free Single Sign-On, providing centralized access to both on-premises and cloud applications. ​​Finally, gain visibility into every device and maintain a detailed inventory of all devices that access corporate applications.

Graphic that reads: More Duo Features Include. Underneath it are four sections. The first reads:

3. Duo is positioned to help mitigate ransomware attacks on multiple fronts

Preventing ransomware attacks requires overlapping security coverage. Luckily, Duo can help protect organizations from ransomware on three fronts:

  • Preventing ransomware from getting an initial foothold in an environment

  • Preventing or slowing down the spread of ransomware if it manages to infiltrate an organization

  • Protecting critical assets and parts of the organization while an attacker still has a presence in the environment and until full remediation is achieved

Stop compromise before it starts with Duo MFA

Screenshot of the Duo Protecting Against Ransomware ebook

Download our free ebook, Protecting Against Ransomware: Zero Trust Security for a Modern Workforce, today to learn more about how a zero-trust posture and Duo MFA can help lower your risk of ransomware attacks.

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