Ransomware Attack Vector Isolation Playbook

December 16, 20234 min read

Playbook Objectives:

  • To effectively test the company’s incident response capabilities against a ransomware attack.
  • To identify weak points in the network and improve the response protocols.
  • To train IT staff on attack isolation and mitigation techniques.
  • To evaluate the effectiveness of the current cybersecurity measures.
  • To develop a swift and decisive action plan for ransomware attack scenarios and improve recovery time objectives (RTO).
  • To enhance security awareness among employees.

Difficulty Level:

  • Advanced. Participants should have a fundamental understanding of network infrastructure, cybersecurity principles, and incident response protocols.


  • Company: Nexus Enterprises, a mid-sized financial services firm specializing in high-net-worth client management.
  • Employees: John Doe (CISO), Jane Smith (IT Security Analyst), Mike Ross (Network Administrator), Amy Santiago (Incident Response Manager).
  • Network: The company’s network includes a main office with several branch offices connected via a VPN. The main office hosts the core data center, which contains critical financial data. Each branch has its local servers, which mirror the data from the main data center.
  • Context: Nexus Enterprises has recently been targeted by several phishing campaigns. The IT team has noted a rise in malicious activities and is concerned about the potential for a significant ransomware attack that could cripple operations and breach client trust.


  • Incident Response, Malware Mitigation, Network Security.

Exercise Attack Steps:

  • Initial Breach:
    • An employee (an actor in the exercise) clicks on a malicious email link, which appears to be a security update.
    • The malware payload is downloaded, and the ransomware begins encrypting the local machine’s files.
  • Lateral Movement:
    • The ransomware attempts to spread to networked shared drives and other systems within the branch office.
    • Simulated alerts are generated, triggering the response from the IT team.
  • Detection and Analysis:
    • The IT team must identify the source of the infection, which systems are affected, and the type of ransomware used.
    • The team analyzes the ransomware’s behavior and communicates findings to the incident response team.
  • Containment:
    • The infected machine and other potentially compromised systems must be isolated to prevent further spread.
    • Network Administrator enforces stricter firewall rules and isolates the affected branch’s network from the rest of the company’s infrastructure.
  • Eradication:
    • IT Security Analyst works to remove the ransomware from all infected systems.
    • All affected systems are wiped and re-imaged to ensure no remnants of the ransomware linger.
  • Recovery:
    • Data from unaffected backup systems is restored to the cleared systems.
    • Integrity checks are performed to ensure that restored data is not infected or corrupted.
  • Post-Incident:
    • The team reviews the incident to identify lessons learned and what can be improved.
    • Updates are made to the security policies, incident response plan, and employee training programs.
  • Wrap Up:
    • The CISO organizes a debriefing to go over the effectiveness of the playbook, note any shortcomings, and discuss necessary policy or infrastructure changes.
By running this detailed cyber range exercise, Nexus Enterprises aims to bolster its defense mechanisms against ransomware attacks, enhance its cybersecurity posture, and ensure the continuity of critical business operations.