Ransomware Attacks Are Going Everywhere And You or Your Business Could be The Next
Ransomware, which combines ransom and malware, is a software category that prevents users from accessing their systems. Ransomware frequently uses a trojan to lock down a terminal or system and all its files. Targeted individuals can only acquire access once a ransom payment has been received, which is often required within a short window of 24 to 48 hours. Attacks using ransomware are nothing new; they have existed since the late 1980s when postal payments were the norm. Nowadays, fraudsters typically demand ransom payments via a credit card or a cryptocurrency.
How Ransomware Attacks Work
Ransomware assaults come in a variety of forms, each with unique characteristics. However, while bad actors sometimes adopt different strategies, three essential steps are typically followed.
Phase 1: Infection and Distribution
Accessing a company’s network is the initial step in a ransomware assault. There are various ways to accomplish this, with phishing emails being the main one. Cybercriminals, in this instance, send phishing emails with attachments or links that, when clicked, download and run malware on the victims’ computers. One careless click is all it takes for the tentative to become an expensive breach.
Utilising the Remote Desktop Protocol is another approach to introducing infection into an organisation’s systems, especially given the prevalence of work-from-home arrangements nowadays. Attackers only need to steal or guess a target’s login information. This is made simpler if potential victims use the same password across several accounts or choose one of the weak passwords that attackers are aware of (e.g., 123456789, 123456, password123, etc.).
The ability to remotely access a user’s computer allows attackers to download and run malware on the terminal and spread it throughout the business after finding the correct ID/password combination.
Phase 2: Data Encryption
Once malicious users have access to the network, the second phase, data encryption, can begin. This indicates that malware encrypts readable files using a secret key only known to the attacker. The encrypted ones replace the old, original files, and backups and shadow copies are erased in some situations. Cybercriminals use this strategy to make it even more difficult for businesses to recover their data.
Phase 3: Ransom Demand
Once the files have been encrypted, thieves can make their claim. Different things could happen depending on how the evil actor approaches the situation. One of the most popular techniques is altering the backdrop of a computer to a ransom note that demands cryptocurrency in exchange for giving the victim the key to access their information. Another choice would be to include text files in the encrypted directories so that people would see the ransom message when they opened them.
If the business pays the ransom, the cybercriminal might give the victim access to the decryption program, a copy of the encryption key or the private key that protects the symmetric encryption key, and a copy of the encryption key or private key. At this stage, all that needs to be done is enter the data into the application.
Why should businesses worry about ransomware?
The NHS (National Health Service) was the victim of the WannaCry ransomware assault in May 2017. It is estimated that this attack damaged 70,000 devices, including computers, blood-storage refrigerators, and MRI scanners. Due to the severity of a potential data breach, which may cost a business several million euros, cybercriminals frequently target companies like government institutions or corporations because they believe doing so will result in large payouts. As a result, people were turned away from hospitals.
However, it would be incorrect to believe that small firms are secure. They are occasionally the first to be attacked since many owners believe “it won’t happen to them” and, as a result, lack the necessary security ransomware protection measures, making them easy prey.
Due to the seriousness of the situation, they must have some efficient ransomware security since clients would be very dissatisfied if their data were to be leaked online or if they had delays due to the business system being down. This can cause customers to leave the business rapidly, harming its reputation.
Are we prepared?
Every business should know its risks and how to respond to them, just as in a fire drill, a weather emergency, or another potential disruption. Despite significant efforts in cybersecurity, many firms now function differently than before the COVID-19 outbreak, relying on remote teams and reducing staff, among other things. Senior managers frequently prioritise investments in prevention skills, leaving possible vulnerabilities in response and recovery.
There are numerous varieties of ransomware, all of which have a few things in common. They are all initially driven by money.
Second, each poses a threat in some way to the victim’s IT infrastructure.
Third, they all transmit or show a message requesting a ransom, usually in the form of Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency.
But the precise attack methods that each type of ransomware employs set it apart from the rest. In turn, let’s examine these attack strategies to determine the specific dangers they present.
Data kidnapping, often known as crypto-ransomware, is a very profitable and successful assault strategy. Due to its popularity among cybercriminals, it is one of the most typical types of ransomware.
In such an assault, your data is encrypted to make it unreadable, and the attacker then requests a ransom in exchange for the keys to unlock it. The attacker will frequently also try to encrypt your backups to prevent you from doing a data restore.
Ransomware, a type of malware that threatens victims with their data, is a subclass of leakware. In a leakware attack, data is taken and encrypted by a malicious party. Because of this, the information is unusable and cannot be read.
However, this encryption is temporary. The victim will only be handed the decryption key if they comply with the attacker’s demands, and the attacker will encrypt the data while holding it.
There is another, more pernicious aspect of leakware. If their demands are not satisfied, leakware attackers will threaten to reveal the private information they have obtained from the victim(s). These requests typically involve payment and take the form of a ransom (which is why leakware is a kind of ransomware).
Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) ransomware attacks target your network services rather than your data, in contrast to crypto-ransomware and exfiltration.
To stop your servers from responding, they bombard them with erroneous connection requests. An accompanying ransom note informs you that the attack will terminate once the ransom is paid. A malicious party might, however, send the ransom note first and, if their demands still need to be met, may or may not carry out the threat.
A DDoS ransomware assault uses a lot of resources. Therefore, a hacker might find it challenging to maintain it for very long. Furthermore, your actual data is not at risk from DDoS ransomware.
These ransomware varieties lock users out of their computers. Lockers typically block users from accessing the data, not destroy it. Users are frequently only permitted to view the lock screen or interact with a screen that displays the ransom demand. To partially pay the attacker, the mouse and keyboard would be enabled. A timer with a deadline would be presented to get the victim to pay up.
Scareware uses social engineering techniques to persuade users that their machine has malware or has encountered another issue that necessitates immediate action. It presents a pop-up notice directing you to buy and install software to fix the problem, frequently with the logo of reputable security software. The software might only delete the message or have malware that can inflict more severe damage.
Why is Ransomware Spreading?
For several reasons, ransomware assaults and their variants quickly advance to defy protective solutions.
Malware creation tools are easily accessible and can be used to produce fresh malware samples quickly.
using novel methods, such as encrypting the entire drive rather than just specific files
Thieves of today don’t even need to be technologically sophisticated. Online markets for ransomware have sprung up, providing malware strains for any would-be cyberthief and bringing in additional revenue for the software creators, who frequently demand a part of the ransom money.
Why is it so hard to find people responsible for the ransomware attack?
It is challenging to find criminals and follow the money trail when anonymous cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are used for payment. Cybercrime organisations are developing ransomware strategies more frequently to get quick cash. Open-source code and drag-and-drop platforms that make it simple to generate ransomware have sped up the development of new ransomware variations and made it easier for beginner scripters to create their malware. Modern malware, such as ransomware, is frequently polymorphic by design, enabling hackers to get around signature-based security based on file hashes quickly.
How to Prevent a Ransomware Attack
Here are the main ways a business can protect itself against ransomware attacks.
Backup your data
Restoring data from a backup is the best method for recovering from ransomware. By recovering data from sources other than the encrypted files, backups get around the ransom demand. Because of this, hackers create ransomware that looks for backup files on the network. Even after recovering from a backup, the network must still be cleaned of the ransomware.
Keeping a copy of your backups elsewhere is an efficient technique to prevent malware from encrypting backup files. Most companies that want an offsite backup solution opt for cloud backups. You may protect a copy of your files from ransomware and other cybersecurity risks by using cloud backups.
Layered security framework
While a cloud backup can help you recover lost files and minimise downtime, it cannot replace appropriate security. In addition to firewalls, other security measures like encryption, MFA (multi-factor authentication), and endpoint protection are needed to fend off ransomware. A multi-layered technique is more efficient than a single-solution strategy that might have gaps.
Most crucial, this security software must be consistent and up-to-date because if it is, it will not be able to identify and stop ransomware. Also, partners may give organisations Microsoft 365 as a superb solution and safety net. It combines numerous security tools to provide businesses with the most recent security.
Train employees to be more attentive
Education is a further useful anti-ransomware tool. Workshops should be held often. Topics can include how to spot ransomware, the value of strong passwords, and the need for frequent password changes. Even outside security professionals can provide knowledgeable perspectives on cybersecurity. Employees are less likely to fall into a trap if you familiarise them with ransomware and what to watch out for.
Develop plans and policies
Create an incident response strategy to ensure your IT security staff is prepared for a ransomware outbreak. The system should specify the communication channels and responsibilities used during an attack. A list of contacts, such as any partners or vendors who need to be contacted, should also be included.
Is there a “suspect email” policy in place? If not, think about establishing a corporate policy. Forward the email to IT. This will assist in educating staff members on what to do if they get an email that raises questions.
How to Remove Ransomware
Paying the ransom is never acceptable. Cybercriminals are only encouraged to create more ransomware and deceive more people due to their success. Here are several methods for getting rid of ransomware.
Free decryptors: It might be feasible to recover some encrypted files by employing free decryptors. Using the incorrect decryptor increases the likelihood of further encrypting the files.
Remediation: Downloading a security programme with a reputation for remediation and running a scan to eliminate the malware are other options. Even while the files might not be able to be restored, the
Entire system restores: If screen-locking ransomware has seized control, a complete system restore may be necessary. Running a scan from a bootable USB drive or CD will help if this doesn’t work.
Negotiate: Negotiation is often the last resort for companies that have exhausted all other avenues for regaining access and are not advised. However, you should know that the ransom amount is frequently adjustable if you pay the ransomware. The contact information on the ransomware message might be used to negotiate with the attackers. Bitcoin is commonly used to pay a ransom. Though there is no assurance, hopefully, the attackers will let you decrypt your files when you pay the ransom.
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