Mitigating Malware and Ransomware Attacks: A Comprehensive Guide


In today’s digital landscape, protecting organizations from malware and ransomware attacks is of utmost importance. This guide aims to assist both private and public sector entities in effectively dealing with the consequences of malware, including ransomware. It outlines preventive measures to avoid malware infections and provides a step-by-step approach to follow if your organization is already infected.

By implementing the recommended actions and strategies detailed in this guide, organizations can significantly reduce the likelihood of infection, minimize the spread of malware within their networks, and mitigate the overall impact of such attacks.

Understanding Malware and Ransomware

Malware refers to malicious software designed to cause harm and disruption to computer systems. It encompasses various forms of threats that can:

  • Render devices inoperable or lock them entirely.
  • Steal, delete, or encrypt sensitive data.
  • Exploit compromised devices to launch attacks on other organizations.
  • Gain unauthorized access to your organization’s systems and services by obtaining user credentials.
  • Engage in cryptocurrency mining.
  • Utilize services that result in financial loss, such as premium rate phone calls.

Ransomware, a specific type of malware, restricts access to computers or data stored on them. This can manifest as a complete system lock or the theft, deletion, or encryption of data. Some ransomware strains also attempt to propagate across networks, as was the case with the notorious Wannacry malware that affected the NHS in May 2017.

In typical ransomware scenarios, attackers demand payment through anonymous channels, usually in the form of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, in exchange for unlocking the computer or granting access to the encrypted data. However, even if the ransom is paid, there is no guarantee that access will be restored.

Occasionally, malware disguises itself as ransomware, demanding payment, but fails to decrypt the files after receiving the ransom. This is known as wiper malware. To safeguard against such threats, it is essential to maintain up-to-date offline backups of critical files and data.

Should You Pay the Ransom?

Law enforcement agencies do not endorse or encourage the payment of ransom demands. It is crucial to consider the following factors before making any decisions:

  • There is no guarantee that paying the ransom will restore access to your data or computer.
  • Your computer will remain infected even after payment.
  • Paying the ransom supports criminal activities.
  • Succumbing to ransom demands increases the likelihood of future targeting by attackers.

In some instances, attackers may threaten to publish stolen data if the ransom is not paid. To counteract this, organizations should implement measures to minimize the impact of data exfiltration. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) offers guidance on protecting bulk personal data and implementing logging and protective monitoring practices to support these efforts.

Adopting a Defense-in-Depth Strategy

Recognizing the impossibility of achieving complete protection against malware, organizations should adopt a defense-in-depth strategy. This approach involves implementing multiple layers of defense, each with various mitigations. By doing so, organizations gain additional opportunities to detect malware and halt its progress before it causes substantial harm.

It is essential to acknowledge that some malware will inevitably infiltrate an organization. Therefore, taking proactive steps to limit the resulting impact and expedite the response is crucial.

Recommended Actions

To prepare your organization for potential malware and ransomware attacks, consider implementing the following actions:

Action 1: Regular Backups

Maintain a regular backup schedule to ensure that critical files and data are consistently backed up. This practice helps safeguard against data loss and facilitates efficient recovery in the event of an attack.

Action 2: Prevent Delivery and Spread of Malware

Employ robust security measures to prevent malware from infiltrating your organization’s network. This includes implementing advanced threat detection systems, conducting regular security assessments, and maintaining up-to-date antivirus and antimalware software.

Action 3: Prevent Malware Execution

Implement measures to prevent malware from running on devices within your organization. This involves employing endpoint protection tools, configuring strict access controls, and enforcing robust security policies.

Action 4: Incident Preparedness

Prepare a comprehensive incident response plan to facilitate a swift and effective response in case of an attack. This plan should outline roles, responsibilities, and procedures for isolating infected devices, conducting forensics, and initiating the recovery process.

Steps to Take If Your Organization is Infected

If your organization has fallen victim to a malware infection, follow these steps to mitigate the impact:

  1. Immediately disconnect all infected computers, laptops, or tablets from any network connections, including wired, wireless, or mobile-based connections.
  2. Consider disabling Wi-Fi, core network connections (including switches), and disconnecting from the internet to contain the infection.
  3. Reset all credentials, especially passwords for administrator and system accounts, ensuring that you don’t inadvertently lock yourself out of crucial systems required for recovery.
  4. Safely wipe infected devices and reinstall the operating system.
  5. Before restoring from a backup, verify its integrity and ensure it is free from malware. Only restore from a backup if you have high confidence in its cleanliness and the security of the device you’re connecting it to.
  6. Connect devices to a clean network to download, install, and update the operating system and all other software.
  7. Install, update, and run antivirus software to scan for any remaining infections.
  8. Reconnect to your network, ensuring that appropriate security measures are in place.
  9. Monitor network traffic and conduct regular antivirus scans to identify any residual infections.


Mitigating malware and ransomware attacks requires a proactive and layered approach to defense. By implementing the preventive measures outlined in this guide and adopting a defense-in-depth strategy, organizations can significantly reduce the risk of infection, minimize the spread of malware, and mitigate the impact of such attacks. For comprehensive IT security services and support, including protecting your organization from malware and ransomware, we recommend reaching out to our Managed IT Services team. Call us at 01302 986589 or email Phil at to discuss how we can help secure your business effectively.


National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC)

Guidance on Protecting Bulk Personal Data

Logging and Protective Monitoring Guidance

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