Ransomware Protection: Why you need it
It is extremely dangerous to hold a person hostage in the real world. The act of kidnapping a victim by malefactors is dangerous. They must then keep the victim alive while they negotiate for their release. Another flashpoint is the exchange of victims for ransom. Computer ransomware is, however, as manageable as it can be. The malware sneaks in undetected, encrypts files, and demands a ransom in an untraceable currency. In frustration, the victim may throw crockery at a wall and cause violence. Your antivirus software should be able to wipe out ransomware just as it would any other malware. However, if it fails, it can have dire consequences.
Although it is not ideal to have a Trojan or virus infect your computer, cause havoc for a few hours, then be removed by antivirus updates, it can still be managed. It’s quite different when ransomware is involved. Your files are already encrypted so removing the perpetrator will not do any good and could even affect your ability to pay the ransom if you choose to. You can add ransomware-specific protection to your security products.
Even worse is ransomware that attacks your business. Every hour of productivity lost could cost thousands or more depending on the nature and size of the business. While ransomware attacks have increased, there are ways to combat them. We will be discussing some tools that you can use to defend yourself against ransomware.
What is Ransomware and how can you get it?
Ransomware works on a simple principle. The attacker will find a way to steal your data and demand payment. The most popular type of ransomware is encryption ransomware. This allows you to lock out your documents and replace them with encrypted copies. You will receive the key to decrypt the documents if you pay the ransom. Another ransomware is available that blocks all access to your computer and mobile devices. Screen locker ransomware is less dangerous than encrypting ransomware, but it’s easier to defeat. The most dangerous malware is the one that encrypts all of your hard drives, making it unusable. This last type of malware is rare.
You won’t be able to recognize a ransomware attack if it happens. The ransomware doesn’t display the usual indicators that it’s malware. The ransomware encryption works quietly in the background and aims to finish its evil mission before you even notice it. After the ransomware is done, it will display instructions on how to pay the ransom or get your files back. The perpetrators demand an untraceable payment. Bitcoin is the most popular option. Ransomware might also ask victims to buy a gift card, prepaid debit card, and provide the card number.
This infection is often transmitted via infected Office documents or PDFs that are sent to you by email that appears legitimate. This may appear to be coming from your company’s address. This is what happened in the WannaCry ransomware attacks a few decades ago. Do not click on the link if you are unsure about the legitimacy of the email.
Ransomware is a type of malware that can be delivered to your computer using any method. For example, a drive-by download that is hosted on a malicious advertisement at a site otherwise safe. This could be done by installing a fake USB drive on your computer, but this is rare. If you are lucky, your Malware Protection utility will detect it right away. You could get in trouble if it doesn’t.
CryptoLocker, and other encryption malware
CryptoLocker was the most well-known ransomware variant until the WannaCry attacks. It first appeared several years ago. It was discovered by an international group of security and law enforcement agencies. However, other groups kept the name, using it for their malicious creations.
A Dwindling Field
A few years back, there were several standalone ransomware protection tools available from consumer security companies. Many of these tools were also free. Many of these tools have disappeared, either for different reasons or all gone. Acronis Ransomware Prevention was once a standalone tool that could be used for free, but it is now part of the company’s backup software. Malwarebytes Anti-Ransomware is now only available as part of Malwarebytes Premium. Heilig Defense RansomOff’s web page simply states that “RansomOff” will return at some point.
Enterprise security companies offer ransomware protection tools as freebies to consumers. Many of these tools have fallen to the wayside as companies realize that offering a free product takes up resources. CyberSight RansomStopper and Cybereason RansomFree have also been discontinued.
Bitdefender Anti-Ransomware has been discontinued for a practical reason. It was still available, but it used an unusual approach. Ransomware attackers who encrypt the same files twice could lose the ability to decrypt them. Many ransomware programs leave a marker to prevent double-dipping. Bitdefender would mimic the markings for well-known ransomware types and tell them to “Move on!” You’ve been there! This approach was too narrow to be practical. CryptoDrop too seems to have disappeared, although its website is still available.