More than 50 new types of malware used in ransomware attacks were released in the first half of 2016 alone. The pace of ransomware attacks is escalating. Nearly 40% of companies have been hit with ransomware attacks this year, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that the cost per incident is $330,000 when factoring ransomware, downtime, and data recovery. A viable cyber resilience strategy must take a layered approach to combat the realities of a much more complex malware environment.

It's not enough to focus on prevention. As new tools come on the market that allow non-technical criminals to enter the ransomware game for less than $40, businesses need to think about continuity planning before an attack occurs. Companies must think strategically about integrating a layered approach that defends on multiple fronts through targeted threat protection, data archiving and business continuity planning.

Email Ransomware Attack Prevention: 

The Wall Street Journal estimates that 99% of ransomware attacks begin with an email. Users download a file or click on a link that infects computers, servers or networks with malware. Data is then locked down or encrypted until a payment is made; then, hopefully, the criminals behind the attack provide an encryption key.

Protecting your email is the frontline defense system against ransomware attacks. Companies can focus on a handful of interrelated solutions to help decrease the chances of emails compromising their system:

  • Employ real-time scanning of all emails to help identify phishing and suspicious emails and links from questionable domains across email platforms and devices.
  • Intelligent sandboxing solutions scan all attachments before they are delivered to recipients, minimizing the chances of ransomware attacks.
  • Dynamic feedback alerts employees to potentially threatening emails, raising awareness and informing better decision-making.
  • Email policies, employee training and running tests ensure that team members make smart decisions and complying with company IT procedures.

Ensure Employees Can Continue to Work During an Attack: 

When a ransomware attack freezes your network and restricts access to data, productivity grinds to a halt. The losses can be staggering. One report from the Aberdeen Group estimates hourly losses ranging from $8,581 for small businesses to $686,250 for enterprises. Business continuity planning can keep your workers online and connected to email; with the right systems, employees and customers may be unaware that an attack is underway. Email continuity systems provide access to live and archived mail across devices, as well as contacts and calendars. Regular business operations can continue, while your IT team works behind the scenes to solve the problem.

Data Replication Capabilities: 

When criminals want to take your data hostage, one of the best strategies you have to defeat them is your data replication strategy. Consider developing an archiving strategy that backs up your data from local drives – as well as third-party providers – in completely separate and unreachable files. Use systems and policies that disconnect backups from the main network after they occur.

Not only does this ensure that your data isn't lost or damaged during a ransomware attack, but it gives your organization a broader range of choices when dealing with the perpetrators.

The statistics for ransomware today can be daunting – and it quickly becomes apparent that no single solution can help companies prevent these malware attacks. However, cyber resilience is built on a layered strategy that prioritizes protecting your email, educating employees, creating viable data replication strategies, and keeping your business online during and after attacks. Mimecast's layered solution brings together email protection, business continuity and data replication capabilities into a single cloud solution that helps you protect against the threat of ransomware. 

Contact us today to learn more.

Related Content:

Never Be A Ransomware Hostage

Infographic: Never Be a Ransomware Hostage



Never Be a Ransomware Hostage

by Julian Martin - Vice President Product Marketing

What often impacts more than 100,000 computers a day, and can cost you thousands of dollars in remediation, downtime, and cleanup cost? Ransomware.

In a ransomware attack, you are literally held hostage and denied access to critical productivity tools and data like file servers, email, databases and more.

How’s an organization supposed to cope? Start with protecting the most prevalent ransomware delivery system - your email. Download this infographic to learn about the only cloud solution that combines prevention, business continuity and replication for email in a single solution.

Don’t wait. Protect your organization from ransomware now.


Adoption of Office 365 continues to grow rapidly, adding 50,000 customers a month, with Exchange email remaining the number one workload. At the same time, increasing regulation, litigation, and operational drivers necessitate the need for speedy, accurate and complete access to email data.

Email archiving has long been recognized as a key mechanism to meet these needs. Historically this was achieved on-premise alongside the mail server, but more recently has started to shift to the cloud in order to achieve economic and operational benefits. As email moves to the cloud, organizations must consider how to appropriately protect their data. Remembering that it’s their data, and responsibility ultimately sits with them to safeguard it, is critical.

With over 16% of Mimecast customers now using Office 365 for email, we’re often asked about what to look for in an email archive – specifically for protecting critical Exchange Online data. The following six critical considerations summarize the advice we give.


   1. Email data should be immutable by default

All inbound and outbound mail, including detailed metadata, should be captured and stored automatically for all users – without the need for manual or scripted processes. A true enterprise-grade email archive should be designed from the outset as a long term, compliance-driven archive with immutable (WORM) storage and strong chains of custody. In this case, data cannot be modified or removed until the pre-defined retention period is reached.

A suitable archive allows for an independent, always-on, verifiable copy of data to be stored outside of the operational Office 365 infrastructure.

While Office 365’s in-place or litigation holds may satisfy some organizations’ requirements to preserve mailbox data, both were conceived to provide data preservation for active, ongoing litigation – not as a long-term immutable archive.

Mailboxes are not placed on litigation or in-place hold automatically - this is a manual task and can get inadvertently forgotten or misconfigured. Any mailbox content not on hold can be tampered with or deleted.


   2. Search speed and consistency

The explosion in the amount of data stored by most organizations along with stricter regulation and increased litigation requires a suitable storage architecture to ensure rapid and accurate archive search results. A dedicated, cloud-based grid storage architecture is best suited to this task so that archive searches benefit from the aggregate power of all servers in the storage grid, together with a unified index, to deliver consistent results at superfast speed.

There should be no limit to the number of mailboxes that can be searched and the number of searches that can be run concurrently. E-discovery searches should not be impacted by email system downtime.

With Exchange Online, users are connected to a single server and data store. Large deployments likely mean multiple servers and data stores – each with its own index. Mailboxes are spread automatically across servers.

As a result, e-discovery searches could require access to hundreds of servers and indexes – potentially liable to inconsistent search results, e.g. server busy, server down, and incomplete index (e.g. unsupported file types, indexing errors).

Search speed is limited by individual Exchange server performance – each with multiple competing workloads. There are limits on both the number of mailboxes (10,000) and the number of e-discovery searches that can be run at the same time.


   3. Minimize and limit specialized and manual admin tasks

Initial setup and ongoing administrator actions should all be managed through a single web-based graphical user interface (GUI). This negates the need for manual scripting which is more likely to result in misconfiguration and command errors that can result in significant data loss. Remember, humans are often the weakest link in the chain.

Organizations should also ensure that no single administrator should be able to change key archive policies such as retention duration. This could increase the chances of accidental or malicious actions having a potentially devastating impact.

There are certain admin actions in Office 365 that can only be achieved through PowerShell commands, such as applying a litigation hold to all mailboxes at once, or in-place hold to more than 500 mailboxes. Misconfiguration and errors are arguably more likely in these manual processes.

A single Exchange administrator can remove a hold.


   4. Auditing must provide the details needed

Audit logs are vital to check and prove historical actions for both operational and legal purposes. Logs should be enabled by default and retained in perpetuity in order to ensure a complete record. The details logged must also be sufficient for the purposes they may be needed for. The logs should be held in a secure location accessible only to those with appropriate privileges.

In Office 365, auditing of admin actions is enabled by default and cannot be switched off. However, these logs are only kept for 90 days by default and do not include some actions, such as when messages are accessed or deleted, or the client or source details.

Mailbox audit logs must be manually setup and enabled per mailbox using PowerShell. These logs are stored in the target mailbox and could be deleted if the mailbox is deleted.


   5. Seamless employee archive access from anywhere

The amount of critical data in email is growing rapidly, with archives increasingly used by employees as their primary repository to save and access important information. In fact, Gartner[1] estimates that by 2019, 75% of organizations will treat archive data, including email, as an active data source.

Seamless and rapid access to this archive data from any device is, therefore, critical. Consistent access should be available via Outlook, the web, and mobile devices. Archive searches must be virtually instant to satisfy employee expectations. Almost 200,000 archive searches a month are made by Mimecast customer employees using the Mimecast Mobile app alone, demonstrating the importance of having easy access to archived content when out of the office. Mimecast offers an industry leading 7-second search SLA.

Microsoft provides archive access via Outlook, Outlook on the web, Mac and iPad only. There is currently no support for iPhone or Android – the two most popular smartphone platforms globally. There is no Office 365 archive search SLA offered.


   6. Avoid mailbox lock-in

When archive data is held in a separate platform and location to operational email data, not only does this support compliance and regulatory requirements, it means that the primary mail platform can be changed without the roadblock of finding a viable way to extract data first (or risk losing it). It also provides continuity of access during mailbox migration projects.

Ask yourself. Will a move to Office 365 be the last time you change mailbox providers? Unlikely.

Office 365’s inline archive stores primary and archived mailboxes in the same single environment. With all email data in Office 365, it becomes more difficult to switch to another email environment – essentially leading to Office 365 lock-in. Tony Redmond, a Microsoft MVP and leading commentator expands on this situation in his article ‘Getting data into Office 365 is easy; not so straightforward to retrieve’.

Microsoft gives you 90 days to extract all your data before its permanently deleted following expiration or termination of an Office 365 subscription.


You can learn more about Mimecast email archiving and how we support a move to Office 365 on our website.






[1] Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Information Archiving, Nov 2014


Episode 3: ILTACON Event, Washington DC


J. Peter, where are you?

Greetings!  J .Peter here and this week I’m in Washington DC.  DC is an amazing town with so many historical locations museums to visit.  I had a chance to see the White House (from the outside of course), the Washington Monument and a few Smithsonian museums.


Incidentally, a little bit of trivia here, the Washington monument is two different colors.  The base started in 1848 but the building stopped from 1854 to 1877 due to funding issues and… well… the Civil War.  When they started again the marble color was slightly different.


Why are you there?

I’m here in Washington DC to speak at ILTACON 2016 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center.  ILTACON is a technology conference focused on law firms and legal departments.  The folks running the conference apparently read an article I wrote in InfoWorld about the gotchas of Office 365 and asked if I would come and give an Office 365 session.


What are you there for?

The session I’m giving is entitled: Office 365: Where do you start?

It covers the three main questions I’m often asked by folks regarding Office 365.  Should we move to Office 365?  How do we move to Office 365?  What are the gotchas (aka buyers remorse) concerns when moving to Office 365? 

Personally, I love what Microsoft has done with Office 365.  It’s a fantastic solution with flexible price points depending on your needs.  That doesn’t mean I recommend it for everyone.  But I think it’s obvious that it’s the future email solution for most enterprise customers.  With how to make the move I discussed the decisions that need to be made.  Do I do a cutover or a hybrid staged migration?  Do I use a third-party migration solution?  Do I pull in consultants for the hybrid configuration?  If I go with a hybrid do I determine self/same or single sign on and then do I go with ADFS or some kind of third-party solution like Okta or Centrify?  With the gotchas of a migration… what do I do with my legacy archive solution?  And then with post-migration gaps… what about my security with Office 365?  How do I maintain continuity or availability of services even when Office 365 is down?

The session was not a product pitch for Mimecast by any means but I made sure to point out where Mimecast fills the gaps with regard to security, archiving and continuity.  Mimecast had a booth at the event so I was able to point them off to the Mimecast folks for more information.  In addition, we gave out copies of the Conversational Geek book sponsored by Mimecast entitled “Conversational Office 365 Risk Mitigation” which just had a 2nd Edition release this week and you’re welcome to download the book directly with the link provided here

It was a great event.  I had a chance to talk to a lot of folks moving toward Office 365, many with some trepidation, and I was able to allay those fears by helping them appreciate that just like our on-premises Exchange, there is an ecosystem of third-party solutions that can assist in enhancing what Microsoft is providing.

Hey, I hope you’ve enjoyed following me to Washington DC.

Where am I going next?  Your roadmap says Atlanta Georgia for Ignite.  But I might just surprise you folks with a bonus stop!


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Road Show Podcast: Episode 1

Infographic: Road Show Podcast 2016

5 Questions To Ask Before Selecting Office 365™

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Mimecast Services For Office 365