How to Tell If You Have Ransomware
It is a type of malware that encrypts files and systems before demanding payment (usually in the form of cryptocurrency) to be able to restore access to the files and systems. Once a computer has been infected, a window will appear informing the user that they must pay a fine. Threat actors will frequently pose as representatives of a government agency or other authority and claim that the system has been shut down for security reasons.
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The Impact of Ransomware
However, the financial component of a ransomware attack is only one-half of the battle; there is also a psychological component to ransomware attacks. Businesses must restore their systems and beef up their cybersecurity measures to remain competitive. There’s also the loss of productivity that comes with downed systems, as well as the time and effort it takes to get them back up and running. According to a 2020 Sophos Report, the average cost of a ransomware attack is $732,520 if the attacker does not pay the ransom.
“The reality is that ransomware is effective in a large number of cases,” Garrity said. “A lot of the time, businesses will pay the fine simply to resume operations.”
Paid ransom does not always result in the restoration of operations; in addition, it can catalyze criminal activity and result in significant compliance violation fees. In fact, according to the same Sophos Report, paying the ransom can result in a doubling of the cost of the ransomware attack; the average cost for a company that paid the ransom was $1,448,458, on average, according to the same report.
It doesn’t matter which way you slice it, being hit by ransomware is a security team’s worse nightmare.
Download our Security Advisor Series: Cost of Ransomware vs. Cloud SIEM to learn more about the costs associated with ransomware attacks.
Ransomware Warning Signs and Symptoms
Many businesses do not have the visibility, tools, or staffing resources necessary to detect and prevent ransomware from infecting their systems. Some ransomware attacks take a long time to complete; attackers can spend weeks or even months working on a single ransomware project, moving slowly through the network to gain access to critical systems and accounts. Because attackers are employing more sophisticated techniques, newer ransomware attacks can be completed in as little as 12 hours. As a result, it is critical to remain vigilant and take action as soon as possible.
‘Ransomware isn’t something that happens when you press a button and people are instantly infected,’ Garrity explained. “From the attacker’s point of view, there’s a lot of planning going on before that.”
Warning Signs of Ransomware
There are several warning signs that cybercriminals have infiltrated your network and are preparing to launch a ransomware attack on your computer system. If you can identify these indicators and detect an attack in its early stages, you will have a better chance of regaining control and avoiding serious damage. It takes the right tools and some knowledge of what to look for to do it successfully.
Keep an eye out for these six indicators of a ransomware attack.
1. Suspicious Emails
A ransomware attack is one of the most common ways in which a victim is tricked into paying the ransom. Hackers will send social engineering emails that appear to be from a legitimate company, but which contain a malicious attachment or link attached to them. Once users open that attachment, hackers have gained access to the network and will be able to move around more freely.
Employees who have received end-user training are more likely to be aware of and recognize a phishing scam. If they do, they will be able to issue an early warning.
2. Unexpected Network Scanners
Keep an eye out for scanners that appear on your network that you are unfamiliar with or that have no use in your company — this is especially true if the scanners are located on servers.
The majority of the time, cybercriminals will launch a ransomware attack by gaining access to a single computer. From there, they’ll do some digging into your network to determine the domain rights of that computer, as well as what else they might be able to access through your network. A cybercriminal can accomplish this by installing a network scanning tool such as Advanced Port Scanner or AngryIP on a victim’s computer.
Of course, a network scanner can be a useful tool in some situations. Make a quick check with the rest of your IT team to see if anyone else is employing network scanners. If no one else is, it may be time to raise the alarm.
3. Unauthorized Access to Active Directory
Hackers will most likely attempt to infiltrate your company’s Active Directory (AD) and gain domain access at the same time they install network scanning software. Tools such as BloodHound and AD Find will help them accomplish this.
One such investor is SharpHound, which is available as a command-line.exe executable or as a PowerShell script in BloodHound, among other applications. To accomplish this, it must first gather information about Active Directory users, groups, and computers, and then map pathways for escalation of privileges to domain administrators.
Well-known ransomware variants, such as Ryuk, hacked into Active Directory (AD) servers and then inserted the ransomware into the AD logon script, which was then executed by users. Everyone who logged into that Active Directory server became infected as a result of this.
4. MimiKatz and Microsoft Process Explorer
Because MimiKatz is one of the most commonly used hacker tools, its presence should always raise suspicion. MimiKatz is a free and open-source credential gathering tool that cybercriminals use to steal passwords and other login information from their victims’ computers. A legitimate tool called Microsoft Process Explorer, which can dump LSASS.exe, a Windows process responsible for enforcing the security system, is frequently used in conjunction with it. Through the use of MimiKatz, penetration testing (also known as ethical hacking) can ensure that attackers are unable to gain access to your systems.
Some hackers employ more subtle methods of credential stealing, which are more difficult to detect than MimiKatz’s approach. Among the platforms used to evade detection by antivirus software is Cobalt Strike, which sometimes mimics common tools such as Gmail and Bing while collecting credentials from an infected system and leaves few traces on the infected system while collecting credentials from the infected system.
Using a cloud SIEM such as Blumira’s, you can detect malicious tools on your networks, such as MimiKatz and Cobalt Strike, and receive instructions on what you should do next to prevent an attack from occurring.
5. Software Removal Programs
The first step taken by an attacker after gaining administrative privileges is typically the removal or disabling of security software, such as antivirus protection. They will frequently accomplish this through the use of legitimate software removal applications such as IOBit Uninstaller, GMER, PC Hunter, and Process Hacker, among others.
It is possible to detect the presence of these tools on your network with the help of a logging solution. If you notice the presence of these tools, you should inquire as to why they have appeared so suddenly. Note that software removal programs are a later warning sign of ransomware; they frequently indicate that hackers have administrator-level privileges, which is critical to understand. Detection of software removal necessitates immediate action — within 15 minutes or less — to prevent ransomware from being executed.