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Ransomware Attacks and How to Protect Yourself

By Elliot Anderson  |  October 24, 2022

What is Ransomware?

An organization or user's access to data on their computer is restricted by malware known as "ransomware." Cybercriminals put businesses in a situation wherein paying the ransom is the quickest and least expensive option to recover access to their data by encoding these files and requesting a ransom demand for the decryption key. For increased motivation for ransomware sufferers to pay the ransom, several variations have included other capabilities, such as data stealing.

 

The first known ransomware attack was called "AIDS" or "PC Cyborg", which surfaced in 1989. Today, there are many different types of ransomware including Cryptolocker, CryptoWall, CTB-Locker, Locky, and TeslaCrypt. Some ransomware variants even go so far as to disable anti-malware software on infected systems so they cannot be removed by other means.

 

 

Emergence of Ransomware

The 2017 WannaCry attack marked the start of the current ransomware mania. This widespread and well reported assault proved that ransomware was both feasible and possibly lucrative. Numerous ransomware variations have since been created and utilized in numerous assaults.

 

The recent rise in ransomware was also influenced by the COVID-19 epidemic. Gaps in firms' cyber security emerged when they quickly shifted to remote labor. These flaws were taken advantage of by cybercriminals to spread ransomware, which led to an increase in ransomware assaults. When compared to the first half of 2020, ransomware assaults climbed by 50% in the third quarter.

 

 

Popular Ransomware Variants

There are several ransomware variants, each with specific features. However, certain ransomware organizations have been more active and profitable than others, setting them apart from the competition.

 

1. Ryuk

A very targeted ransomware variant is Ryuk. It is frequently sent by spear phishing emails or by utilizing stolen user credentials to access business systems over the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). After infecting a system, Ryuk encrypts some file types (but ignoring those that are essential to a computer's functionality), then demands a ransom.

 

One of the most costly ransomware variants in use is known as Ryuk. The average ransom demanded by Ryuk is above $1 million. As a result, Ryuk's cybercriminals mostly target businesses who have the means to satisfy their demands.

 

2. Maze

Because it was the first ransomware strain to combine file encryption and data theft, the Maze ransomware is well-known. When victims started declining ransom demands, Maze started gathering private information from their PCs and encrypting it. This data would either be made publicly available or sold to the highest bidder if the ransom demands were not satisfied. A further inducement to pay up was the prospect for a costly data leak.

 

The organization that created the Maze ransomware has formally ceased operations. This does not, however, imply that ransomware is any less of a concern. The Egregor, Maze, and Sekhmet varieties are said to share a same origin, and some Maze associates have switched to utilizing it.

 

3. REvil (Sodinokibi)

REvil started out as a conventional ransomware strain, but it has since developed. Now, it uses the Double Extortion method to steal data from organizations while also securing the files. This implies that attackers may threaten to reveal the hacked information if a second payment isn't received in conjunction with demanding a fee to unlock the data.

 

4. Lockbit

The ransomware-as-a-service LockBit has been active since September 2019 and encrypts data (RaaS). This ransomware was created to swiftly encrypt huge enterprises in order to avoid being immediately discovered by intrusion detection systems and IT/SOC teams.

 

5. DearCry

Microsoft issued remedies for four Microsoft Exchange server vulnerabilities in March 2021. A new ransomware version called DearCry is intended to exploit four previously discovered vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange.

 

Some file formats are encrypted by the DearCry ransomware. After the encryption process is complete, DearCry will display a ransom notice telling users to email the ransomware's operators to request instructions on how to unlock their data.

 

6. Lapsus$

A South American ransomware group known as Lapsus$ has been connected to cyberattacks on prominent targets. The cyber gang is well-known for extortion, threatening the publication of private data if its victims don't comply with its demands. The organization has claimed of getting into companies including Nvidia, Samsung, and Ubisoft. The gang masks malware files as legitimate ones by using stolen source code.

 

 

How to Protect Against Ransomware

 

Utilize Best Practices

An effective plan may significantly reduce the cost and effects of a ransomware attack. Adopting the recommended practices listed below can lessen an organization's vulnerability to ransomware and lessen its effects:

 

Cyber Awareness Training and Education: Phishing emails are a common method for spreading ransomware. It is essential to educate people on how to recognize and prevent possible ransomware attacks. User education is frequently seen as one of the most crucial defenses a company can employ, since many modern cyber-attacks begin with a focused email that does not even include malware but merely a socially engineered communication that tempts the user to click on a harmful link.

 

Continuous data backups: According to the definition of ransomware, it is software created so that decrypting encrypted data requires paying a ransom. A company may recover from an assault with little to no data loss and without having to pay a ransom thanks to automated, secured data backups. A crucial procedure for preventing data loss and ensuring data recovery in the case of contamination or disk hardware failure is maintaining frequent backups of data. Organizations may recuperate from ransomware attacks with the assistance of functional backups.

 

Patching: In order to guard against ransomware attacks, patching is essential since hackers frequently search the patches for the most recently discovered exploits before launching assaults on unpatched systems. Because fewer possible vulnerabilities exist within the company for an attacker to exploit, it is crucial that firms make sure all systems have the most recent fixes deployed to them.

 

User Authentication: Attackers using ransomware frequently exploit stolen user credentials to access services like RDP. A strong authentication process can make it more difficult for an adversary to utilize a password that has been guessed or stolen.

By Elliot Anderson

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