Preventing Ransomware Attacks

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Occasionally, pre-existing security threats suddenly gain national attention. Recent instances of large targets falling prey to ransomware attacks demonstrated how vulnerable even well-established organizations are to increasingly sophisticated malware. Command and operations centers of every size and flavor strive to prevent these and other security breaches. They rely heavily on visual collaboration systems to monitor and communicate threats before users are impacted.

As witnessed in the recent Colonial Pipeline attack, ‘users’ aren’t just employees on the network of a compromised organization. When the news broke that Colonial’s pipeline connecting Texas to New Jersey was shut down, panic ensued. Drivers concerned about gasoline availability descended on gas stations, sometimes even hoarding fuel in unsafe containers. Long lines and hazardous storage led to numerous public safety incidents. The immediate ripple effect of a major cyber breach on any operation should not be underestimated. Even a ‘minor’ disruption translates to losses in time, revenue, and public perception. When ransomware impacts the public, it affects day-to-day routines and elevates safety risks, all of which translate to significant direct and indirect negative impact.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software utilizing encryption to gain access to systems and files. The malware then blocks users from access until they pay a ransom in exchange for a decryption key. Users clicking on ads, downloading attachments, and/or clicking links in emails (any of which can contain embedded malware) is the most common way in which an attack is executed. A system is often infected before IT security teams are alerted.

Sadly, there are no guarantees victims of ransomware attacks will get their data or system access restored (these aren’t ethical negotiators by nature). Government and security experts do not, therefore, support or encourage paying a ransom when attacked. While doing so cannot always be avoided, complying with demands establishes a dangerous trend and encourages future attacks.

Are instances of ransomware attacks increasing?

Ransomware first emerged in the late 80s. The Strange History of Ransomware describes the 1989 PC Cyborg attack: extortion via floppy disk mailed through the postal service with an analog ransom note requiring mail-in payment. Early versions like PC Cyborg depended heavily on the user manually executing multiple steps. Today, there are few opportunities to stop or change course. Unfortunately, 21st century ransomware does most of the work before operators know what’s happening.

The simplicity and effectiveness of these strikes are unsettling. Cybersecurity bad actors can buy ransomware as a service. The customizable blueprint allows less technically adept hackers to launch attacks more easily than the experienced coders of the past. This, coupled with the rise of cryptocurrencies as an untraceable digital payment method, has led to an increase in global ransomware incidents.

Can ransomware impact my video wall system?

Yes! Any system with insufficient cyberthreat protection is vulnerable, regardless of its function. Command centers; operations centers; process control centers—they all depend on a variety of devices, equipment, software, and operating systems for real-time situational awareness. These disparate components are often sourced from separate vendors and cobbled together. While such a system is technically “integrated,” the potential for risks increases. A multi-sourced system is less likely to include supply-chain-controlled components. They are also more likely to include separate customer IT support services.

Some video wall integrators discourage operating system updates to mitigate inevitable, unpredictable issues. Most of us have experienced challenges associated with OS updates, even on a hand-held device. It’s tempting to avoid the update completely to maintain a functional status quo. However, skipping updates increases vulnerability. Important security patches and antivirus protection are often included in these packages. Apply this principle to, say, a security operations center, and the ramifications could be quite detrimental on an exceptionally large scale.

How do I protect my video wall system?

Every organization must implement a strong and consistent cybersecurity policy. This is non-negotiable. Whether planning a new system design or upgrading an existing platform, consider the following:

  • Seek a single-sourced, supply-chain-controlled system with dedicated support for all aspects of the platform to minimize threat exposure.
  • Ensure your system provider encourages all protective measures, including antivirus applications and operating system updates.
  • Manage content through an application which supports routine, automatic, and manual back-ups of data.
  • As recommended by the FBI, implement a continuity of operations plan (COOP) that includes redundancy in system operation.

Haivision is proud to meet all these expectations. Our components are always supply-chain-controlled and comprise a fully integrated, complete visual collaboration platform. We encourage customers to consistently maintain the latest antivirus software and perform all OS updates, as our systems are designed for optimal performance. An offline, backup hard drive is shipped with each system as well. If the primary drive is ransomed, the unaffected back-up drive can be swapped, assuming the originating malware is isolated. This redundancy ensures minimal downtime in the event of a ransomware incident. This is especially effective if the backup data files are stored externally, outside of the networked system. Finally, our GuardianCare customer support team is available 24/7/365, ready to assist you in maintaining optimal operations, threat prevention, and expedited recovery in the event of a system breach.

Contact us to learn more about Haivision’s innovative, effective approach to support secure command center operations.

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