Ransomware Recovery Guide: Top Recovery Methods and Tips

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When it comes to ransomware, you can never be too prepared. While that obviously means protecting your data before a cyber attack strikes you, it also means knowing what to do when you experience an attack. The recovery process for a ransomware attack (or any cyberattack) will go much more smoothly if the necessary steps are taken beforehand.

This guide will help you plan ahead against a ransomware attack and recover effectively after the event.

7 ransomware recovery best practices

There are several best practices for recovering from a ransomware attack, depending on the type of ransomware, the extent of the damage, and the resources available. Here are some of the essential ransomware recovery best practices to remember. 

1. Establish an incident response plan

A ransomware incident response plan and disaster recovery plan should be in place ahead of time. Such a plan can guide your efforts to detect and respond to a ransomware attack and outline the necessary steps for data backup and restoration. 

It’s essential to have the resources to quickly detect a potential ransomware attack, including appropriate monitoring tools, system log analysis, security awareness training for employees, and network segmentation or isolation of critical systems.

2. Find the trigger file(s)

As part of your investigation, look for unusual triggers within the environment that could have led to the ransomware attack. Common triggers include users clicking on malicious links in emails or websites, software vulnerabilities being exploited, or open network ports being used to gain access. 

This process can be difficult, but it’s important to attempt to pinpoint the exact file to recover the system and ensure that the same attack doesn’t happen again.

3. Determine the attack style

The type of ransomware and how it was deployed will determine the best recovery plan. For example, encryption-based ransomware requires a different approach than those that simply delete or corrupt files. Knowing the attack style can help to determine the right recovery plan.

4. Disconnect all devices

It’s essential to disconnect all devices from the network to prevent the ransomware from spreading any further. This includes all computers, laptops, phones, tablets, and any other device connected to the network. 

By disconnecting all devices, you can limit the damage done and protect other devices from being infected. It will also help ensure that any backups do not become infected.

5. Use data backups

Data is essential to keep your business healthy: it’s the lifeblood of any organization. By backing up data regularly, organizations can restore their data to its pre-attack state quickly and easily. 

The 3-2-1 backup technique, an industry-recommended standard, involves creating three copies of data, storing two copies on different storage media, and keeping one copy in an offsite location. This allows organizations to access a backup in the event of a ransomware attack, preventing data loss. 

6. Consider a phased recovery

A phased recovery approach is a best practice to ensure data is recovered correctly and efficiently. This approach should start with restoring the most essential and critical systems first, followed by data and applications that are less critical and can wait. Document this process and conduct tests to recover all systems correctly and securely.

7. Cyber insurance

Cyber insurance can help cover the costs of a ransomware attack, such as data recovery, legal, and other associated fees. In addition to financial protection, cyber insurance can provide access to experienced professionals who can help mitigate the risk and damage caused by a ransomware attack. 

5 methods to recover from ransomware

A successful ransomware attack can devastate businesses and individuals relying on their data to function. Data from the U.S. Treasury Department shows that FinCEN got 1,489 ransomware-related filings worth about $1.2 billion in 2021, compared to $416 million in 2020. That’s about a 188% increase!

Here are five ways to recover from ransomware without paying the ransom.

1. Disconnect and isolate infected systems

Disconnect infected systems from the network immediately upon detecting an attack to minimize further damage. Once isolated, forensic analysis can begin, determining what kind of ransomware was used, enabling law enforcement agents to take appropriate action, and potentially identifying the culprits behind the attack.

2. Report the attack to law enforcement

A ransomware attack should always be reported to law enforcement. It’s a crime, and law enforcement agencies can help you. They may have access to tools or information to help you recover without paying the demanded ransom. Reporting these attacks is essential as they allow authorities to investigate the incident, identify patterns, locate suspects, and develop better tools to prevent future attacks. 

When reporting an attack, provide as much information as possible, such as the ransom amount and payment method (e.g., Bitcoin) demanded by the perpetrators. Also, contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) with details about the incident, including any communications with the attackers. You can also report to cybersecurity organizations like CERT/CC or FS-ISAC. Your report can help these organizations identify new threats and support other victims of cybercrime.

3. Double-check your backups

After containing the ransomware attack, you may be eager to restore lost files and data to get back up and running again. Before you do that, you must ensure that your backup system isn’t infected too. Your backup could be stored offsite and still have an element of malware. Some ransomware could hibernate in systems for up to six months, waiting to be activated. Before restoring your backup, scan to confirm your backup system is not infected. 

4. Use ransomware decryption tools

Some security companies and government agencies provide free decryption tools for certain ransomware strains. These tools can decrypt files encrypted by specific versions of some of the most common ransomware families, including WannaCry and Locky. Search online for tools designed for the strain of ransomware that affected your systems.  

5. Contact a professional

Some organizations and companies specialize in helping ransomware victims recover their data. Before engaging professional services, research the company thoroughly and ensure they have experience dealing with ransomware incidents. Look for reviews and feedback from other victims of similar attacks. 

Organizations like No More Ransom are also available to assist victims of ransomware attacks for free. They partner with Europol EC3, Politie, Avast, Kaspersky, McAfee, and other organizations to provide tools and resources for users affected by ransomware.

Ransomware recovery mistakes to avoid

While your first impulse after a ransomware attack might understandably be to get your data back as quickly as possible and by any means necessary, it’s important not to panic. Making hasty and uncalculated decisions can cause further damage instead of helping. 

From being underprepared and underestimating the attack to paying the requested ransom, here are some of the biggest ransomware recovery mistakes to avoid, both before and after the attack.

Before the attack

The biggest mistakes companies make before they are attacked are not backing up their data, and not investing in appropriate cybersecurity tools to protect themselves.

  • Irregular data backup: Regular backups can help you recover from a ransomware attack quickly and easily. If you don’t have a regular backup strategy, you risk losing all of your data if you are hit with a ransomware attack.
  • Not investing in cyber security tools: Investing in cyber security tools is essential for protecting your data from ransomware attacks. Having the right tools in place can help prevent an attack in the first place or at least minimize its impact if it happens. Cyber insurance can also benefit businesses that need to cover the cost of recovering from a ransomware attack.

During and after the attack

It’s easy to act carelessly during the chaos of a ransomware attack, but it’s important to keep a level head and avoid worsening the problem by, for example, underestimating the damage, failing to disconnect from the network, or paying the ransom.

  • Paying the ransom: One of the biggest mistakes you can make when dealing with a ransomware attack is to pay the ransom. Even if you pay the ransom, there is no guarantee that you will get your data back, and in some cases, paying the ransom can worsen the situation. For example, in 2021, Colonial Pipeline paid approximately $5 million in ransom for their data, and had to recover their data from their own backups anyway.
  • Failing to disconnect from the network: Once ransomware has been detected, it’s important to disconnect your computer from the network immediately. This will help limit the spread of the attack and prevent further damage.
  • Underestimating the attack’s impact: Ransomware attacks can be disastrous and cause significant damage to your systems and networks. Ensure you understand the full extent of the damage so you can take the appropriate steps to recover.

How long does ransomware recovery take?

Data from Statista shows that, on average, ransomware recovery takes around 20 days. The timeline of a ransomware recovery process depends on a variety of factors, including the severity of the attack, the amount of data affected, the type of ransomware used, and the resources IT have at their disposal.

  • Severity of the attack: Was the attack limited to one machine, or was it network-wide? 
  • How much data was encrypted or otherwise damaged? The more widespread and destructive the attack, the longer it will take to recover.
  • Type of ransomware: Some forms of ransomware can be recovered quickly with relative ease, while others require more in-depth solutions such as data restoration and system rebuilds.
  • IT resources available: How quickly and efficiently can your IT team respond to the attack? Do they have the necessary tools and skills to recover successfully? The availability and expertise of your IT team will play a large role in determining the length of time it takes to recover from a ransomware attack. 

The duration of a ransomware recovery process will depend on the individual circumstances of each attack. 

How much does ransomware recovery cost?

According to Sophos’s State of Ransomware 2020 report, the average remediation cost in the United States is $622,596.18 That’s $138,509.82 less than the global average of $761,106.

The cost of ransomware recovery can vary greatly depending on the scope of the attack and the resources needed to repair the damage, though. According to Sophos, Sweden and Japan pay the highest cost at an average of $2,749,667.80, and $2,194,600.43, respectively. 

Sophos also found that the average cost of remediating a ransomware attack considering downtime, people time, device cost, network cost, lost opportunity, and ransom paid, dwarfs the actual ransom. 

Businesses should consider investing in cybersecurity insurance, partnering with managed security service providers, ransomware protection as a service (RPaaS) solutions, or cyber risk management services to protect against potential losses from ransomware attacks.

Bottom line: Recovering from a ransomware attack

It’s important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to protecting against ransomware. Each business must assess its risks and determine the best methods to secure its data. 

Organizations should be proactive in their cyber security practices to recover from ransomware, such as frequent data backups, regular systems updates, and investing in enterprise security solutions. 

Also, consider the long-term implications of a ransomware attack and take steps to prevent future attacks. Cybersecurity best practices such as data backups, patching systems regularly, and proper user access control should be implemented to minimize the risk of ransomware attacks.

Prepare for the worst by protecting your organization with one of the best ransomware protection software solutions.

Aminu Abdullahi
Aminu Abdullahi
Aminu Abdullahi is an experienced B2B technology and finance writer and award-winning public speaker. He is the co-author of the e-book, The Ultimate Creativity Playbook, and has written for various publications, including eWEEK, Enterprise Networking Planet, Tech Republic, eSecurity Planet, CIO Insight, Enterprise Storage Forum, IT Business Edge, Webopedia, Software Pundit, and Geekflare.

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