What is ransomware? Why is it so effective in attacking organizations? How can you protect yourself against it.
Ransomware is a sophisticated cyberattack that security teams worldwide are dealing with. Ransomware can be used to attack all types of organizations, including small teams, large companies, government networks, and state systems.
Although it may seem simple, ransomware can be extremely destructive. Ransomware is a type of malware that is downloaded to a device and encrypts or deletes all data, until a ransom payment is made to restore it. According to research, a ransomware attack will hit a new company every 14 seconds in 2020.
WannaCry is one of the most well-known ransomware attacks. WannaCry was a malware attack that infected more than 230,000 computers at 150 companies in a matter of hours. It encrypted every file it found on a computer and demanded $300 in bitcoin payments from users to restore them.
WannaCry mostly affected large organizations. The UK’s National Health Service was one of the most prominent targets. The attack had a lower impact than expected due to its slow stoppage and the fact that it did not target critical infrastructure like railways and nuclear power plants.
The economic damage from the attack is still significant, with millions of dollars in lost revenue. More recently, 22 cities in Texas have been hit by ransomware attacks, with attackers demanding $2.5 million to restore encrypted files, leading to a federal investigation. Ransomware is an especially prevalent in financial organizations, with 90% experiencing an attack in the last year.
How does ransomware work? Why is it so popular and how can you prevent it from happening again?
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware starts with malicious software being downloaded onto an Endpoint Device, such as a laptop, desktop, or smartphone. This is often due to user error or ignorance about security risks.
Phishing attacks are a common way to distribute malware. To trick users into opening the email, an attacker may attach a URL or infected document to their email. This will allow them to install malware on their devices.
Another popular method of spreading ransomware is using a ‘trojan horse’ virus style. This is done by presenting ransomware online as legitimate software and infecting users’ devices with it.
Ransomware is usually very fast. The ransomware will typically take control of any critical processes on your device in a matter of seconds and search for encrypted files. This means that all data inside them will be scrambled. Ransomware is likely to delete files that it cannot encrypt.
Ransomware can then infect all other USB devices or hard drives connected to the infected host computer. After this point, any new files or devices will be encrypted. After that, the virus will start sending signals to other devices on the network to try to infect them all.
The whole process is extremely fast and the device will display a message in a matter of minutes.
As bitcoin is not traceable, payment will be made in bitcoin. Companies are often under pressure to quickly make payments to attackers.
There are many types of ransomware. Ransomware can threaten to reveal encrypted data to the general public. This could be detrimental to businesses that need to protect their customers or business data. Scareware is another threat that floods your computer with popups and demands a ransom payment to fix the problem. It is the same idea: a malicious program infects a computer and demands a ransom to get it removed.
Ransomware is so effective
Ransomware can cause serious damage to businesses and result in financial loss as well as productivity losses. Ransomware can cause significant damage to businesses, resulting in the loss of files or data. This could be hundreds of hours of lost work, or customer information that is vital for the smooth running your company.
In addition to productivity loss, machines won’t be usable. Kaspersky estimates that it takes most organizations around a week to recover data. There is also the cost of replacing infected computers, paying for IT companies to repair the damage and putting in place protection to prevent it from happening again.
Many businesses feel that they cannot avoid paying the ransom because they don’t have any other choice. Ransomware generates over $25 million in revenue for hackers each year, which demonstrates how effective it is to extort money from organizations.
Ransomware targets Human Weaknesses
Attackers can use phishing to target people and bypass security systems with ransomware. Hackers can use phishing emails and trick people into opening malicious files or attachments. Email is an important part of many businesses‘ security systems. Trojan horse viruses can also be used to target human error, causing users to accidentally download malicious files.
This is because most users are not aware of security threats and they don’t know what to do with them. Ransomware spreads faster because of this lack of security awareness.
Inadequacy of technological defenses
Ransomware attacks are on the rise at an alarming rate, as attackers develop more sophisticated malware. Because they are expensive and difficult to use, many businesses don’t have the security measures in place to protect themselves against these attacks. IT departments often find it difficult to convince executives of the need for strong security defenses, especially when it is too late and systems are already compromised.
Software and Hardware Out of Date
Many organizations rely too heavily upon outdated software and hardware, not only are they not strong against attacks but also many of them lack the right security measures. Security vulnerabilities are discovered by attackers over time. Although technology companies frequently push security updates, many organizations don’t have the ability to verify that users have installed these updates. Many organizations also rely on older computers, which can lead to vulnerabilities.
This is why WannaCry was so successful. Many large organizations, such as the NHS, were affected by it. They use decades-old machines that run on outdated operating systems. Microsoft patched the WannaCry exploit that infected systems two months prior to the attack. The attack spread quickly because devices weren’t updated.
How can you stop ransomware?
Businesses can prevent ransomware attacks by being proactive about their security and ensuring that they have strong protections in place to protect against ransomware infecting your systems. These are the top protections you can put in place to prevent ransomware attacks.
Strong, Reputable Endpoint Anti-Virus Security
Endpoint security solutions are one of the best ways to prevent ransomware. These solutions are installed on your devices and prevent any malware from infecting them. Administrators can also see if devices have been compromised and make sure security updates are installed.
These solutions can protect users from malicious downloads and alert them when they visit dangerous websites. While these systems cannot be guaranteed to work 100% of the time, cybercriminals will always try to create new malware to bypass security tools. However, endpoint security is an important step in strong protection from malware.
Email Security: Inside and Outside the Gateway
Ransomware is often delivered via email. Email security is essential to prevent ransomware. Secure Email gateway technologies filter emails with URL defenses and attachment sandboxing in order to block threats from reaching users. This prevents ransomware from reaching endpoint devices, and stops users inadvertently installing ransomware on their devices.
Phishing is a common way to deliver ransomware. Although secure email gateways can prevent phishing attacks from happening, there are also Post-Delivery protection technologies that use machine learning and AI algorithms and detect phishing attacks and display warning banners in emails to warn recipients that suspicious emails may be sent. This allows users to avoid ransomware attacks by avoiding phishing emails.
Web Filtering & Isolation Technologies
DNS Web filtering solutions prevent users from visiting unsafe websites or downloading malicious files. This prevents ransomware, trojan horses viruses, and other malware from being downloaded via the Internet.
DNS filters can also be used to block third-party adverts. You should set up web filters to block malicious third party adverts and prevent users from visiting unknown or dangerous domains. Isolation is a useful tool for stopping ransomware downloadings. Isolation technologies are able to completely eliminate threats from users by isolating browsing activity on secure servers and showing a safe render. This helps to protect against ransomware, as malicious software is not executed on the user’s computer. Isolation has the main advantage of not affecting users’ experience. It provides high security and seamless browsing.
Security Awareness Training
Your greatest security risk is often the people in your company. Security Awareness Training platforms have seen a significant increase in popularity over the past few years. These platforms educate users about the dangers they face when using the internet at home and at work. Awareness Training teaches users about the threats in email and what security measures they can use to prevent ransomware.
Security Awareness Training solutions often include phishing simulation technology. Administrators can use this technology to create simulated phishing emails and then send them to employees to see how well they are able to detect attacks. The phishing simulation can be used to assess your security and to identify those users who need additional security training to stop ransomware spreading.
Data Recovery and Backup
If ransomware attacks succeed and your data is compromised then the best way to safeguard your organization is to be capable of restoring the data you need quickly to minimize downtime. It is important to have backups in multiple locations, including on your main storage and on local disks. Backups of data will allow you to protect your files from being lost or regain their functionality in the event of a ransomware attack.
Cloud Data Backup and Recovery platforms that are best for businesses will enable them to recover data in case of disaster. They will be accessible at any time and can be integrated with existing cloud apps and endpoint devices. Cloud data backup is an important tool for resolving ransomware.
Don’t Let Ransomware Damage Your Organization
You can protect your company against ransomware attacks by following the steps above. Read our guides to the best email security solutions and top endpoint protection options.