June 23, 2021

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Ransomware Protection and Containment Strategies: Practical Guidance for Endpoint Protection, Hardening, and Containment

UPDATE (Oct. 30, 2020): We have updated the report to include
additional protection and containment strategies based on front-line
visibility and response efforts in combating ransomware. While the
full scope of recommendations included within the initial report
remain unchanged, the following strategies have been added into the report:

  • Windows Firewall rule configurations to block specific binaries
    from establishing outbound connections from endpoints
  • Domain Controller isolation and recovery planning steps
  • Proactive GPO permissions review and monitoring guidance

Ransomware is a global threat targeting organizations in all
industries. The impact of a successful ransomware event can be
material to an organization – including the loss of access to data,
systems, and operational outages. The potential downtime, coupled with
unforeseen expenses for restoration, recovery, and implementation of
new security processes and controls can be overwhelming. Ransomware
has become an increasingly popular choice for attackers over the past
few years, and it’s easy to understand why given how simple it is to
leverage in campaigns – while offering a healthy financial return for attackers.

In our latest report,
Ransomware Protection and Containment Strategies:
Practical Guidance for Endpoint Protection, Hardening, and
Containment
, we discuss steps organizations can proactively
take to harden their environment to prevent the downstream impact of a
ransomware event. These recommendations can also help organizations
with prioritizing the most important steps required to contain and
minimize the impact of a ransomware event after it occurs.

Ransomware is commonly deployed across an environment in two ways:

  1. Manual propagation by a threat actor after they’ve penetrated
    an environment and have administrator-level privileges broadly
    across the environment:

    • Manually run encryptors on targeted
      systems.
    • Deploy encryptors across the environment using
      Windows batch files (mount C$ shares, copy the encryptor, and
      execute it with the Microsoft PsExec tool).
    • Deploy
      encryptors with Microsoft Group Policy Objects (GPOs).
    • Deploy encryptors with existing software deployment tools
      utilized by the victim organization.
  2. Automated propagation:
    • Credential or Windows token
      extraction from disk or memory.
    • Trust relationships
      between systems – and leveraging methods such as Windows
      Management Instrumentation (WMI), SMB, or PsExec to bind to
      systems and execute payloads.
    • Unpatched exploitation
      methods (e.g., EternalBlue – addressed via Microsoft
      Security Bulletin MS17-010
      ).

The report covers several technical recommendations to help
organizations mitigate the risk of and contain ransomware events including:

  • Endpoint segmentation
  • Hardening against common
    exploitation methods
  • Reducing the exposure of privileged
    and service accounts
  • Cleartext password protections

If you are reading this report to aid your organization’s response
to an existing ransomware event, it is important to understand how the
ransomware was deployed through the environment and design your
ransomware response appropriately. This guide should help
organizations in that process.

Read the report today.

*Note: The recommendations in this report will help organizations
mitigate the risk of and contain ransomware events. However, this
report does not cover all aspects of a ransomware incident response.
We do not discuss investigative techniques to identify and remove
backdoors (ransomware operators often have multiple backdoors into
victim environments), communicating and negotiating with threat
actors, or recovering data once a decryptor is provided.