Ransomware is one of the most significant cyber threats facing businesses today. It is a type of malware that encrypts a victim’s files and demands a ransom payment in exchange for the decryption key. In this blog, we will take a closer look at the different types of Ransomware, the attack methods used by cybercriminals, and the best practices for preventing and mitigating Ransomware infections.
What is Ransomware Attack?
A ransomware attack is a type of cyber attack in which an attacker encrypts a victim’s files and demands payment in exchange for the decryption key. Payment is typically demanded in the form of cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin. The attack can be delivered through various means, such as phishing emails or by exploiting vulnerabilities in software. Once the ransomware is installed, it can be difficult to remove and the victim may lose access to important files and data. It is important to have a good backup and security measures in place to protect against ransomware attacks.
What are Some Examples of Ransomware Attacks?
There have been many high-profile ransomware attacks in recent years. Some examples include:
- WannaCry: This attack affected over 200,000 computers in 150 countries in May 2017. The ransomware spread quickly through a vulnerability in Windows operating systems, encrypting files and demanding payment in Bitcoin.
- NotPetya: This attack, which occurred in June 2017, affected companies and organizations in Ukraine and other countries. It used a similar technique to WannaCry, but the attackers were not interested in collecting the ransom payments. Instead, the goal of the attack was to disrupt the operations of the affected organizations.
- Ryuk: This ransomware targeted large organizations and government agencies and was known for its high ransom demands, typically in the millions of dollars.
- LockerGoga: This ransomware targeted industrial control systems and manufacturing companies and was first identified in January 2019.
- Sodinokibi: This ransomware was first identified in April 2019 and it targets primarily Windows systems. It is known for its high ransom demands, typically in the millions of dollars, and also for its ability to spread quickly within a network.
- Maze: This ransomware first appeared in May 2019, and it is known for stealing the data of its victims before encrypting the systems and threatening to release the stolen data if the ransom is not paid.
These are just a few examples, but there have been many other types of ransomware attacks, and new variants continue to appear.
Ransomware Distribution Techniques
Ransomware can be distributed through a variety of techniques, such as:
- Phishing emails: Attackers will often send emails with malicious attachments or links that, when clicked, will install the ransomware on the victim’s computer.
- Exploiting vulnerabilities: Attackers will often target known vulnerabilities in software and operating systems to install the ransomware.
- Malvertising: Attackers will use online advertising to spread malware, including ransomware, by redirecting victims to malicious websites.
- Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) brute force attacks: Attackers will use automated tools to guess login credentials for remote desktop connections, and once they gain access they install the ransomware on the victim’s computer.
- Supply Chain attack: Attackers will compromise a software supplier or third-party vendor to distribute malware, including ransomware, to their customers.
- Drive-by-downloads: Attackers will use malicious scripts or iframes to automatically download malware onto a victim’s computer when they visit a compromised website.
- Watering Hole attack: Attackers will compromise a legitimate website that is known to be visited by their intended targets, and use it to distribute malware, including ransomware.
It’s important to be aware that these distribution techniques can be combined and used together in an attack. It is crucial to have a good security awareness program and to make sure to keep all systems and software up to date with the latest security patches to protect against these types of attacks.
Also Read: What is DDoS Attacks & How to Mitigate DDoS Attacks: Techniques and Best Practices
How Does Ransomware Work?
Ransomware attacks typically follow a seven-stage process as below mentioned:
- Infection: The attacker will deliver the ransomware payload to the target, typically through phishing emails, exploiting vulnerabilities, or drive-by-downloads.
- Execution: Once the malware is delivered it will execute on the target machine, and starts to perform malicious activities.
- Encryption: The malware will begin encrypting the victim’s files, using a strong encryption algorithm that makes the files unreadable without the decryption key.
- User Notification: The malware will display a message or a pop-up window on the victim’s computer, instructing them on how to make the payment and providing a deadline for payment.
- Cleanup: The malware will delete the original files, shadow copies, and backups, making it difficult to recover the files without the decryption key.
- Payment: The attacker will demand payment in exchange for the decryption key, typically in the form of cryptocurrency to remain anonymous.
- Decryption: Once the payment is made, the attacker will provide the decryption key to the victim, allowing them to recover their files. However, it’s important to note that paying the ransom does not guarantee the recovery of the encrypted files, and also it’s illegal in some countries.
How to Protect Yourself from Ransomware Attack?
- Endpoint Protection: Use reputable antivirus software that will detect and block known ransomware.
- Data Backup: Have a good backup strategy in place, so that you can restore your files in case they are encrypted by ransomware. Regularly backup your files to an external hard drive, or use a cloud-based backup service.
- Patch Management: Keep your software and systems up to date with the latest security patches, as attackers often exploit known vulnerabilities.
- Application Whitelisting and Control: Implement application whitelisting, which only allows approved applications to run on your systems, and can block unknown or malicious software from running.
- Email Protection: Use email filtering and anti-spam tools to block phishing emails and other malicious messages, which are often used to spread ransomware.
- Network Defenses: Use a firewall to block incoming connections from known malicious IP addresses, and use intrusion detection and prevention systems to detect and block suspicious network activity.
It’s also important to keep in mind that having a comprehensive security strategy that includes employee training, incident response planning, and regular security assessments will help further reduce the risk of a successful ransomware attack.
How to Detect Ransomware Attack?
There are several signs that can indicate a ransomware attack has occurred:
- Unexpected pop-up windows or messages: A pop-up window or message will appear on the victim’s computer, instructing them on how to make the payment and providing a deadline for payment.
- Unusual system behavior: The computer may start running slow or freezing, or certain applications may stop responding.
- File encryption: The malware will encrypt the victim’s files, making them unreadable without the decryption key. The files may have a different extension or the name of the extension may be changed.
- Network traffic: Some Ransomware will communicate to the Command and Control servers to receive the encryption key and instructions, so you may notice unusual network traffic.
- Backup deletion: The malware will delete the original files, shadow copies, and backups, making it difficult to recover the files without the decryption key.
- Error messages: Error messages may appear on the victim’s computer, indicating that certain files or programs cannot be accessed.
- Email: The attacker may send an email to the victim demanding payment, containing instructions on how to pay the ransom.
It’s important to note that not all ransomware shows all of these signs, and some may show none of them. It’s crucial to have good endpoint protection, monitoring, and backup strategy in place, to detect and respond to ransomware attacks as quickly as possible.
Ransomware Removal: How to Mitigate an Active Ransomware Attack?
- Isolate: Disconnect the infected device or network from the rest of the network to prevent the malware from spreading. This step is critical to prevent the malware from encrypting more files and systems.
- Investigate: Identify the type of ransomware and the extent of the infection. This information can be used to determine the best course of action for recovery.
- Recover: Attempt to restore the encrypted files from a backup or try to decrypt the files using a decryption tool if one is available. If a backup is not available, or if the decryption tool does not work, it may be necessary to pay the ransom to regain access to the encrypted files.
- Reinforce: Once the ransomware has been removed, it’s important to implement additional security measures to prevent future infections. This may include installing endpoint protection software, patching systems and applications, and educating employees about how to identify and avoid phishing and other types of social engineering attacks.
- Evaluation: After the incident, review the incident and evaluate the performance of the incident response team and the security measures in place. Identify what went well and what can be improved. Use the knowledge gained to improve the security posture, incident response process, and incident recovery process.
It’s important to note that not all ransomware is removable and it’s not guaranteed that you can restore the files even if you pay the ransom. It’s crucial to have good endpoint protection, monitoring, and backup strategy in place to protect your system and files.
Ransomware is a serious threat that can cause significant financial and reputational damage to a business. By implementing best practices for endpoint protection, data backup, patch management, and employee education, organizations can significantly reduce the risk of a Ransomware attack. However, it’s also crucial to have an incident response plan in place to detect and respond quickly to a ransomware attack, should one occur. With the rapid evolution of ransomware, it’s important to stay informed and take proactive steps to protect your business from this growing threat.