What is Ransomware and how can you Prevent? (A Beginners Guide)

Ransomware is one of the many cybersecurity terms that make major headlines weekly. As of 2021, threat actors carried out more than 600 million attacks on different firms.

The effect of this sort of offensive is one that many dread. It results in a delay in business function which may lead to a huge loss and drawback. Companies could also lose valuable information if they fail to meet the hacker’s requirements. It also leads to a huge loss in capital.

Cybercriminals gather information about their targets to ease their mode of operation. They deploy ransomware attacks majorly on banking sectors, governmental agencies, healthcare, schools, companies, IT sectors, and businesses.

Something this potent and feared by many may sound new to noobies. This article fills this need as it covers the following:

  • What is Ransomware?
  • Some examples of Ransomware
  • Tips to identify Ransomware
  • Ways to prevent a Ransomware attack

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a malware that encrypts sensitive data on a victim’s computer and blocks access until the attacker receives a ransom payment. If the victim fails to pay the fee, the attacker destroys the data or increases the ransom.

Ransomware attacks are common in both small-scale and large-scale businesses. Several governmental bodies advise victims not to pay such ransoms given by cyber criminals.

They further explained reasons why payment of the ransomware fee may lead to the continuity of this attack. Cyber criminals always develop new techniques to enhance their act which can disrupt business operations.

Some Examples Of Ransomware

It is essential to identify the various examples of ransomware, this will help to know the strategies, and best practice in handling ransomware attacks based on their specifications.

WannaCry: This is a crypto-ransomware worm that attacks Microsoft’s Windows Operating system. It encrypts files on PC hard drives, making it impossible for users to access their data until they make payment to decrypt their files.

The mode of transmission is from one PC to another as they leverage some critical Windows bugs that the firm failed to fix after detection. A zero-day attack, many would say. The mode of payment attackers demand is bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. WannaCry can replicate a network to other entities on the web, making it a dangerous threat.

REvil: It is a ransomware-as-a-service. The aim of this attack is to exfiltrate data before locking it until the victim pays the ransom. The hackers threaten to publish a victim’s information on the dark side to hasten the payment of ransom. The mode of payment is in crypto.

Bad Rabbit: Like other Ransomware, bad rabbit locks victim’s servers, computers, files to prevent them from accessing them until they meet their demands. The threat actors store the malware in a flash drive which initiates the attack and spreads the infection across the victim’s system. Just like WannaCry and REvil, Bad Rabbit also demands crypto for payment.

CryptoLocker: This is a potent strain of ransomware that disguises itself as a FedEx attachment in emails and spreads into the victim’s computer system. It encrypts user’s hard drives.

Ryuk: It targets a large group of people by encrypting network drives and resources, as well as deleting shadow copies on the endpoint. Cybercriminals gather information on the target before exploiting them, they use spear phishing by sending emails that carry the malware to the target. After opening the mail, Ryuk corrupts every file in the system.

NotPetya: A new strain from the Petya encrypting malware, its operation is more dangerous than its predecessor. Russia developed it to target key infrastructure in Ukraine as it went live in 2016. One of the reasons why many fear it is that it was modified to not undo the changes it makes to a system.

Tips to identify Ransomware

  • Ransomware actors send malicious attachments to their victims. You should review the content of emails before downloading attachments or clicking links. These cybercriminals make basic typographical errors in their messages, such as “i” used instead of “I”.
  • Verify the source of the email because threat actors create counterfeit content by using in-depth background information on the victim. If there is any doubt about the emails, the best thing is to confirm the content from the sender.
  • Take note of zip files attached to emails. Threat actors add malware for easy operation. After extraction, the files become vulnerable to attack.

Ways to prevent a Ransomware attack

Data Backup: Backing up data regularly can play an important role in being an alternative to enhance business continuity. Back them up in external drives to have a duplicate of files and information in case a ransomware attack occurs.

System update: Software and applications should be updated to prevent the action of bugs that can be present. Threat actors target large businesses that rely on outdated legacy systems for their daily operations.

Network Segmentation: Due to the spontaneous action of ransomware, it is advisable to divide network into smaller network so the organization can isolate ransomware.

Application whitelisting: Enabling application whitelisting can mitigate ransomware occurrence in a system. It can be achieved by blocking unauthorized or infected programs and applications from being downloaded in a user’s system.

Endpoint Security: This is a major measure for business because the more endpoint created for laptops, smartphones, servers, etc., easy access to threat actors to penetrate the systems for their malicious acts.

Security Awareness Training: Training is paramount to create communication to people on being security conscious and vigilant on cyber-attacks. This enables them to understand cybersecurity solutions and the first line of action that should be implemented when there is an occurrence.

User Privilege: Privilege should be assigned to users based on their roles in a company to easily detect any form of abnormality pertaining to data access.

Conclusion

This article provided insight into what ransomware is, some examples, tips to identify them and how to prevent an attack from happening.

As much as ransomware occurrences cannot be eliminated, it is mandatory to practice security techniques and have an incidence plan in case of unexpected attack that could occur.