Guide to How to Recover and Prevent a Ransomware Attack
Take a look at this.
It’s a late evening, and I’m tired. Perhaps you logged on to your computer to check your email “one final time.” Only this time, something is not quite right.
It’s a slow process. The files will not open. Messages such as “unknown file type” or “no related application” are appearing on your Windows computer, or “no associated application” is appearing on your Mac. Or perhaps you’ve already been shut out totally.
Then the phone starts ringing. You receive a call from your IT staff, and you hear the words you had hoped and prayed to the IT gods not to hear: “We’ve been compromised.”
The image appears in black and white on your laptop screen when you gaze down at it (and usually red).
The ransomware message “Your Files Have Been Encrypted”
A ransomware infection has been detected on your computer system. You’re surrounded by a lot of people.
Steps in a Typical Ransomware Attack
This post was initially published in April of 2019 and was last updated in October 2020. It is available here. Unfortunately, ransomware has only become more popular since then. To reflect the current situation of ransomware and to provide information to help consumers and organizations protect their data, we’ve updated the post.
It is estimated that the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received 2,474 ransomware complaints in 2020, and that is only the number of complaints that were reported. A ransomware assault will be launched against a business every 11 seconds in 2021, according to Cybersecurity Ventures. This is up from the previous year’s rate of 14 seconds and the previous year’s rate of 40 seconds.
Recent years have seen a significant increase in the number of ransomware assaults, which have become increasingly hazardous. An attack on corporate networks that encrypts important information can result in losses of hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars for the victim organization. According to the most recent Threat Landscape Report 2020 from Bitdefender, the overall number of global ransomware reports surged by 485 percent year on year in 2020.
As a result of the global pandemic’s continuing impact on business environments, more people are working from home, and hackers are taking advantage of the chance to attack users who are operating outside the corporate firewall, further compounding the trend. A significant increase in scams and phishing efforts across all platforms revealed that attackers were taking advantage of difficulties linked to COVID-19 to instill panic and misinformation among their targets. Attacks against COVID-19-related messages were observed in the first half of 2020, according to Bitdefender, before changing to impersonation of banking, delivery, and travel services in the second half of the year.
The amount of money demanded in ransom is also increasing. The attempted ransom has reached as high as $50 million, making it the highest attempted ransom ever. Because of the enormous demands, numerous businesses have declared “enough is enough” and have refused to make payments until the end of 2020. Specifically, according to Coveware’s Q4 2020 Quarterly Ransomware Report, average ransomware payments plummeted by 34% to $154,108 from $233,817 in Q3 of 2020. They ascribe the decline to a deterioration in trust in hackers’ ability to remove sensitive data, as evidenced by several incidents of data being revealed to the public after payments have been made.
How Does Ransomware Work?
Across many industries, from technology to healthcare, oil, and gas to higher education, ransomware has a significant impact. Even during a global pandemic, according to Cover, the healthcare sector remained the most frequently targeted industry by ransomware in Q4 of 2020, followed by professional services and the public sector. In other words, if there is an expectation that a business’ goal or service to the world will dissuade hostile individuals, it is an assumption that should be discarded as soon as possible.
Despite recent improvements, ransomware remains a significant danger to enterprises across all industries, with some sectors, such as education and healthcare, being particularly severely struck. According to a forecast released by Emsisoft, a security solutions vendor, 1,681 schools and 560 healthcare facilities will be hit by ransomware in 2020.
Attackers requested an exorbitant $40 million from Broward County Public Schools, the nation’s sixth-largest school system, in March of 2021. The federal Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center said that 57 percent of ransomware assaults reported in August and September 2020 targeted schools, compared to 28 percent of all reported ransomware incidents from January through July of this year.
The education sector is a prime target for hackers, especially this past year when schools with tight finances and aged IT equipment embarked on an unprecedented year of remote instruction that was reliant on information technology. Furthermore, schools maintain sensitive student information that they have an interest in keeping private, making them more likely to pay ransoms rather than have their information made public.
There have been 270 ransomware attacks in the healthcare industry since 2016, with an estimated total cost of $31 million. The attacks targeted 2,100 clinics, hospitals, and other health-related enterprises.
Attempts against the healthcare system and the public sector create life-threatening situations. Emsisoft CTO Fabian Wosar explained that “the fact that there were no ransomware-related deaths in the United States last year was simply attributable to good luck” in the report. “Public sector security must be improved immediately before this good fortune runs out and lives are lost.”
To improve security, you must first understand how ransomware operates and how you can defend your company or organization from an assault. Continue reading to find out how to defend yourself against ransomware.
What Is the Process of Ransomware?
Malicious software such as ransomware is often distributed by spam, phishing emails, or social engineering techniques. It can also be propagated via websites or drive-by downloads, allowing it to infect an endpoint and spread throughout the network. It is important to remember that infection tactics are continually improving, and there are numerous ways for one’s technology to become infected (see section six, “How to Prevent a Ransomware Attack”). Once infected, the ransomware encrypts all files it can access with a high level of security and then demands payment to unlock them. Finally, the malware demands a ransom (usually paid in Bitcoin) in exchange for decrypting the files and restoring full operation to the afflicted information technology systems (IT systems).