What is Ransomware and how to prevent Ransomware Attack

What is a Ransomeware and how to prevent Ransomeware Attack

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What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is malware that infects devices, networks and data centers and locks access for users. To unlock the systems, the attackers extort a ransom.  Another strategy is drive-by download: When a user visits an infected website, the malware is downloaded and installed without their knowledge. So not only devices, but also web browsers are the main targets of cyber criminals. Especially now that attackers continue to target remote workers.

Ransomware causes a major concern for many individuals and companies. But with careful precautions, the risk of infection can be significantly reduced and the consequences for an individual or company in the event of an attack can be drastically minimized.

Attackers use various methods to extort and get money from victims:

After a victim finds that he or she cannot open a file, he or she receives a message or a digital extortion letter via email. A small amount of money is demanded for the surrender of the private key. Often, the attackers warn that the ransom must be paid by a certain time. Otherwise, the private key is destroyed and the data is lost forever.

The global pandemic also saw COVID-19-related messages and attachments used as bait in a number of different ransomware campaigns. This suggests that ransomware will continue to be a major threat. Additionally, malicious actors are increasingly relying on Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS).

How to prevent Ransomware Attack

  • Create a backup and recovery plan to back up systems regularly and store backups offline on a separate device.
  • Use professional email and web security tools that scan attachments, websites and files for malware and block potentially dangerous advertisements and social media sites with no relevance to the business. These tools should include sandboxing capabilities so that new or unknown files can be run and analyzed in a safe environment.
  • Operating systems, devices and software must always be patched and up-to-date.
  • Antivirus, IPS, and anti-malware tools for devices and network should always run with the latest update.
  • Use application whitelists that prevent unauthorized applications from being downloaded and run.
  • Segmentation, dividing the network into security zones so that one infected area cannot easily spread to another.
  • Creating and maintaining access rights so that as few users as possible can infect business-critical applications, data and services. Companies should rethink and adopt a zero-trust policy – trusting no one first and strictly regulating access rights to critical assets.
  • Implementing security protocols to check and block devices that do not meet certain security standards (no client or anti-malware installed, outdated antivirus, operating system needs critical patches, etc.).
  • Use forensic analysis tools to verify after an attack a) where the infection came from, b) how long the malware has been in the environment, c) whether it has been completely eliminated on all devices, and d) ensure it cannot recur.

Read more: How to Securely  do a Backup

There is little reliance on employees when it comes to security. It is paramount to constantly train and improve employee security awareness so that they do not carelessly download files, click on email attachments, or follow web links in emails. Nevertheless, the “human factor” is the weakest link in any security chain.

What to do after a Ransomware Attack?

In the best case, if there is a current backup, the device can be formatted and reloaded with a clean version. The following is a list of things to be aware of beyond that:

1. Report Attack Immediately.

With an online search, you can quickly find the website where cyberattacks can be reported for that country. For Europe, Europol provides a page here.

2. Yayment of the ransom is not a guarantee

Paying the ransom is not a guarantee that the files will really be released. The only thing that is certain is that the criminals will get their victim’s money and, in some cases, their account information as well. Moreover, decrypting the files does not automatically mean that the malware has been uninstalled.

3. seek out experts

Many operating system, software and security solution providers have experts on staff who can advise companies if their system becomes infected with ransomware. There are also external forensics experts who can help restore the system.

4. have a plan B

What should you do if your computer systems or network become unavailable?

What happens after a Ransomware Attack?

Once a ransomware has reached its destination and started working, it is usually too late. Either the computer can no longer be operated or the entire hard disk has been encrypted. If the computer is infected by ransomware, usually only an existing backup will help to restore the data.

At this point, it should be noted that damage caused by a Ransomeware can be undone only with a very large effort, if at all. Even though some security softwares  promise to clean an infected computer again, a complete recovery of the system is very time-consuming and therefore mostly unrealistic.

In the event of damage, the entire computer usually has to be reinstalled, configured and the data reconstructed from a (hopefully) existing backup. Often, however, not all data can be restored, so that data loss must be expected here.

Of course, there is also the option of paying the ransom and then hoping that the Hacker will actually provide the decryption key. Futtress Lab advises against this and strongly recommends using precautionary measures to protect against ransomware.

Conclusion

100% protection against ransomware is not possible! The carelessness of one employee in the company or your love one is enough to get infect a Ransomeware. Therefore, it must be the goal of every system administrator and all users to minimize the risk of an infection. The following points should help to protect against ransomware in the best possible way:

Awareness

The awareness of every user must be sensitized regarding the threat and guidelines, routines as well as regular reminders and information should remind to be careful with the handling of own and business data.

Online and offline backup

Regular data backups only protect against ransomware if they are not in the direct reach of users or administrators.

Share this article to increase awareness about the dangers of Ransomeware Attack.

Saint Yome

Saint Yome

Cyber Security Researcher and Consultant. Founder and CEO of Futtress Lab Ltd