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Increased Ransomware Awareness Does Not Reduce the Risk

This guest blog was contributed by Devin Partida is the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.com. Devin's work has been featured on Security Boulevard, AT&T Cybersecurity and Hackernoon.

Devin Partida is the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.com

Ransomware is one of the most pervasive and dangerous threats facing security professionals today. Awareness around the issue has surged as a result. While awareness is important, businesses must be careful that their ransomware protection doesn’t end there.


Recognizing that ransomware is a threat and implementing proper defenses against that threat are two separate — albeit related — things. This recognition is a crucial first step, but awareness alone will not stop ransomware attacks. Businesses and their security leaders must embrace a comprehensive anti-ransomware strategy to stay safe.


The Shortcomings of Awareness

Many organizations may feel safe after increasing ransomware awareness because most of these attacks start as phishing attempts. However, even seasoned, knowledgeable employees with extensive anti-phishing training can still make mistakes. The rise of generative AI heightens this threat. One test found that more security professionals clicked AI-generated links than human-written phishing messages.


Recognizing and avoiding every social engineering attempt is virtually impossible, regardless of how aware insiders are of the threat. Even if employees could spot every attack, ransomware would still be dangerous. Cybercriminals adapt quickly, so if phishing were no longer effective, they’d switch to a new delivery method.


Resting on awareness alone could lead businesses to become complacent. When that happens, they may fail to recognize new ransomware trends that have adapted to and can pass their current defenses.

How to Take Ransomware Security Further

The moral of the story is not that ransomware awareness isn’t important. It is, but it’s also not a complete solution. Organizations must also implement other practical methods, including technical defenses and recovery strategies, to reduce the risk of ransomware.

Email Security

More than half of all ransomware infections stem from spam or phishing emails. Employee training is a critical part of addressing email security, but it’s important to go further. Businesses should also implement advanced email security software to fill the gaps where human errors may still occur.


Built-in spam filters may be insufficient to stop all phishing messages, so teams should use additional email-filtering software to prevent employees from seeing dangerous messages in the first place. Automatic scanning tools are also helpful. Teams should review these solutions to ensure they scan attachments and links, not just the text itself.

Zero-Trust Architecture


Zero-trust security is another critical piece of the ransomware prevention puzzle. As networks feature more and more endpoints, users and third parties, lateral movement and perimeter security become increasingly likely and dangerous. Restricting permissions so that each user, app and device can only access what it needs will limit ransomware’s movement and effectively shrink attack surfaces.


It’s important to apply this architecture across an entire organization, too. Roughly half of the 35% of organizations claiming to have fully deployed zero-trust security have not implemented it across every risk area. In light of this oversight, businesses should frequently review their security posture to find and close gaps.

Detection and Response

It’s also important to recognize that even the most advanced preventive measures can fail. Consequently, organizations also must be able to detect and contain ransomware attacks as quickly as possible.


Ransomware can take effect within minutes, so manual network monitoring is insufficient. Security teams should deploy automated continuous monitoring solutions to find and isolate suspicious behavior instead. Regularly updating this software to ensure it has the latest information on new attack trends and ransomware strains is also critical.

Recovery Solutions

Similarly, ransomware is too damaging and evolves too quickly to assume a successful attack will never happen. Businesses need a detailed and well-rehearsed recovery plan to minimize the damage in a worst-case scenario.


Recovery strategies should include a redundant backup system for all mission-critical or sensitive data, communication protocols and a list of each party’s responsibilities. After creating these plans, businesses should rehearse them so everyone understands their role. Decryption services will also help, but teams must recognize that not all ransomware families have decryptors, so recovery solutions can’t rely on them.

Regular Review

The final step in comprehensive ransomware protection is enabling ongoing improvements. As more organizations implement more effective defenses, cybercriminals will adopt new strategies and technologies in response. Regular review will help businesses keep pace with these developments and avoid complacency.


Most cybersecurity professionals penetration test once a year, but as cybercrime grows, more frequent testing may be necessary. In addition to pen testing, companies should observe outside cybercrime trends to see if any emerging threats deserve attention. As IT teams make adjustments, they should re-train employees on best practices to ensure company-wide security improvements.

Awareness Is Only the First Step


Ransomware awareness is an essential part of protection, but it’s just that — one part. Learning about a threat helps companies prepare, but it’s not the same as actually defending against it. Even if businesses have implemented regular anti-phishing training into their workflows, ransomware requires additional protection.


Comprehensive ransomware protection involves awareness, training, technical preventive measures, detection and response methods, recovery strategies and regular audits. Addressing all of those areas may seem intimidating, but it’s far less worrisome than a successful ransomware attack.


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