Ransomware is malicious software that encrypts files and blocks them from being accessed. As such, it holds the victim's computer hostage until they pay a ransom to restore access to their data.
Malware can spread via email attachments, malicious software applications, infected external storage devices, and compromised websites. Attackers also leverage WiFi networks to infect other devices connected to the same network.
Ransomware encrypts files until its victim pays a ransom in digital currencies such as Bitcoin to get them back. This poses an extremely serious risk to businesses and personal computers, resulting in data loss, financial harm, and brand damage.
Crypto ransomware, the most prevalent type of malware, encrypts databases, web, office, video, image, script, and text files and demands payment in exchange for a decryption key. Cybercriminals often target sensitive business documents like tax-related info or CAD files, virtual desktop documents, and other important files with this attack.
Ransomware typically infects victims through malicious websites designed to drop it, clicking links in spammed emails, and through portable computers exposed to public WiFi and Zero-Day vulnerabilities.
Once a computer has become infected, it can be used to download other ransomware. This is done either through Remote Desktop Protocol to connect to another machine on the network or by downloading additional malware on an infected USB drive. This technique bypasses most security protocols and allows the infection to spread rapidly - especially if employees can bring their portable devices to work.
Although the number of attacks has decreased in recent years, cybercrime remains a serious concern for organizations worldwide. Not only can it cause severe financial losses, but it can also expose sensitive, confidential data to hackers who could use it in further attacks.
Many ransomware variants offer multiple forms of encryption. Some are asymmetric, meaning they use a public key generated on one computer to encrypt files held on another. Asymmetric ciphers are difficult to break and require large sums of money to be cracked - often costing millions of dollars.
Other ransomware variants use symmetric encryption, which involves creating a private key on one computer and using that as the public key to decrypt files held on another. Symmetric ciphers are less robust but simpler to crack and typically require much less money to succeed.
These types of ransomware are usually identified by a ransom note on the screen that details what must be paid for victims to retrieve their files. While demand for payment can vary, recent variants often specify that ransom should be made in Bitcoin or another digital currency.
Though a high ransom demand may make victims more inclined to pay, it is essential to remember that there is no assurance they will receive a decryption key after paying. The attackers could take the money and run or fail to include any decryption capability in their malware.
Furthermore, many businesses that pay the ransom don't receive their data back. This is because the decryption key provided by attackers often works poorly or never at all, necessitating multiple attempts to retrieve infected information, which can prove costly and time-consuming for companies.
How Ransomware Spreads?
Once a computer or device has been compromised, ransomware can spread rapidly to other systems connected to the network. Therefore, companies must implement strategies that minimize ransomware spread and block its ability to move laterally after an attack.
Ransomware usually spreads via email attachments that encrypt data on a victim's machine. This can occur immediately or weeks to months after infection. Attackers craft the email to appear credible and trustworthy, increasing the likelihood that users will open the attachment.
Ransomware has also evolved to spread through malicious software applications, removable USB drives, and websites compromised with malware. These methods do not rely on phishing or social engineering tactics, enabling hackers to infect more devices than before.
Another distribution method is malvertising, which involves purchasing advertising space on legitimate sites to spread malware that will lock a user's system. This strategy usually works in combination with vulnerabilities that allow hackers to exploit an application or hardware without the user knowing.
Some more sophisticated ransomware exploits vulnerabilities in various web browser plugins and other applications to spread through a network without human interaction. This type of attack, commonly called drive-by download, can be particularly difficult to identify if an employee accidentally clicks on a link that does not come from a reliable source.
As with other types of malware, a strong perimeter defense should prevent the threat from entering an organization's network in the first place. This includes employing an effective antivirus solution and a unified threat management (UTM) platform that integrates network, host, cloud, and file-level security technologies.
For optimal security, best practices should include a robust firewall that guards against threats on the Internet and intranet, such as viruses, worms, and ransomware. These defenses must also block any lateral movement an attacker might attempt and detect if a system has been infected with malware so you can take action to disable it.
No matter how well-protected an organization's network may be, ransomware can still breach it and spread to other systems that have not been adequately secured and protected.
Once a system is infected, it will display a ransom note on the screen to inform users that their files have been encrypted and they must pay an agreed-upon amount to decrypt them. The hacker usually determines the amount and varies based on which nation the infected system resides in.
Once victims pay the ransom, they typically receive a key to decrypt their files. This key usually unlocks all or most of the encrypted data on an infected system; however, not all are successfully decrypted. More advanced forms of ransomware also require users to send payment directly to an email address controlled by cyber criminals; in some instances, hackers may even demand payment in cryptocurrency like Bitcoin.
Phishing has become a major threat to cyber security, yet training employees to detect it remains challenging. Many businesses still rely on one-off phishing tests as their only method of preparing their users. In contrast, others utilize managed phishing training services that automate the process and guarantee employees receive consistent phishing testing.
In addition to educating people about the risks of phishing, security teams need processes that enable them to track reports. If a user detects a phishing email and clicks on a link that downloads malicious software or leaks sensitive information, you need to know who did what to take appropriate action. Creating systems and mechanisms prioritizing phishing reports and containing legitimate threats will make your team more efficient at guarding against ransomware attacks and other cyber security incidents.
Phishing simulation exercises are an economical and practical way to teach people how to detect phishing scams. They're perfect for benchmarking employees' abilities to spot phishing emails and highlighting where additional training may be necessary. These exercises can be used across all employees due to their ease of deployment and low-cost operating costs.
Phishing training is highly effective when done at the appropriate time and frequency. For maximum effectiveness, your organization should implement a regular phishing test program based on data from real-world attacks to keep your business secure. This will enable you to identify those individuals who should be more cautious about phishing attempts while allowing staff members to practice defending against current ransomware techniques.
In-house phishing training is another common method for instructing users to protect themselves from scams. This type of instruction includes both simulations and classroom sessions. An instructor provides an overview of the process, shows participants how to conduct a phishing exercise, and then asks about their experience afterward.
During a simulated phishing training, employees were asked to answer questions regarding their personal security habits and perceived risk from phishing attempts. These responses were then collated into a questionnaire distributed before and after the seminar.
In addition to answering the questionnaire, participants were asked how confident they felt in identifying phishing URLs and legitimate websites after training. The results of the t-test showed that participants' accuracy improved significantly after the training. They reported more confidence in their answers to the phishing question, making them more likely to detect a scam.