Read time 9 minutes

Summary: Ransomware poses a significant threat to data security, and this article delves into its various infection methods and types. It emphasizes the importance of safeguarding Office 365 against ransomware attacks and offers protective measures. In case of an attack, it outlines data recovery options and recommends Kernel Office 365 Backup & Restore for proactive data protection.

Ransomware is a highly perilous form of malware that blocks users from accessing their devices, applications, or files, demanding a ransom for system access restoration. To comprehend the impact of ransomware on your data, we’ll explore its various facets. This article covers different ransomware types and strategies to safeguard your data from such threats.

How does Ransomware Infect?

Ransomware can infiltrate your system through various means, with one of the most prevalent being malicious spam or email spam. These are unsolicited emails used as a delivery vehicle for the malware. Such malicious emails frequently come with booby-trapped attachments containing the ransomware.

Another method through which users can encounter ransomware is through malicious advertising. Cybercriminals frequently utilize online advertisements to disseminate malware, often without requiring any user interaction. When browsing the internet, users may find themselves redirected to an unknown server even without clicking on an ad. These servers collect system information, such as IP addresses and locations, and then deploy the malware, which could potentially be ransomware.

Types of Ransomware

Numerous types of ransomware can impact your system or applications, but three primary categories are particularly notorious for their danger.

  • Encrypting Ransomware: Considered the most hazardous of malware, encrypting ransomware seizes your data files, encrypts them, and demands payment for decryption. Once cybercriminals lock your system, accessing your data becomes impossible.
  • Scareware: Scareware doesn’t harm your system; instead, it displays a pop-up on your screen falsely claiming malware detection, and it demands payment for removal. If you have a legitimate cybersecurity program installed, you can easily dismiss it.
  • Screen Lockers: Screen lock ransomware can lock your system’s screen, rendering it inaccessible. Upon restarting your computer, a full-size window typically appears, often impersonating the US Department of Justice and falsely claiming illegal activity, demanding a fine.
How Office 365 is a Major Target of Ransomware?

Cybercriminals have consistently targeted Microsoft’s products and services for decades. With Office 365 emerging as the fastest-growing solution for organizations, it has become a prime target for cyberattacks in various forms.

Organizations are increasingly adopting Office 365 for enhanced productivity and collaboration. Vital organizational data, including emails, tasks, appointments, and documents, are stored within Office 365. While Microsoft offers built-in protection against ransomware, it’s unwise to solely rely on internal security measures to safeguard your data from potential ransomware threats.

Methods to be Guarded against Ransomware

Microsoft has implemented integrated protections for Office 365 against ransomware. Nevertheless, numerous organizations continue to face ransomware threats. Several factors contribute to this, including instances where users inadvertently access ransomware-infected websites or open email attachments containing ransomware through their corporate accounts.

However, taking timely action can protect your data and potentially save it from harm. Below, we outline some methods to enhance your safety against ransomware.

  • Enable Microsoft Active Protection Service Cloud-Based Protection

    MAPS is a cloud-based service that enhances malware protection through cloud-delivered decisions for blocking malware. Clients can report key telemetry events and suspicious malware queries to the cloud, bolstering security measures.

  • Install Antivirus/Antimalware Solutions

    For users operating on a Windows system, Windows Defender stands out as a top-tier antimalware solution. Ensuring its continuous updates serves as a formidable defense against ransomware threats to your organization’s data. Additionally, it provides timely notifications upon detecting malware, allowing for manual removal when necessary.

  • Be Aware of Malicious Emails and Attachments

    Exercise caution before opening any email or attachment. Ensure it originates from a trustworthy source and be vigilant for phishing signs, particularly when attachments are involved. Ransomware-laden attachments often come in formats like .exe, .js, .vbs, .ps, or Office documents supporting macros like .doc, .xls, or .xlm. If you receive an email with these characteristics from an unfamiliar sender, refrain from opening it.

  • Always Update Windows and Other Software

    Ensure your Windows operating system and other software are consistently updated. The latest versions often incorporate new features and functionalities that enhance security and help thwart potential threats. For example, Windows 10, the latest version of Windows, comes with default ransomware protection. Additionally, Microsoft’s latest web browser features SmartScreen, which prevents users from downloading malicious files or accessing known malicious websites.

  • Regularly Backup your Data

    Microsoft strongly advises users to regularly back up their data. The Microsoft Malware Protection Center has even published a post titled “Backup: the Best Defense Against Locked Files,” outlining several data backup methods. These include enabling System Restore, employing manual syncing techniques, or manually transferring files to a separate drive.

How to Recover Data After Ransomware Attack?

Ransomware in Office 365 can easily spread through ActiveSync and OneDrive Sync. Here, we have mentioned some advanced options that can help you secure your Office 365 data.

  • Disconnect and Go Offline

    WIf your system falls victim to ransomware, your initial response should be to disconnect it from the network promptly. Disable both Ethernet and Wi-Fi connections to prevent any synchronization of ransomware-encrypted files with cloud services like OneDrive Sync or ActiveSync. Leaving any sync services enabled could potentially result in your files being overwritten.

  • Try On-Device Recovery

    If you wish to recover essential data from a device affected by ransomware, perform a thorough system scan using reputable security software. Alternatively, you can utilize Microsoft’s malicious software removal tool to scan your computer. On-device recovery measures may assist in data retrieval.

  • Restore Data with OneDrive for Business

    If you’ve backed up your files to OneDrive for Business, there’s a chance to recover your data without ransomware-affected files. OneDrive for Business keeps data with version histories. Access it from an unaffected system, select a file, and choose “Version history.” You’ll see a list of saved versions with modification dates. Locate an earlier version of the file and initiate the restoration process.

    The version history feature in OneDrive has certain limitations. It works well for Office documents such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. However, it doesn’t maintain version histories for other applications like AutoCAD, Photoshop, or video files.

  • Restore from Backup

    If you’ve securely backed up your data, the restoration process can be swift. However, before initiating the data restoration, it’s imperative to eliminate any traces of the ransomware. To ensure a successful recovery, begin by wiping all previous data, reinstalling all necessary applications, and then proceeding with the restoration.

However, if you haven’t backed up your data, then you wouldn’t be able to restore it. Also, there is no manual method to backup data after a ransomware attack. So, what you should do in such a situation?

Be Prepared Against Ransomware

Being prepared for potential ransomware attacks on the cloud is crucial. Kernel Office 365 Backup & Restore offers a valuable solution, enabling you to efficiently back up your data in a healthy and secure state.

To get a better understanding of the Office 365 Backup and Restore software, let’s have a look at its working process.

  1. On launching the tool, you’ll see two options: Backup and Restore. Select the Backup option.
    Backup  option
    Note: If you want to backup multiple mailboxes, then you need an Office 365 account with administrative privileges.
  2. Now, add the Office 365 account for which you want to create a backup. Select “List all mailboxes” to display all mailboxes of your Office 365 account.
    List all mailboxes
  3. Once the selective mailboxes are added, click Set Filter and Migrate.
    Set Filter
  4. Select the mailboxes that you want to backup and click “Migrate.”
  5. The tool offers advanced filters to backup mailboxes based on your requirements. So, set the filters like Date, Item type, Mailbox folders, etc. and click “Start Migration.”
    set the filters
  6. A pop-up window will appear on the screen with saving options, select PST and click PST
  7. In the next step, specify the location where you want to save the backup file and click “OK.”
    save the backup file
  8. It will take a few minutes to completely backup your mailboxes. Once it is done, you’ll receive a notification on the screen.
    completely backup your mailboxes

You can save this report in CSV format for reference. If the need arises to restore data to Office 365, you can utilize the “Restore” option provided by the Kernel Office 365 Backup and Restore tool.

Wrap Up

Ransomware poses a significant threat to your critical Office 365 data, a vital asset for most organizations. Therefore, it’s imperative to implement essential measures to safeguard your system against ransomware attacks. So, secure your data with Office 365 backup plan.