Cloud Ransomware: Protecting Your Accounts

Saas cloud ransomware concept

Do you remember installing software from discs? Sometimes multiple discs? Entering license keys by typing them out from the stickers that came with the discs? Software As A Service has transformed the business landscape, offering unparalleled convenience, scalability, and efficiency. Gone is the cumbersome task of transferring software from one device to another and safely storing license keys.

Beyond that, collaboration has been revolutionized, allowing individuals to effortlessly work together in the cloud. No more sending files back and forth by email for edits and approvals.

As with most technology, advancement in benefits also  introduces its own set of vulnerabilities. With software and data stored online, the risk of cyberattacks intensifies. One particularly menacing threat that has shifted from targeting endpoint devices to the cloud is ransomware.

Ransomware has been a longstanding menace, infiltrating computers, servers, and mobile devices for years. Recent developments, though, have seen a surge in SaaS ransomware attacks. Between March and May of 2023, the number of SaaS attacks skyrocketed by over 300%. A study by Odaseva conducted in 2022 revealed that a staggering 51% of ransomware attacks were specifically aimed at SaaS data.

Here at TUCU Managed IT Services in Toronto, we work to protect small business teams from cyber threats like ransomware. In this article, we hope to help you better understand some of the trickier aspects of defending against SaaS ransomware and the risks it poses. 

Understanding SaaS Ransomware

SaaS ransomware, or cloud ransomware, has the same objective as traditional ransomware.  To infiltrate and lock files for ransom, or to exfiltrate files and sell them on the dark web while also collecting a ransom from the victim.

The malicious code is tweaked and designed to target cloud-based applications and services.

Prominent platforms like Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, and other cloud-based collaboration tools are prime targets.

Just like with traditional ransomware , cyber attackers exploit vulnerabilities within these cloud-based systems, encrypting valuable data and effectively locking users out of their own accounts.

Subsequently, these cybercriminals hold the data hostage, demanding ransoms, frequently in the form of cryptocurrencies, in exchange for the decryption key. 

The Risks Posed by SaaS Ransomware

SaaS ransomware attackers benefit from a common misconception - the fact that cloud storage and cloud backup are not the same thing.

SaaS ransomware attackers benefit from a common misconception – the fact that cloud storage and cloud backup are not the same thing. And some business owners learn this too late. 

A false sense of security from having “everything backed up in the cloud” can result in a loss of all files in cloud storage. This is why we always recommend to our clients to backup Microsoft 365 accounts. Or Google accounts. Or their NAS. You get the idea. Back up everything. Reduce the risk of SaaS Ransomware such as: 

Data Loss:

The immediate risk is the potential loss of critical data, leading to a grinding halt in productivity.

Reputational Damage:

A successful SaaS ransomware attack can tarnish an organization’s reputation, eroding the trust of customers and partners and negatively impacting its brand image.

Financial Impact:

Paying the ransom does not guarantee data recovery and might incentivize attackers to target you again. Moreover, the cost of downtime and recovery efforts can be substantial.

Defending Against SaaS Ransomware

To mitigate the risks associated with SaaS ransomware, proactive defense measures are needed. Here are some effective strategies to protect your digital assets. You may have heard these before. Now it’s time to apply them all. 

Educate Your Team: Start by raising awareness among your employees about the risks of SaaS ransomware. This includes how it spreads through phishing emails, malicious links, or compromised accounts. Train them to recognize suspicious activities and report any unusual incidents immediately.

Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): MFA is an essential layer of security that requires users to provide an additional form of authentication to access accounts, typically a one-time code sent to their mobile device. This substantially reduces the risk of unauthorized access, even if a hacker compromises login credentials.

Managed Backups: Regularly back up your SaaS data to ensure you retain access to your files in the event of a ransomware attack. Test backup recovery at regular intervals. Or opt for Managed backup services. 

Apply the Principle of Least Privilege: Limit user permissions to the minimum necessary for their roles, adhering to the principle of least privilege. By doing so, you diminish the potential damage that an attacker can inflict if they gain access.

Keep Software Up to Date: Maintain all software, including SaaS applications and operating systems, with the latest security patches installed. Regular updates close known vulnerabilities and bolster your defenses. Most businesses automate this process with RMM tools which are managed by either their own in house IT department or their outsourced IT management team. 

Deploy Advanced Security Solutions: Consider integrating third-party security solutions specifically designed to safeguard SaaS environments. These solutions offer real-time threat detection, data loss prevention, and other advanced security features.

Track Account Activity: Implement robust monitoring of user activity and network traffic. Suspicious behavior can serve as early indicators of an impending attack, such as repeated failed login attempts or access from unfamiliar locations.

Develop an Incident Response Plan: Once you have all the layers of security in place, we recommend you take the time to prepare and  incident response plan that outlines the steps to be taken in the event of a ransomware attack. A well-coordinated response can help you stay calm in the face of chaos, minimize emotional reaction by following your prepared plan, reducing the overall fallout of an attack, and ensuring a faster return to business as usual. 

Here at TUCU, we offer Virtual CIO services to help our clients tackle every aspect of cyber threat prevention and of IT risk management, governance and compliance. 

No matter your size or industry, applying some or all of the above strategies will help keep you safe.  Take some time today to make a stronger defense plan. 

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