Over the past two decades, ransomware has evolved from opportunistic smash-and-grab operations to carefully planned attacks. As a result, the devastating effects of ransomware are only getting worse. Both individuals and businesses fall victim to ransomware.
It uses a suite of software called ransomware to force victims to pay a predetermined ransom. Ransomware criminals often display an alert on the victim’s screen and demand money if the victim’s computer is locked or encrypted.
Victims are informed that access will only be granted if the ransom is paid.
Furthermore, ransomware authors are expanding the scope of their attacks to threaten entire organizations and critical infrastructures, not just specific users.
They do this because they recognize the profitability of their campaigns. Phishing emails with drive-by downloads and infected attachments are common ways ransomware spreads. A drive-by download occurs when a user accidentally visits an infected website and downloads and installs malware on their computer without their knowledge.
Prevalent Ransomware Variants
There are precautions organizations can take to protect and prevent ransomware attacks from compromising network’s data security. The most prevalent ransomware variants are:
- Locker ransomware is believed to be the first variant identified. As the name suggests, it prevents users from accessing their computer and demands payment. It is one of the most annoying types as it often requires a system wipe to get rid of it. Unfortunately, even after paying the ransom, some hackers hide password-stealing software in their systems.
- Bitcoin ransomware is the type which demands payment in cryptocurrencies. Hackers often encrypt users’ files and demand payment using anonymous cryptocurrency addresses.
- Leakware works by taking data and threatening to release it if you don’t spend money. Banking information, contacts, private photos, and personal documents can all be targeted information. This is a very effective strategy as the victim reacts with concern.
- Scareware often takes the form of fake security software. Once the download is complete, you will be notified of any issues that require additional resources to fix. Too many pop-ups and warnings can keep you from using your computer until you do something about it. Professional criminals use a variant of malware known as Ransomware as a Service (RaaS). In exchange for a piece of money, hackers rent out their skills to create and distribute ransomware. This type is particularly dangerous as it can be used by anyone seeking revenge and can be used against individuals.
Established security programs often consider a variety of measures to be security best practices. In addition, by taking these steps, you can be confident that your organization has the right policies, practices, and procedures in place to reduce the chances of ransomware attacks.
- Keep your system up to date: Most attacks target the operating system and vulnerable apps. The set of exploitable entry points available to attackers is greatly reduced by ensuring they are patched with the latest updates.
- Use a critical data backup and recovery strategy: To reduce the impact of data loss or system failure and speed up the recovery process, organizations should create and test regular backups. Note that network-attached backups can also be affected by ransomware. For maximum protection, critical backups should be isolated from the network.
- Establish an incident response strategy: Create, maintain, and implement a basic cyber incident response plan, including ransomware incident notification and response processes.
- Create baselines and cybersecurity policies: Consider establishing policies and standards for specific measures such as firewalls, email scanning, application allow lists, and remote access.
- Establish full network visibility: Modern ransomware attackers stay on the victim’s network to steal important data and increase the effectiveness of their extortion. Their persistence, lateral movement, use of remote access technology, and escalation of rights are all consequences of this. Security teams with network visibility can identify and act on network traffic caused by all these actions.
- Raise employee awareness: Knowing what to look for can help you defeat potential phishing and social engineering attacks. Implement a security awareness and training program that teaches employees how to determine the legitimacy of an email, attachment, or link.
- Protect your gadgets with antivirus software: To fight ransomware, you need effective antivirus software. When we discover a problem, we can also notify the consumer and quickly eliminate the infection. A free ransomware decryption tool is provided by an antivirus program for low encryption malware.
- Set up proactive threat searches: Actively searching for cyber threats that lurk in your network undetected is known as threat hunting. Cyberthreat scanning scans your environment for malicious actors who have breached your initial endpoint security measures. Threat hunting greatly complements the normal process of incident detection, response, and remediation. Threat hunting uses queries and automation to extract hunting leads from the same data, and security systems analyse the raw data and generate alerts. Security teams can thwart potential risks by actively hunting for attackers before they inject ransomware into systems.
- Adopt Zero trust security posture: Adopting a Zero Trust security posture focuses on user identity and access management to mitigate ransomware. This is appropriate as human error is the leading cause of ransomware outbreaks.
Zero Trust greatly reduces the attack surface as all resources are completely hidden from internal and external users. To avoid ransomware attacks and theft of critical data, Zero Trust also provides monitoring, detection, and threat scanning capabilities.
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How attractive your data is to cybercriminals, how much visibility you have into your network traffic, how advanced your security posture is, how well you educate your employees about phishing emails, etc.
By adopting the above measure and sensitivity towards it will decide organizations ability to prevent ransomware.
– Dr. Prabhat Manocha, Technical Solution Expert
About the author:
Dr. Prabhat Manocha is a technology enthusiast based in India. He has been building digital transformation technology solutions. In addition, he has been associated with multiple large scale digital transformational programs across Globe. He is expert in cross technology domain including Blockchain. Automation. Artificial Intelligence, Cloud and Security.
Connect with Dr. Prabhat Manocha on LinkedIn