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While the digital revolution has transformed the media industry, bringing with it unprecedented opportunities, it has also exposed media businesses to new and pervasive threats. Ransomware attacks have emerged as the most menacing force in recent years, capable of causing severe disruptions, financial losses, and reputational damage.

This increasingly prevalent and sophisticated form of cybercrime leaves no organization immune to its risks. To combat this pressing threat, media businesses must implement robust and proactive cybersecurity measures that not only focus on mitigating ransomware infiltration, but also on establishing comprehensive strategies for quick recovery.

Understanding the essentials of ransomware defense

With vast amounts of data, interconnected systems, and high visibility, media businesses face unique challenges when it comes to defending against ransomware. To do this effectively, organizations must enforce a multi-layered security strategy that ecompasses prevention, detection, and recovery.

The three essentials of prevention, detection, and recovery must be prioritized when developing these strategies:

1. Prevention

  • A robust cybersecurity infrastructure that includes firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, antivirus software, and encryption protocols.
  • Educating employees to minimize human error, which is the leading cause of ransomware attacks. Training should be focused on phishing attempts, social engineering, and other cyber threats in order to foster a security-conscious culture.
  • Segregating network segments and limiting access controls are essential for containing the spread of ransomware within an interconnected network.
  • Software patching is crucial to ensuring all systems are up-to-date, which in turn minimizes potential vulnerabilities. Media businesses should adopt automated patch management systems to streamline this process and reduce the attack surface.
  • Investing in secure email gateways and web filtering solutions will safeguard media businesses from ransomware’s most common delivery method: phishing attacks. They do this by blocking malicious content and suspicious URLs.
  • Enforcing multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds an extra layer of protection and makes it harder for unauthorized users to access critical accounts, even if credentials are compromised.
  • Engaging in threat intelligence sharing with industry peers or cybersecurity experts keeps media businesses informed on emerging ransomware threats so that they can adopt proactive defense strategies.

2. Detection

  • Real-time monitoring tools can detect ransomware threats before they manifest into something bigger. Media businesses should also have a well-defined incident response plan so that incidents are handled promptly and effectively.
  • Regular security audits and vulnerability assessments. These are essential to identifying and addressing potential weaknesses that cybercriminals could exploit.
  • Implementing behavior-based anomaly detection helps media companies identify unusual activities that may indicate ransomware infection. This involves monitoring network traffic, file access patterns, and user behavior to detect deviations
  • Signature-based malware detection can also be used with antivirus and anti-malware solutions to identify known ransomware strains. This type of detection is highly accurate because it matches the threat with its known code.
  • Deploy endpoint detection solutions that can block ransomware at the individual device level and prevent it from spreading across the network.
  • File integrity monitoring (FIM) solutions track changes made to critical files and directories. Ransomware often encrypts files, so FIM can quickly alert administrators to unauthorized modifications.

3. Recovery

  • Data backups and recovery strategies so that critical information can be quickly restored in the event of an attack. A well-defined recovery plan and a separate data backup repository can minimize downtime and its impact on operations.
  • Ransomware insurance coverage is essential for helping media businesses minimize the financial impact of a ransomware attack and recover quickly.
  • Legal preparedness should also be a crucial element to a ransomware recovery plan because it ensures businesses understand the legal implications of an attack, such as upholding data privacy laws.

By combining these essentials into a three-pronged ransomware defense strategy, media businesses can enhance their ability to prevent, detect, and respond to ransomware attacks promptly and with minimal damage.

Of everything mentioned above, the importance of regular software updates and patch management bears repeating. Outdated software poses significant cybersecurity risks. According to this 2021 study, 60% of outdated software products had exploitable vulnerabilities, and 92% of websites using this outdated software were vulnerable to potential XSS (cross-site scripting) attacks.

Empowering staff to mitigate ransomware risks

In Verizon’s latest Data Breach Investigations Report, it was revealed that 74% of breaches involved the human element.

Employees are prime targets for ransomware gangs because one mistake can be easily exploited, whether it’s a social engineering attack, phishing attack, an act of misuse (e.g. sharing passwords), or plain old human error.

This highlights the importance of cybersecurity training and awareness in the prevention of ransomware attacks. Tech tools and detection software will only do so much – to establish a robust cybersecurity strategy, businesses need employees to be the first line of defense.

A people-first cybersecurity strategy involves:

  • Providing regular training and resources to staff that are compelling and memorable
  • Ensuring everyone practices digital hygiene, e.g. by using strong passwords, regularly updating software and backing up files, avoiding suspicious email links, etc.
  • People in leadership roles setting the right example by following all cybersecurity directives to create an engaged and aware culture
  • Running regular phishing or other cybersecurity tests to see how employees respond, and use the results to shape future training sessions

Identifying and responding to phishing attempts

When training staff on how to mitigate ransomware attacks, media businesses must place focus on how to identify and respond to phishing attempts. Why? Because nearly half (41%) of all ransomware attacks in 2023 use phishing as the primary delivery method.

Here are some guidelines media businesses can follow to empower staff to recognize phishing attempts and respond appropriately:

  • Be wary of unsolicited emails from unknown senders, especially if they ask you to click on links, download attachments, or provide sensitive information.
  • Examine the sender’s email address. Phishers may use email addresses that mimic legitimate ones but contain slight variations or misspellings.
  • Look for fear tactics that prompt you to take immediate action, like changing your password or canceling a subscription – phishers commonly exploit feelings of urgency.
  • Never click on unknown links or downloads as these could trigger an instant ransomware download to your device.
  • Be cautious about sharing personal information. Legitimate organizations seldom ask for this, so if an email is requesting sensitive information, it could be a red flag.
  • Have an eagle-eye for typos. Phishing emails often contain spelling or grammatical errors. Even the slightest typo could be a sign of a fraudulent email.
  • Use email filtering and security software to automatically detect and block phishing attempts before they reach your employees’ inbox.
  • Regularly monitor your accounts for any suspicious activity. This will allow you to report and respond to unusual activity promptly and help mitigate consequences.

The most crucial step to drive home to employees is to report suspected phishing attempts immediately to the IT or security team. This will allow them to take proactive steps and minimize the risk of future incidents. If you believe you have fallen victim to a phishing attempt:

  • Change your passwords immediately for the affected accounts
  • Contact your IT or security team to report the incident and seek guidance
  • Monitor your accounts closely for any unauthorized activity
  • Consider reporting the phishing attempt to the relevant authorities or organizations that the attacker is impersonating

Implementing robust backup and recovery systems

Regular and secure backups play a crucial role in mitigating the damage caused by ransomware attacks. For media businesses, who collect reams of valuable data and sensitive information, having comprehensive backup practices in place can be the difference between a swift recovery with minimal data loss and a prolonged, costly ordeal.

Data recovery is the key role recovery systems have in mitigating ransomware damage. Up-to-date backups ensure that the organization can restore its data to a pre-attack state. This allows the business to:

  • Continue its operations without paying the ransom
  • Avoid permanently losing critical information
  • Eradicate malware by restoring data from clean backups
  • Reinstate the system to a secure state

Backups should be combined with a well-tested recovery plan in order to minimize downtime, which is as much as fifty times more than the ransom demand. In fact, in 2021 alone, ransomware attacks cost the US USD159.4 billion. Ensuring your backups and recovery plans are ready to go is crucial for media businesses that rely on real-time operations and can’t afford extended periods of inactivity.

Some of the other key roles backups and recovery systems have in minimizing ransomware damage include:

  • Protecting intellectual property
  • Maintaining customer trust and brand image
  • Ensuring compliance with legislation, like data protection
  • Restoring versioning and historical data

It’s important for media businesses to regularly test their data recovery processes through things like backup drills and simulations. This will ensure that the backup system is functional and reliable, and will identify any issues before a ransomware incident hits.

How Lineup Systems’ tools provide a solution

At Lineup, we are continuously innovating our services to include comprehensive protection for media businesses against ransomware attacks. Our recent immutable backup solution is the strongest weapon in our armory, with the ability to prevent data from being edited, deleted, or encrypted.

Immutable storage technology works by placing restrictions directly onto data, essentially freezing or locking it. Whether it’s a cyber attacker, vendor, or even administrator, no one can alter immutable data.

Lineup goes one step further by keeping these backups in a separate, secure repository and updating them every 24 hours. This ensures that even in the event of a vicious ransomware attack that takes down primary backup locations, data is always recoverable.

Lineup’s duo of media software solutions, Adpoint and Amplio, are also bolstered by robust security features, including:

  • Our disaster recovery (DR) configuration, which comes as standard
  • Enhanced disaster recovery options for those with specific business continuity needs
  • Latest endpoint protection and security monitoring software for all systems
  • Regular backups, recovery tests, operating system and software patching and maintenance, and software upgrades on customers’ systems

Additionally, we host customers’ systems in highly resilient (Tier III+) data centers, and devote infrastructure teams to watch them 24/7 using the very best monitoring and diagnostic tools. All of these features are designed to enhance security and enable quick recovery, even in the worst case scenarios.

Contact us today to discuss how we can keep you and your data safe.

Lineup

Lineup Systems is the world's leading provider of media sales technology, representing over 6,800 media brands globally, including Gannett/USA Today, New York Times and News Corp. Amplio is Lineup's multi- channel audience monetization solution that helps media companies realize their full reader revenue potential, using data-driven intelligence to engage, nurture and monetize readers with personalized offers that increase reader revenue and reduce churn. Adpoint is Lineup's end-to-end multi-channel media advertising sales solution that helps media companies streamline operations, make better use of data, increase efficiency and boost revenue.

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