What is Ransomware? – Small Business Trends

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Ransomware is a type of malware or malware that can restrict access to an Internet device or data that exists until you pay a ransom in exchange for access to your device or data.

In this article, we will explore how ransomware enters your computer system, how it works, and how to prevent a ransomware attack.

Let’s dive in:

What is a ransomware attack?

A ransomware attack is a type of malware attack that limits or prevents access to your device or data until the ransom is paid. What’s worse, malicious actors carrying out ransomware attacks threaten to post or sell data on the dark web if the ransom is not paid.

According to a Verizon report, ransomware contributes to 10% of all data breaches. These days, one does not have to develop a ransomware kit. Many ransomware operators offer ransomware as a service, allowing threat actors to easily access sophisticated tools and malicious software for targeted attacks.

The following two forms of ransomware are widely used by ransomware authors around the world:

  1. Locker ransomware that blocks your access to a computer system or mobile device
  2. Crypto ransomware that encrypts sensitive files and data on a device

How does ransomware work?

Like any other malicious software, Ransomware can enter your computer device in many ways. But in terms of modus operandi, all variants of ransomware have in common the following stages:

  • The ransomware enters your computer device and remains inactive for several days / months, evaluating your critical data.
  • Once the ransomware has access to your critical data, it begins encrypting files with an attacker-controlled encryption key. Ransomware can also delete backup files or encrypt data backup
  • After encrypting files or locking your computer system, it will ask for a ransom

There may be a few additional steps, depending on the ransomware variant. For example, some ransomware software variants extract data before sending a rescue note.

While ransomware attackers promise to release a decryption key once the rescue is given, this is not always the case. In addition, paying the ransom encourages threat actors to infect other devices. Therefore, making a ransom payment should not be at the top of your list when it comes to a ransomware attack.

Brief history of ransomware attacks

The following is a brief history of ransomware attacks:

  • Joseph Popp, Ph.D., an AIDS researcher, launched the first known ransomware attack in 1989 by distributing floppy disks to AIDS researchers.
  • The first version of CryptoLocker appeared in December 2013
  • CryptoWall appeared in 2014, causing damage of around $ 18 million
  • Locky appeared in 2016 and has many variants
  • The famous WannaCry ransomware infected more than 200,000 computers worldwide in 2017
  • In 2021, ransomware group DarkSide attacked Brenntag, pocketing the company’s $ 4.4 million in ransom.

Modern ransomware attacks are sophisticated and require a great rescue. According to an estimate by Cybersecurity Ventures, the overall costs of cybercrime will grow by 15 percent annually over the next five years, reaching $ 10.5 trillion annually in 2025.

How to Prevent a Ransomware Infection

Ransomware-infected systems can infect even more devices connected to a network server before you can remove the ransomware. Therefore, it is imperative to be proactive to block ransomware.

Here are some strategies to prevent ransomware infections:

1. Have good network policies

Whether it’s a home network or a business network, you should follow best networking practices to protect yourself from ransomware or any other cyberattack.

You should make sure that:

Also, not segmenting your network can spread the ransomware from the endpoint to the servers. Therefore, make sure that your network is segmented. Doing so can prevent ransomware from spreading from one infected system to another.

2. Secure your servers

Your hardware and software, including your operating system, should be up to date. And you should never use default passwords for your devices. Always protect your devices with strong passwords.

If possible, use SSH keys. They are more secure than passwords.

3. Data backup

Ransomware can encrypt data and files stored on your computer or server. In many cases, ransomware victims do not have access to encrypted data or encrypted files. Therefore, you should back up all critical data offline and online on a regular basis.

You can easily find reliable cloud storage with an option to encrypt files for added security.

4. Encourage safe online behavior

You and your employees should practice safe behavior online.

You should make sure that your employees:

  • Never disable operating system updates
  • Do not download broken software
  • Avoid clicking on a malicious link
  • Do not open pop-ups on malicious websites

Training your employees regularly on cybersecurity best practices can help keep you safe from ransomware or other types of malware attacks.

5. Install the security software

No tool completely stops ransomware. But having specific ransomware applications can block malicious attachments in fishing emails and keep your valuable files and data largely safe.

Response to ransomware attacks

If you have a ransomware-infected machine, the following step-by-step strategy can help you navigate the crisis:

Step 1:

Isolate the infected device and shut down your network to prevent the ransomware from spreading further and encrypt files on other systems.

Step 2:

Assess your damage. And scan your system with a good anti-ransomware tool to get rid of the active ransomware executable.

Step 3:

Check resources like Ransomware Id and No MoreRansom to see if a decryption key is available to encrypt the ransomware that affected your system.

In most countries, authorities recommend not making rescue payments. But it all depends on your situation.

If you do not want to pay the ransom, you should consider encrypting the data that the threat actor has already encrypted. This can prevent the misuse of data controlled by the threat actor.

Step 4:

Restore your machine from a clean backup or reinstall your operating system to completely remove malware from your device.

It is not easy to navigate a ransomware attack. You may not know if you are dealing with a single hacker or a group of ransomware.

Therefore, it is better to get professional help to increase the chances of data recovery and complete removal of ransomware.

How does ransomware get to your computer?

Spam and phishing emails are the main cause of ransomware coming to your device. Other reasons for ransomware infection include, among others, malicious pop-ups on random websites, pirated software, remote desktop protocol (RDP), USB and removable media, drive-by downloads, and weak passwords.

How are ransomware attackers paid?

Ransomware attackers prefer to be paid in cryptocurrency, especially in Bitcoin. This is because the cryptocurrency is confidential, anonymous, and difficult to track.

Can ransomware be spread over Wi-Fi?

Yes, ransomware can be spread over Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi ransomware attacks can infect all devices connected to the network. Sometimes Wi-Fi can be an easy way for hackers to spread malicious code and produce an active ransomware infection.

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