What is Ransomware?

What is Ransomware

Ransomware is malware that encrypts files on an infected computer and demands payment in return. Law enforcement agencies advise not paying this ransom; rather, restore data from backup. Furthermore, isolate infected machines and disconnect shared drives as soon as possible to minimize exposure.

Ransomware is typically distributed via emails that contain malware attachments or drive-by downloads, though more advanced crypto ransomware variants can infiltrate systems via Web servers and other means of attack.

It encrypts files

Ransomware is a form of malicious software that encrypts files, rendering them unusable until victims pay a ransom fee to criminals. This threat has caused billions in payments to criminals as well as considerable disruption and expense for businesses, governments and private individuals – it remains one of the most serious cyberthreats and can even encrypt an entire network.

While ransomware attacks have diminished since their “ransomware boom” heyday, attackers continue to develop more dangerous and difficult-to-detect strains of ransomware attacks. Attackers also target specific market segments or organizations who are likely to pay the ransom: hospitals can’t afford losing access to patient records – in fact, 8 out of every 10 malware infections within healthcare are ransomware-based infections.

Ransomware attacks take many forms; from simply encrypting file systems to attacking devices and system services and preventing users from accessing their computers, its most prevalent form being email with malicious attachments from scammers; however it has also been spread via malvertisements, exploit kits, third-party app stores with apps mimicking popular ones so hackers can target unsuspecting users when downloading them – it has even been known for attackers to hijack web servers in order to gain entry to an organization’s data and systems.

Ransomware that utilizes advanced encryption algorithms such as symmetric and asymmetric encryption are among the most dangerous threats, as they are virtually impossible to decrypt without access to their private key and can make file restoration next to impossible once malware is eliminated from a device. Furthermore, these attacks often modify or overwrite master boot records on devices to block rebooting of PCs or accessing recovery programs.

Since ransomware protection has increased, attackers are taking to stealing and releasing critical data to force victims to pay. For instance, REvil gang recently used stolen Apple blueprints as leverage against Apple for demanding ransom. Such tactics allow criminals to exact money from victims without alerting law enforcement of the damage caused.

It asks for a ransom

Ransomware infiltrates computer systems by encrypting files stored there and posting a warning that their decryption can only occur by paying an upfront ransom fee, typically expressed in cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. Once ransomware enters, attackers demand payment through various methods – ransom, cryptocurrency or traditional payment options such as Paypal are often popular solutions to protect data against an attack like ransomware.

Screen locker ransomware prevents access to any applications or services on their system until a fine is paid, often disguised with an official-looking government seal so victims believe they are under official investigation for using unlicensed software or unlawful web content.

Maze ransomware is another variant that collects sensitive data before encrypting and selling it back for profit to hackers.

Targeted ransomware attacks often require targeted attacks against businesses and organizations and demand ransom payments in return. Businesses should ensure they have an automated backup solution capable of recovering from such an attack quickly if one arises; in such an instance, any such business must contact law enforcement immediately in order to report it as soon as possible.

Cybersecurity experts often advise not paying ransom, as doing so only encourages attackers to continue creating variants of malware. Instead, it’s recommended that an organization keep backup copies of all critical data including databases and system logs; additionally they should utilize tools like No More Ransom in order to identify which variant of ransomware has infiltrated its systems.

Businesses looking to avoid ransomware attacks must ensure their devices are up-to-date with security patches. Furthermore, they should avoid downloading apps from third-party app stores; only download trusted sources like Apple App Store or Google Play should be trusted sources for apps downloads. Furthermore, administrators should never grant administrator privileges for apps downloaded on mobile devices and be cautious of clicking links in emails or text messages that contain suspicious links.

It locks the victim’s computer

Ransomware attacks involve blocking victims from accessing their computer and informing them that files have been encrypted, with only paying a ransom being able to decrypt them again. Threat actors continue to add features such as countdown timers and routines that threaten irreparable damage for nonpaying victims.

Encrypting ransomware is the most prevalent type of ransomware. The malware utilizes complex encryption algorithms to encrypt files on a system and present victims with an on-screen message instructing them to pay a ransom in order to regain access to their data. Furthermore, backups may be deleted to further thwart data recovery attempts by users; making encrypting ransomware much more effective than screen lockers which only lock victims out without actually encrypting files on their PCs.

At times, attackers may target specific types of organizations. Universities are an especially likely target due to having smaller security teams and large user bases likely sharing files among themselves; many also host sensitive research data which makes them an attractive target. Other possible targets could include medical facilities, law firms or any organization dealing with confidential data.

Ways to avoid ransomware include having regular backups of your data backed up automatically via software, as well as making sure it has an anti-virus program.

Some forms of ransomware feature social engineering tools that make them more adept than other versions at duping victims, while more aggressive versions exploit security holes to infiltrate systems without needing to mislead users first. Fusob, discovered on an array of smartphones in 2016, hides as an online pornographic app before waiting for unsuspecting victims to click a link that activates it and take control of their systems.

It can spread

Ransomware is malicious software that encrypts files on a computer and then locks their user’s data, demanding payment before any further access can be gained to critical information. Cybercriminals often target healthcare, transportation and government agencies in order to gain access to critical data that cannot be easily shared between devices within an organization – creating chaos within companies as well as entire cities or regions.

Ransomware typically arrives through email attachments with malicious macros that infiltrate computers when their recipients open them, allowing attackers to gain access and encrypt files on your system, then display an alert on your screen claiming only you have the private key for decryption – demanding payment via cryptocurrency like bitcoin as ransom.

Ransomware spreads in another way by exploiting network ports and vulnerabilities to gain entry onto a machine, often through drive-by downloads that do not require users to knowingly visit an infected website; drive-by attacks are particularly risky because they can gather personal information as well as install more malware onto an affected device.

Once an organization has fallen victim to ransomware, attackers can encrypt all data across its network and may delete backup copies and shadow copies to prevent the victim from recovering his/her data. Furthermore, ransomware often includes code that prevents antivirus software from decrypting it properly.

Ransomware will remain an ever-present threat, likely becoming more sophisticated and targeting critical infrastructure such as hospitals, airports, and power stations. Furthermore, attackers could target specific industries more likely to pay ransom demands such as law firms or medical facilities.

Ransomware attacks can be prevented by keeping operating systems patched and up-to-date, limiting exposure to public WiFi networks, using antivirus software with whitelisting technology to block malicious programs from infiltrating systems, and performing backups regularly – these steps may all reduce the impact of an attack and help minimize its consequences.

Mark Funk
Mark Funk is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.