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Ransomware is a form of malware that targets organizations and individuals and holds their data hostage for a ransom. Cybercriminals exploit security weak spots to steal or lock critical files and demand a payment in cryptocurrency like Bitcoin to unlock them. The threat continues to grow and show no signs of slowing down. Attacks on businesses, governments and healthcare organizations make headlines worldwide and impact people’s everyday lives.

For example, a ransomware attack in 2021 on Colonial Pipeline affected the supply and cost of gas and an employee’s ability to access his or her work. In another attack, US TV broadcast company Sinclair Broadcast Group was forced to pay a ransom of $5.4 million or lose all the content on its 600+ channels.

The first step in a ransomware response is containment, which involves isolating systems by disabling network access or powering down components to prevent spread. Next, prioritize recovery based on productivity and revenue impacts. Lastly, eradicate the threat from the environment by erasing infected central system instances and wiping and restoring endpoints with clean backup data.

Preventing these attacks requires a strong defense-in-depth strategy. Use a combination of anti-malware tools, including a layered approach that includes malware analysis and sandboxing to detect suspicious files and behavior. Also, deploy deception-based detection, which strategically plants hidden files on file storage systems to identify ransomware encryption behaviors at the earliest stage of an attack and automatically blocks infected users and endpoints from accessing sensitive data.