Securing Your Applications from Ransomware: Solutions and Strategies to Safeguard Your Digital Assets

Vulnerability Management & Remediation to help beat Ransomware!

According to the Information Commissioner’s Office, ransomware attacks on organisations in the UK reached record levels in 2022. It is estimated that more than five million people were affected by serious data breaches involving the use of malware.

700 organisations were targeted by these increasingly sophisticated attacks — many of which had sophisticated security measures in place. Make no mistake; no business is completely safe from such malicious acts.

While you can never fully eliminate the threat, you can take steps to minimise the vulnerabilities within your IT infrastructure. Only a proactive approach to protecting your IT infrastructure from this ever-evolving problem will deliver ongoing protection and peace of mind for you and your partners. And that’s where Workspace IT can help. But more about that later!

Of course, you could go it alone in the fight against ransomware. But if you’re responsible for updating multiple systems several times a year, can you be certain that you’re always on top of the essential updates and patches needed to keep such digital evil at bay?

Let’s take a look at the growing problem of ransomware among the UK’s business community and assess the measures you can take to protect your organisation.

What Is Ransomware?

Lots of people have heard of the term ‘ransomware’, but not everyone knows exactly what it is. And that’s fine. As long as you take proactive measures to protect your IT infrastructure from this evolving threat — with the help of experts — you’re on the right path.

But as we’re discussing the issue, it’s probably a good idea to define it.

Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a user's files or locks them out of their system. The malware then demands a ransom payment for the release of the data or restoration of access.

Different ransomware variants work in different ways. For example, some encrypt critical files — making them inaccessible. Others lock the system’s screen in order to prevent anyone from accessing data.

In effect, your data is held hostage, and the criminals won’t release it until you pay the ransom. Increasingly, the criminals using ransomware ask for payment in untraceable cryptocurrency, which makes tracking wrongdoers down that much harder.

Sadly, a lot of people — in their sheer desperation — pay the ransom. But once those people have demonstrated their willingness to cooperate, criminals can take advantage by asking for more… and more… and more.

You could hand over millions in ransom payments, but you’ll never be guaranteed access to your data. The latest ransomware statistics made for sobering reading!

The best remedy for ransomware is prevention — and that involves taking a proactive approach to identifying and rectifying vulnerabilities within your IT system.

Here at Workspace IT, we offer a range of managed IT services designed to protect organisations from ransomware attacks. As well as fully managed services, we provide individual services such as Application Management, Endpoint Management and ad-hoc support services.

Whether you outsource vulnerability protection or manage it in-house, it’s always a good idea to know what’s at stake. While investing in a managed IT solution might seem like an unnecessary expense, it could be far cheaper than the alternative.

What Are the Implications of Ransomware Attacks?

If your organisation’s crucial data is held for ransom by criminals, the eventual costs could be catastrophic. In fact, in our experience, those costs can stretch far beyond the task of recovering the lost data.

Data Encryption

Ransomware encrypts files, making them inaccessible to the victim. This can lead to the temporary or permanent loss of sensitive or proprietary information.

Operational Disruption

Ransomware can disrupt regular operations, causing extended downtime and financial losses for businesses.

Financial Consequences

The potential impacts include financial losses due to ransom payments, operational disruptions and damage to brand reputation.

Reputational Damage

If you can’t protect your data from ransomware attacks, why should your clients trust you to manage theirs? Once you lose personal data this way, regaining the trust of your target audience can be an almost insurmountable task.

Compromised Data

Customer and financial information may be compromised, leaving individuals vulnerable to identity theft and other cybercrime. Your inability to protect users’ data could leave other businesses and individuals at the mercy of cybercriminals.

Our Approach to Ransomware Protection

As a trusted managed IT solution provider in the UK, we utilise a range of measures and tools to protect our clients from the scourge of ransomware.

Proactive Application Management Can Prevent Ransomware Attacks

Some of the companies we protect against ransomware have hundreds of applications — across thousands of devices and users. Managing every application’s security measures individually would take hundreds of personnel hours every month, and that would mean taking the focus of employees away from essential operational and customer service-related tasks.

But not on our watch.

We use years of experience, extensive expertise and leading technologies such as Microsoft Configuration Manager (SCCM) and Microsoft Intune to manage multiple applications centrally — and without the need for a VPN.

Leaving the vital work of application management to people and manual processes is fraught with the potential for creating and exacerbating vulnerabilities. That’s why we automate and streamline application management. This means you don’t have to worry about Geoff and Inaya updating the applications on their personal computers.

Why is this important? Well, the threat of ransomware is continually evolving. It’s a cat-and-mouse game between IT experts and criminals. Protection from the very latest threats is delivered in the form of updates and patches. And that’s great news! But every second an update is ignored or missed is a second of opportunity for ransomware.

Be honest. How many times have you put off or forgotten about updating your systems, devices and apps after being prompted? It’s only natural. We’re all so busy these days, so it’s easy to forget or miss an update prompt. That’s why a proactive application management strategy is more important than ever.

What Is Microsoft Configuration Manager (SCCM )?

Microsoft Configuration Manager (SCCM) facilitates application management through various features and capabilities that streamline the deployment, updating and monitoring of applications — across multiple users, devices and accounts. Functions such as application deployment, endpoint protection and asset intelligence help us update and manage hundreds of apps across devices around the world.

What Is Microsoft Intune?

Microsoft Intune is a cloud-based service that allows remote administration to manage the deployment, configuration and security of applications from a central location.

Zero-Day Patches Are Vital in the Fight Against Ransomware

So, we’ve discussed the window of opportunity ransomware has to unleash its latest functionality on unprotected apps and devices. The time between a crucial update being launched and it actually being installed is when apps are often at their most vulnerable. For this reason, zero-day patches are essential.

A zero-day patch is a software update released by a vendor on the same day a vulnerability is discovered. This type of patch is crucial because it addresses a security flaw that was previously unknown to the vendor, making it a race against potential attacks.

Zero-day patches are critical in mitigating the risks associated with zero-day vulnerabilities. These patches aim to close the security gap and protect users from potential exploits. Vendors work urgently to develop and release these patches as soon as they become aware of the vulnerability.

Here at Workspace IT, we use tools such as PSADT (PowerShell App Deployment Toolkit) to eliminate human error or inaction. We use this tool to streamline and automate the zero-day patching process.

What Is PSADT?

The PowerShell App Deployment Toolkit (PSADT) is a framework designed to simplify the deployment and management of applications using PowerShell scripts. In human speak, it provides the functionality and tools needed to perform common application deployment tasks. We use it to customise patch deployment processes for our clients.

The Growing Importance of Modern Application Deployment Technologies

We couldn’t protect the IT systems of our clients without the latest and most powerful application deployment technologies. We use them to fully customise and audit the patching process — providing around-the-clock protection from the latest ransomware threats.

No matter how vigilant we are with regard to patching, however, ransomware always has the potential to strike. That’s why we use various tools to identify and manage vulnerabilities, some of the leading tools are briefly mentioned below.

Microsoft Defender Vulnerability Management

Microsoft Defender Vulnerability Management provides asset visibility, intelligent assessments and built-in remediation tools for Windows, macOS and Linux systems. Put simply, we use it to detect, assess, identify and isolate cyber threats through a process of continuous monitoring.

Tenable Vulnerability Management

Tenable Vulnerability Management helps us identify and prioritise vulnerabilities. This powerful tool uses data, machine learning and threat intelligence to flag critical vulnerabilities as and when they arise. We use the Tenable platform to take a risk-based approach to managing known and newly emerging cyber threats.

The InsightVM Vulnerability Tool Rapid 7

This powerful vulnerability management tool automates various aspects of the overall process, from data collection to risk analysis. It also provides us with an active risk score — allowing us to prioritise our threat mitigation efforts.

What’s the Best Way to Minimise Ransomware Vulnerabilities?

How do you currently manage crucial updates and zero-day patches within your organisation? Do you have a solution to identify vulnerabilities? And what’s your current exposure to potential ransomware attacks?

You may already have the answers to these questions, which means you’ve probably already taken preventative measures. Whether that’s the case or not, is controlling this process the best use of your time? And are there potential vulnerabilities you’re missing?

At Workspace IT, we provide fully managed vulnerability packages that deliver a comprehensive and proactive approach to monitoring and protecting against ransomware. If you don’t need that level of security, our application management and Windows patching services could give you peace of mind and a cost-effective way to keep all your apps and devices up to date.

If you’d like to learn more about our approach to securing applications from ever-evolving ransomware threats, get in touch today.

Conquer Cyber Essentials Compliance: From Struggle to Certification

Cyber Essentials Certification - Your path to increased security and simplicity.

If your organisation is responsible for storing and securing the data of individuals and businesses, you’ll need to demonstrate your ability to protect it from cybercriminals and the latest threats.

But how do you do that every time a client asks?

You’ll be pleased to know there’s a way to demonstrate your cybersecurity credentials to clients quickly and easily.

It’s a national certification called Cyber Essentials; and while acquiring the certificate involves a lot of hard work and effort, doing the work now will save your organisation time and costs in the long run.

More importantly, however, you’ll be able to demonstrate your ability to protect your company. And that could be the difference between winning a big contract and losing it to one of your more cybersecurity-proficient competitors.

So, how would you like to enhance your organisation’s reputation, establish trust instantly with prospective customers and become an authority in the latest cybersecurity best practices?

Of course you’d like all those things! Who wouldn’t? So it’s just as well you’ve landed right here at Workspace IT. We offer extensive experience and knowledge of Cyber Essentials — and can help you navigate and implement many of the processes and policies required to work towards attaining your Cyber Essentials Certification.

What Is the Cyber Essentials Initiative?

Before we get started on the benefits of Cyber Essentials — and how to acquire the prestigious certification — we’d best start by telling you exactly what it is.

Cyber Essentials

Cyber Essentials is a UK government-backed and industry-supported scheme designed to enhance the cybersecurity measures taken by organisations that handle data. The scheme provides a framework to protect against common online threats, which includes a set of cybersecurity principles and best practices.

Organisations that have satisfied the qualifying criteria of the Cyber Essentials initiative have successfully demonstrated their ability to secure their systems against the latest cyber threats — by utilising various methods and tools, including:

Patch Management

Keeping software up-to-date to address known vulnerabilities. Overseeing multiple, regularly published security patches across multiple apps and devices requires a clear strategy and advanced tools such as Microsoft Configuration Manager and Microsoft Intune.

Malware Protection

Malware protection involves proactive measures to safeguard systems and devices against the threat of malicious software. Employing robust antivirus and anti-spyware software — alongside secure authentication methods — forms a crucial aspect of this defence strategy. Regularly updating operating systems, using secure networks and staying vigilant against phishing attempts are additional key practices to enhance overall malware protection. This is one of the core managed IT services we offer here at Workspace IT.

Boundary Firewalls and Internet Gateways

Firewalls and Internet Gateways play a crucial role in enhancing the security of devices connected to the internet. They’re often the first line of defence, controlling traffic and preventing unauthorised access. Ensuring secure configurations is vital for safeguarding network infrastructure.

Secure Configuration

Secure configuration is a critical aspect of cybersecurity — encompassing the implementation of robust settings for software, devices and systems in order to minimise vulnerabilities. By adhering to secure configuration practices, organisations for strengthen their defence against potential cyber threats.

Access Control

Access control is a security measure that restricts access to sensitive data by unauthorised personnel. This process ensures that only individuals with the appropriate permissions can access confidential information — providing robust protection against data theft and misuse. This often involves incorporating strong authentication tools such as multi-factor authentication to enhance the verification process and overall security measures.

Vulnerability Monitoring and Management

Taking a proactive approach to the search and remediation of vulnerabilities is always the best way to stay one step ahead of cyber threats.

You’ll be pleased to know that Workspace IT has been helping businesses work towards certification. And we can help you achieve yours, too. That’s because we leverage them every day to protect our clients against the ever-evolving cyber threats that pose a risk to data security, profitability and reputation.

Why Get a Cyber Essentials Certification?

This Cyber Essentials stuff seems like a lot of hard work and hassle, right? Well, the self-assessment process is stringent and comprehensive. And there’s a good chance you’ll need to make some improvements to your existing cybersecurity measures to comply.

However, with the expertise, experience and detailed guidance of Workspace IT, you can ensure that crucial requirements involved in the certification process are covered — making your task simpler and more likely to be successful.

Improved Security Processes

Yes, there are kudos and trust to be gained from Cyber Essentials certification, but it’s important not to lose sight of the ultimate goal. Certification is a process that will help you develop robust security practices — protecting your organisation’s financial interests.

Build Trust with Customers

More and more businesses look for the Cyber Essentials logo when they know a potential contractor will need to manage or store their sensitive information. Yes, you can go to the time and effort of detailing your cybersecurity measures every time you meet with a prospective client, but that’s probably not the best use of your resources.

Cyber Essentials certification often instigates immediate trust with customers, suppliers and partners, as it showcases a proactive approach to protecting data from cyber threats.

Bid for Government Contracts

Certification qualifies businesses to bid for government contracts, as many government departments and agencies require suppliers to have Cyber Essentials accreditation to ensure a minimum standard of cybersecurity measures.

Trusted Register of Suppliers

Being on a trusted register of Cyber Essentials certified suppliers provides businesses with visibility and recognition — potentially leading to new opportunities and partnerships.

Enhanced Protection Against 80% of Common Cyber Attacks

Cyber Essentials certification equips businesses with enhanced protection against common cyber threats.

Compliance and GDPR Readiness

Certification aids businesses in achieving compliance with data protection regulations, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) fostering an organisational culture of data security.

Cyber Insurance Coverage

Many businesses gain access to cyber insurance coverage following Cyber Essentials certification — providing an additional layer of financial protection in the event of a cyber incident.

Increased Efficiency

The principles of Cyber Essentials are often based on having streamlined and automated cybersecurity measures in place. Simply by complying with the initiative’s requirements, you’ll be creating more efficient management processes and, potentially, cutting costs.

What Is the Cyber Essentials Plus Initiative?

If you want to go above and beyond the already stringent requirements of Cyber Essentials, consider becoming Cyber Essentials Plus certified. Compliance offers even stronger protection from cyber threats — and tells the world that you’re serious about protecting the data entrusted to you.

Both certifications share the same foundational requirements — focusing on essential security practices to safeguard against common cyber threats. However, Cyber Essentials Plus involves an additional and more rigorous assessment.

To attain the enhanced certification, organisations undergo a thorough verification process conducted by an external certifying body. This process includes a comprehensive examination of the implemented cybersecurity controls, real-time testing of systems and a more in-depth evaluation of security measures.

Not Sure Where to Start?

There’s no doubt that Cyber Essentials certification offers a wide range of benefits for any business that’s charged with the management and protection of sensitive data. But make no mistake: there’s a lot of hard work involved — even during the self-assessment process.

For a start, you’ll need a range of technologies to effectively manage fundamental processes such as patch management and malware protection. You’ll also need the knowledge and know-how to create the policies needed to secure and maintain your Cyber Essentials accreditation.

The self-assessment process involved is labour-intensive enough — that’s before you start implementing the required policies and processes involved. But fear not! Workspace IT has your back. We’ll help you put many of the measures in place needed to achieve your Cyber Essentials accreditation, so you and your team can remain focused on your core tasks and objectives.

Save time, money and a whole lot of hassle by contacting us today to discuss your road to Cyber Essentials certification. Our managed IT services included patching, vulnerability remediation and automated upgrades — ensuring you’re well on the way to attaining that all-important accreditation.

Start your journey towards certification today!

Cyber Essentials Certified