One cyberthreat that frequently rules business news is ransomware. It's one of those risks that keeps CISOs, security teams, and professionals sleepless at night. The ever-increasing organization and dispersed network with the pandemic have caused a spike in ransom attacks. There are different reports demonstrating the growth of ransomware attacks around the world. With new trends in security, the threat actors are going crazy and average ransom amount crossed 1 Million USD on average.
Ransomware attacks are now focussing not only on tech companies but have broadened their spectrum by targeting schools, hospitals, and retail chains, covering almost all domains. The UAE Moorfields Eye hospitals attack, the Emirates Airline cyberattack, to the latest Royal Mail attack indicate the wide span of ransomware attacks targeting all industries worldwide.
What Is Ransomware
Ransomware is a type of malware that holds the target system hostage and threatens to delete, publish, or block critical data unless the threat actors' demands are fulfilled. Ransomware is often spread through phishing emails and drive-by downloading.
In phishing emails, a user receives an email that appears legitimate but contains an attachment or link to download malicious software. An example of Drive-by downloading is when a user visits a website that happens to be infected with malware. The malware on that site is downloaded and installed without the user realizing it.
Social engineering is often used in ransomware attacks. It involves manipulating someone into sharing confidential information by sending emails or text messages that appear legitimate but are designed to bait the target into sharing sensitive information, opening a malicious file, or clicking on a malicious link.
Why Ransomware attacks are on the rise?
Increased digital sharing has taken a toll on the cybersecurity domain. It is considered the biggest reason for the all-time high ransomware attacks around the globe.
With more and more employees working remotely and using online portals to upload and share files, it is challenging for organizations to meet security standards. Increasing software updates and keeping track of them is a task in itself. Many organizations still run on outdated versions, making them vulnerable to these attacks.
Also, threat actors use highly sophisticated attack models targeting specific organizations. It becomes difficult for any traditional detection methods to alarm the malware. Malware kits and Ransomware-as-a-service models are available on darknets. These provide easy access to build new malware models. Cross-platform ransomware like Ransom32 is also making its rounds in the system. It can attack Windows, Mac, or any other operating system with some tweaks.
Additionally, the rise of digital currencies like Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin has made it easier for them to operate risk-free in funding activities or obtaining ransom while staying anonymous.
Types Of Ransomware
There are 3 types of ransomware. They are namely—
- Screen Lockers
- Encrypting Ransomware
Scareware is the least harmful of all types of ransomware. A scareware infection presents itself with a pop-up message that shows malware detection and demands payment of a ransom to remove it. This form of malware is most irritating because it reappears until an action is taken. It can easily be removed with a quick scan of assets using security software.
Screen Locker is an advanced level of scareware. It targets the asset and as soon as it gets infected, freezes the screen making it inaccessible. It also displays a government logo or watermark stating the government agency is taking down your system as malicious activities were found on your assets. It also mentions that pay a certain fine amount (ransom) to regain access to the system.
You need to understand that no government authorities or internet service providers will lock your systems even in cases of illegal activities on your network, but rather deal with it legally as per the law.
Encrypting ransomware is the most harmful or destructive of all. The software is capable of encrypting all the data and makes it unretrievable till the ransom payment. Paying the ransom can also doesn’t guarantee the safety of data. It can be destroyed, sold for a higher bid, or even published on the darknet.
There is a variety of ransomware variants that are causing countless attacks on organizations around the globe. Recently there have been major hikes in the ransomware attacks caused by these variants. This will help you understand the basic nature of each variant and how it acts on a target and gets a hold of it.
Ryuk ransomware is the most expensive of all the ransomware attacks. No other ransomware attack could surpass Ryuk with an average of over 1 Million dollars. Cybercriminals behind it primarily focus on enterprises that have the resources to meet these demands.
Ryuk is a very targeted variant, delivered via spear phishing emails. It also enters an organization by using a compromised credential of users to sweep into the organizational system through remote desktop control. Once the system is infected, it encrypts files and demands a ransom.
Maze ransomware is the first to combine file encryption and data theft. In the maze, when the target refuses to pay the ransom, it begins to collect sensitive data from the asset before encrypting it. It then exposes these critical data publicly or sells it to third parties for a higher ransom. Though it is said to have officially stopped functioning, It serves as the base for a few new versions.
3. REvil (Sodinokibi)
REvil ransomware also known as Sodinokibi, is another ransomware variant that targets large organizations. These Russian-speaking threat actors are responsible for big breaches, like Kaseya and JBS. REvil holds second place for being the most expensive ransomware with the highest ransom, asked $800,000.
Sodinokibi ransomware uses double extortion means to increase the probability of ransom payout. The malware encrypts the critical data and demands a ransom for its decryption key, and also pitches for a second ransom by threatening to release this data into the darknet or other illegal means.
Being in operation since 2019, Lockbit has recently got its new face as Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS). It encrypts bulk data from large organizations before, being detected by any security applications. It has claimed responsibility for the postal giant of the UK, Royal Mail’s cyberattack which is now facing double extortion amidst service disruptions.
It is a new ransomware variant designed to target recently discovered vulnerabilities with Microsoft Exchange. It encrypts certain groups of files and sends a message to the user asking to send a mail to the threat actor to decrypt them.
It is a South American ransomware group targeting high-profile targets. The group has claimed to breach Nvidia, Samsung, Ubisoft, and others. This group steals source codes and disguises malware files, and on infection, threatens to release data.
Conti ransomware is one of the most notorious ransomware with its aggressive tactics. Conti works on Ransomware-as-a-service attack model. It commonly used phishing attacks to access the devices. It uses server message block and multithread method for spreading the malware. Recent news, suggest both Ryuk and Conti are run by the same threat actors,’ wizard spider’.
WannaCry is a cyberworm that spreads by exploiting glitches in the windows operating system without a host file. It propagates on its own without any social engineering tools or human interactions. Threat actors used the server message block vulnerabilities in Windows. Even though Microsoft had patched this vulnerability, many companies did not update their systems, making them a victim of this attack.
How Ransomware Infiltrates And Gets Hold Of The System
Step 1: Infecting the asset
One of the common infecting techniques is using phishing mail. A malicious link is attached to the mail, on downloading, it gets executed in the target asset. These requires user-initiated actions, while there are other variations, that do not involve user engagement for successful infection.
Remote desktop protocol:
With RDP, threat actors can steal or guess the user credentials of the employee and can remotely access a computer within the enterprise network. With this kind of access, threat actors can directly download and execute the malware into the network.
There are also other means like tracking down a vulnerability and using it as a gateway to the network. As technology progresses, threat actors come up with different ways of entering a network.
Step 2: Data Encryption
After a successful infection, it starts encrypting files with a hacker-controlled key. Once encryption is completed, it replaces the original with this encrypted version. Most of the variants are cautious and ensure system stability by carefully choosing the files to encrypt. It can also take steps to delete your backup files and shadow them to make retrieval of data difficult without the decryption key from the hacker.
Step 3: Ransom Demanding
Once the data encryption is also done in its place, now the malware is ready to demand a ransom from the victim. It typically asks for a fixed amount of cryptocurrency to regain access to the victim’s files. If the ransom is paid, they can either provide you a copy of the private key and the decryptor program to reverse the encryption and restore the victim’s files. (Paying ransom doesn’t guarantee that the provided decryption key will work, or that they will not misuse your data)
These are only the three basic steps in a ransomware attack. There are sophisticated variants that can add additional steps like file scanning, registry information, data theft before data encryption, and many more get added to the list with the latest breaches.
Best Practice In Mitigating an active Ransomware Infection
- Quarantine your machine when any malicious activity is found. Most of the ransomware variants try to spread the infection to the connected devices and drives to increase the extent of the contamination. You can limit the spread by removing access to other connected devices in the network.
- Leave your computer on to maximize the chances of system recovery. Malware, when encrypting files can cause instability to the system and power if off. These days sophisticated malware that carefully picks files in order to keep the system stable and doesn't alert the attack.
- Create a backup of an encrypted copy of files. Store encrypted files on a removable disk for finding a future solution before the malware damages all the files.
- Check for Decryptor in ‘No More Ransom Project’. It is a repository of keys and applications to decrypt the affected files. If available, run the kit on the stored copy of encrypted files and check for data retrieval.
- Get experts like a professional cybersecurity team or your IT service provider to restore data with minimum loss. They can help you take the situation under control with the best possible solutions.
- Restore the machine with a thorough security check, install the recovered data, and start fresh
Best Ransomware Protection Measures For Businesses
Anti-ransomware software protects against ransomware and other cyber threats. It is a comprehensive internet security tool protecting your devices to keep your data safe. These are anti-ransomware protection solutions that all companies should have to keep away from the radar of ransomware attacks.
In order to safeguard email accounts from external dangers, email security solutions are made to defend against phishing scams and other email-borne possible attacks. With user-initiated downloads from emails, phishing emails are the prime target to plant any cyberattack against an organization. All emails with unknown senders should be scanned with security software before downloading to reduce human-made errors. Organizations can also implement security checks for incoming emails to check their genuineness before they reach the recipients.
Social engineering is a broad spectrum of malicious activities that can be accomplished with human interactions. Human minds can be manipulated, and most threat actors use these tools to take users as bait for carrying out their attacks. In such cases, user awareness and training can help make users vigilant about any suspicious activities in the network and get a notion of what can happen with sheer negligence.
Patching is the process of rolling out updates to an operating system, software, or application to address the vulnerabilities within a program or a specific product. It fixes the flaws, increases efficiency, and patches vulnerabilities that can act as a potential gateway for any cyberattack. All organizations should be aware of the latest updates and carry out patching to reduce the vulnerabilities at the company end.
Data backup is critical for any organization. A solid backup solution will automatically save your critical data, reducing the chance of data loss. A proper maintained backup helps you recover your data in case of a ransomware attack and eliminates the need to pay a ransom.
Investing in an efficient backup solution is significant and routine tests can ensure data integrity. Ransomware can damage network-attached backups, so critical backups need to be isolated from the network for optimal protection. Cloud and physical disk drives can reduce the risk of data loss by storing copies of your files in different places. It is also important to ensure that your firewall is robust so that malware cannot target your backup files.
Firewall and Endpoint solutions
A strong IT infrastructure, with a high-performance firewall, helps to block malicious threats on the network. Periodic scanning with endpoint solutions keeps your devices updated about recent threats, while anti-spam solutions stop phishing emails from reaching recipients. Hiring a managed IT services provider ensures that your infrastructure gets around-the-clock monitoring with professional assistance backing you up at any time.
After acquiring much information on the problem-Ransomware, you would probably be checking out for a one-stop solution partner providing best ransomware protection for business. GS-IT is one of the leading cybersecurity solutions providers in Dubai.
We handpick endpoint security solutions that can provide enterprise-grade protection to all of your connected devices thanks to our 10 years of industry knowledge and our team of skilled professionals. You may adjust the security solutions to fit your needs and business size by changing the modules for cloud security, endpoint detection and response, and zero-day protection.
Secure your endpoint devices from breaches and guard your IT infrastructure with the latest IT solutions. Contact us today to get a free consultation.