How Does Ransomware Work
How Does Ransomware Work

What is Ransomware and How does it Work?

Ransomware is a sort of malicious software that prevents users from accessing a computer system or files until a ransom is paid. The majority of ransomware variations encrypt files on the infected computer, rendering them inaccessible, and then demand a ransom payment to regain access.

Ransomware code isn’t often clever, but it doesn’t have to be because, unlike many other varieties of malware, it doesn’t need to stay unnoticed for long to accomplish its aim. The relative ease of installation vs the large profit potential motivates both experienced and inexperienced cybercriminals to run ransomware attacks.

How Is Ransomware Transmitted?

The majority of ransomware is distributed through emails that appear to be legitimate, luring you to click a link or download an attachment that contains the harmful software. Drive-by-download attacks on compromised or malicious websites can also spread ransomware. Even social media messaging has been used to send ransomware assaults.

Generic ransomware is rarely targeted one-by-one; instead, attackers use a “shotgun” strategy in which they collect lists of emails or hijacked websites and then send out ransomware. Given the number of attackers out there, it’s possible that each time you’re attacked, you’ll be targeted by a different one.

Regardless of whether the ransom is paid, attackers will always try to retrieve relevant data from a compromised machine. Assume that all sensitive data on the machine has been compromised, including usernames and passwords for internal and external resources, payment information, contact email addresses, and so on.

How Can Ransomware Be Prevented?

Unfortunately, the tactics that businesses employ to defend themselves against ransomware haven’t kept up with the malware’s development. Organizations may, however, take a few steps to assist decrease risk and limit the impact of a ransomware assault.

The most crucial thing that businesses can do is ensure that data is backed up on a regular basis, while filtering out potentially harmful websites and emails. They will at least have access to their vital data if a ransomware attack is successful.

Anti-ransomware technology, which can be used as a standalone solution or integrated into an organization’s anti-malware platform, can also be used to block ransomware execution. RansomFree, a free solution from Cybereason, protects PCs and servers from ransomware threats.

Understanding The Ransomware Economics

According to the Department of Justice, there were an average of 4,000 ransomware assaults per day in the United States in 2016, a 4x increase over 2015. According to the FBI, ransoms totaled over $1 billion in 2016, up from 240 million in 2015. Verizon’s 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) was released in April 2017, confirming the growth in these assaults.

The spikes are dramatic, but to those who are familiar with ransomware, they are unsurprising. Ransomware is easy to build and spread, and it provides thieves with a low-risk, high-reward business model for making money from malware. When you consider how most businesses and individuals are unprepared to cope with ransomware, it’s no surprise that it’s become the fastest-growing cyber threat to date.

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Ransomware distributors are frequently clever e-marketers that are well-versed in their targets. It’s very uncommon for a ransomware gang to operate many campaigns at once, with tiered pricing based on factors like vertical industry, area, age, and so on. While ransoms have crossed the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the idea is to set a price that makes paying the ransom either cheaper or easier for the victims than recreating or restoring the hacked systems, especially when the victim is in a hurry.

As a result, cybercrime has spawned a whole new industry, one with risk management flaws that allow it to thrive. One important flaw is that when it comes to ransomware, the cyber insurance business is often ineffective. Most policies feature a “extortion” clause, but the deductibles are prohibitively expensive, requiring extortion of hundreds of thousands of dollars before the insurance kicks in. Furthermore, policies are usually nullified if a cyber-extortion clause is made public.

What is Anti-ransomware and How Does It Work?

It’s no longer enough to rely on weak data backups or even Next-Gen AV to combat contemporary ransomware. However, multilayered prevention, the ability to detect behavioural anomalies, and the ability to scale with automation and integration can provide consistent and complete ransomware security.

To recover from a ransomware attack, Cybereason does not rely on insecure data backups; instead, we simply prevent it from happening in the first place. Identify early stage breach activity, prevent attack advancement, and recover compromised endpoints and users by detecting anomalies based on indicators of behaviour particular to ransomware strains.

With industry-leading effectiveness, stop ransomware attacks before they do damage, and fight zero-day ransomware strains or never-before-seen malware.

How Ransomware Functions Work?

Ransomware can take control of your computer in a number of ways. Phishing email attachments are the most common. These are sent to the victim’s email address and look to be safe files.

As a result, the victim downloads and opens the files, which is when things go wrong. The malware’s senders seize control of the victim’s computer system and lock the user out.

This is especially true if the system includes social engineering capabilities. These are designed to deceive you into granting administrative access.

Other assaults are more aggressive in nature, as they aim to exploit security flaws in the targeted system. They don’t have to use deception to persuade users to grant administrative access.

Once the malware has taken over your computer, it can execute a variety of tasks, including encrypting some of your information. You won’t be able to decrypt your data without a mathematical key that only the attacker has access to.

The malevolent individual sends you a message informing you that they have taken control of your system. As a result, your files are no longer accessible. The only method to get them is to send a cryptocurrency payment that isn’t traceable.

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Another type of ransomware assault involves the perpetrator impersonating a law enforcement agency. They will claim that they are shutting down your computer for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Pornography is on your PC.
  • Your machine has pirated software on it.

They will most likely demand a fine to deter you from reporting the attack to police. Many ransom attacks, on the other hand, don’t bother with the pretext.

Leakware and doxware are two types of assaults. Unless you pay a ransom, the cybercriminal threatens to disclose crucial data from your hard drive.

The most prevalent type of attack is encrypting ransomware. Many assailants will not attempt to masquerade as government officials. Furthermore, discovering and recovering data from hard discs is not an easy task. As a result, for many attackers, encryption is the preferred method.

Target of Ransomware

Many attackers target businesses, and they choose their victims in a variety of ways. They will not pass up an opportunity if it is presented to them. They’ll enter. Learning institutions, for example, could be attractive targets for a variety of reasons:

  • They have a smaller security crew.
  • The clientele is wide.

There is a lot of file sharing with such a wide user base. This makes it simple for hackers to gain access to a company’s security systems.

Large, well-known corporations may also be desirable targets because they are likely to pay ransoms quickly. They must safeguard their interests and cannot afford to stop operations for an extended length of time.

If the data of its consumers falls into the wrong hands, financial organisations stand to lose a lot of money. Government entities and medical institutions both need fast access to their files.

Organizations that deal with sensitive data may need to act promptly to prevent data leaking. Law businesses, for example, are particularly vulnerable to leakware attacks. Ransomware attacks may target celebrities as well. Bette Midler, Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen, and others may have been among the casualties.

If you don’t fit into any of the above categories, don’t assume you’re secure. Ransomware makes no distinctions and travels around the internet on its own.

How to Protect Yourself from Ransomware?

To avoid being a victim of ransomware, follow these steps.

  1. Regularly update your operating system and keep it up to date.
  2. Installing software or granting administrative access should be avoided unless you are familiar with it and its functions.
  3. Install antivirus software that can identify harmful software and prevent it from gaining access to your computer.
  4. Backup your files on a regular basis and set it up to be automatic.
  5. While you may not be able to totally prevent malware attacks, you can decrease the amount of harm they inflict.

How Do I Get Rid of Ransomware?

You must regain control of your system as soon as possible if cybercriminals have taken control of it through a ransomware virus attack. To recover control, use the following steps:

  • Start your Windows 10 computer in safe mode.
  • Antimalware software should be installed.
  • Check your computer for ransomware malware.
  • Reset the computer to its original state.
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Your files will not be decrypted even if you are successful in deleting the malicious application. They’ve already been rendered incomprehensible. You may also require access to the key used by the attacker to decrypt your files if the virus is sophisticated.

You can avoid paying the ransom sought by the attackers by deleting the malware and recovering control. As a result, you won’t be able to decrypt your data because only the attackers have the key.

Raw Data on Ransomware

Ransomware allows criminals to make large sums of money. For example, in the first few months of 2018, SamSam made a stunning $1 million in ransom money. As previously stated, some businesses, such as banking institutions and law firms, are more likely to make prompt payments.

Experts estimate that financial institutions pay up to 90% of the ransom. They’re extremely popular among attackers, and they’re frequently targeted. At least 75% of businesses have become victims of ransomware virus attacks. This is despite the fact that anti-malware software has been updated.

You’ll be happy to read that ransomware attacks have decreased in recent years. At the start of 2017, they had increased by 10% and were responsible for 60% of malware payloads. That percentage has now dropped to 5%.

Is Ransomware a Thing of the Past?

Ransomware may be on the decline, due to bitcoin, which is crooks’ preferred currency. Not all victims make restitution. Also, some people may wish to use bitcoin but have no knowledge how to do so.

This does not, however, imply that ransomware is no longer a threat. Attackers are divided into two types:

Commodity: they aim to infect systems in large numbers and have the audacity to offer ransomware platforms that crooks can use.

Targeted groups: their focus is on markets and organisations that are susceptible.

In addition, the price of bitcoin is declining, which could lead to an increase in ransomware assaults.

Why Should I Pay the Ransom?

Law enforcement officials, understandably, would encourage you not to pay. This incentivizes cybercriminals to carry out additional attacks. Many firms are pushed into a corner and must examine the attack’s economic impact.

Many businesses refuse to pay out of principle. However, a huge number of businesses are giving in to the pressure. Make sure you’re not reacting to scareware when you assess your options (pay or not pay).

Also, keep in mind that criminals do not always play by the rules. Even if you pay up, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get your files back. Criminals have been known to break their agreements. Serious malware, on the other hand, will keep their promise since word will spread.

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Evangeline Christina is a Cyber Security Enthusiast, Security Blogger, Technical Editor, Certified Ethical Hacker, Author at Cyberspecial.net. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter in a reputed news agency.

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