• Ron Kulik

What Is Ransomware

Updated: Nov 23


#Ransomware is a vicious #malware that uses cryptography to threaten victims by holding sensitive information or data for a ransom. The victim's sensitive data is encrypted such that they are unable to access documents, archives, applications, or programs. To regain access, they need to pay a ransom, usually in bitcoin, to the attacker. Ransomware is also configured to spread through the network and can encrypt database and file servers, which destroy a business.

Ransomware attacks virtually anyone who uses a computer and a network. May it be an individual, small or large business. But many attacks target medical organizations, law firms, government agencies, and large companies where security and access to data are highly needed.

How does Ransomware work?

Ransomware makes use of Public-Key Cryptography or non-symmetric keys. This is an encryption that intercepts a file using a unique key. Each pair of keys are one-of-a-kind for each victim. There’s a wide range of ransomware existing. Often ransomware (and other malware) is distributed through a lot of methods also discussed here. Here’s a rundown on what happens when ransomware attacks your computer.

Infection The ransomware is clicked and downloaded. It self-installs on the endpoint device and other accessible network devices.

Execution

Ransomware searches for files it can target like local files and files accessed through a network. Even worse, it can also erase or encrypt available back-up files.

Encryption

To create the cryptographic keys to be used on the remote server, the malware communicates the command and control server controlled by the cybercriminals making the attack. The ransomware begins to encrypt and decrypt all data and files on local computers and the network found during the execution stage. All the access to the data is locked too.

User Notification of Extortion

The ransomware shows extortion and ransom payment directions for the encryption work completed, demanding data loss if payment is not made.

Ransomware Cleanup

The ransomware self-terminates for it not to be traced; only the payment instruction is left behind.


Payment

In the payment directions, the victim is provided with a link redirecting to a web page with extra details on making the required payment. To prevent detection by network traffic monitoring, they use concealed TOR services Payments are usually sent through Bitcoin.

Unblocking or Decryption

Once the ransom is paid, there’s a 50/50 chance that the attacker will send the decryption key.

How is Ransomware Distributed?

We need to know the different methods hackers use to spread ransomware to keep our guards up. Not knowing may have us randomly clicking emails, advertisements, and zip files without being aware our security is at risk.

Phishing Emails/ Malicious Attachments and Links

The most common way of cyber-attack disguised as emails from sites you usually visit. The email contains a link that will redirect you to a malicious site, or it will have an attachment that can be a zip file or a .exe file that contains malware, trojan, and WSH files.

Malicious Advertising

These are pop-ups, ads on a webpage seeded with malware codes and are distributed once the user clicks on them.

Social Media Platforms

Links that have malicious codes sent thru instant/private messenger chats or links posted on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. infect your device once clicked.

Infected programs

They are commonly acquired through pirated software or programs downloaded on torrent sites. These are apps or programs containing malicious scripts.

Self -propagation

Distributing suspicious code via the USB drives and network and USB drives to other machines. ZCryptor is an example of self-spreading crypto worms that are harder to stop and trace.

TDS or Traffic Distribution Systems

These are common ways of propagating malware through drive-by downloads, web pages, and exploit kits. The user is victimized when they click on a link of a legitimate website and is then diverted to a website containing malware.

Where Have We Seen Ransomware Before?

Looking back in history, the first-time the ransomware appeared was in 1989. It only became prevalent in 2010-2015 as options for online payment, #bitcoin, are becoming popular. Take a look at some of the vicious ransomware attacks.

CryptoLocker

#Cryptolocker infected over 500,000 computers in 2017. It is distributed via file sharing sites, spam emails, and unprotected downloads. Not only can it encrypt local device data, but it also infects scan mapped network drives and makes encrypted files on which it has the authorization to access. Most ransoms were asked through crypto payment platforms, so tracing will be more challenging. It’s also an example of an attack where data loss was recovered.

Cryptowall

Here’s the newest version released by Cryptodefense that uses advanced strategies in infiltrating files, erasing cyber footprint so they can’t be traced and notable for its use of impenetrable AES encryption. The ransomware is distributed through emails with attachments like PDF files that have a virus in it. Once these files are opened, the malware spreads in the device drives for data, it can encrypt.

Thanos

The newest ransomware is #Thanos that first appeared in January 2020. It is the first to use the RIPlace strategy, which can override many anti-ransomware tools and techniques.

How Can You Avoid Ransomware?

Being proactive is undoubtedly an essential step in defending your business, organization, and yourself from ransomware and other cyberattacks. Like they say, 'Prevention is better than cure.' Setting up your defenses before system attacks will save you time, effort, and money rather than making ransomware recovery. Imagine how much ransom you need to pay to restore your encrypted data, or worse, paying the ransom but not getting the files back at all. Strengthen your security through this list of the best practices you can do:

Endpoint security

Installing antivirus tools is the first step you must do. Choose the latest and one that fits your budget and needs. The new releases have features like Endpoint Detection Response and firewalls, which can defend the device from ransomware not yet included in malware databases.

Update software, system, and browsers regularly

Patch Management is the process of ensuring that the device's browser, software, applications, and operating is updated to the latest version. This step is done to keep the device running smoothly and on cybersecurity and digital safety. The process includes installing patches to deal with security flaws and running scans to assess and quickly mitigate security risks.

Back-up your Data

You may use an external hard-drive for back-up, ideally three copies serving as back-ups, all stored separately. Archiving or copying the files will help you restore it if files are lost due to a ransomware attack. Other options for back-up include hard copy, use of cloud storage, and USB sticks.

Detailed History Report

You must consider preparing granular reports and reviews that have details on the people, place, and ways on how files are accessed. This way, it can help forensic investigators finish at a faster rate when needed.

Strong Network Security

To deter malware from integrating with the central system, use a firewall or web application firewall (WAF), Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), Demilitarized zones (DMZ's), Virtual private networks (VPN's) and vulnerability scanner software.

Detection of Ransomware

Invest in a deception-based threat detection, which generates threat security of pits and traps intended to trick attackers into exposing themselves by deliberately putting hidden files on systems for storing files. This step is for the identification of ransomware encryption even before the attack worsens.

Once an attack is detected through one of the files, it blocks it so the user can still access the files. Monitoring and blocking in real-time will help you identify the attack as it is happening to block the suspicious user from accessing the files.

Email Protection Solutions

Years back up to this day, email is a widely used distribution technique for malware to infect your system and files. The first step you can do is train your employees to detect

phishing emails from ones that are not. To fully secure inbound and outbound emails, you must set-up email protection solutions or spam security to block suspicious emails and malicious links instantly, even if users click them.

Use Whitelisting tools

Through whitelisting tools, you only allow the installation of trusted software and application to your central system. This tool prevents suspicious and unauthorized applications, plug-ins that may have malware attached to it from running on the device. It may also have a feature where you can filter the websites being visited by users to avoid spam ads and malicious sites.

Imminent threats are always present, especially with the type of technology we have today. But then again, the same technology offers different approaches that will help you

protect your data privacy and business from malicious ransomware.


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