What is Ransomware?
Ransomware attacks are one of the most dangerous malware scams business users could experience. After being locked out of your computer, a message appears on your screen asking for thousands of dollars in Bitcoin. This anonymous payment is kept in a crypto wallet and must be sent to an unknown address. These messages often include a countdown clock, which adds to the stress of an already stressful situation. Small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) could have valuable client information, financial accounts, or other priceless information stored in their systems and computers. If you don’t have a decryption code, your only option is to restore the computer from a backup. Paying the ransom fee will make you another victim of the ransomware epidemic that has been plaguing SMBs all over the world.
Ransomware or cryptoware is a type of malware that holds your files hostage in exchange for money. However, it is not the cyber equivalent to holding cash hostage. Ransomware is silently encrypted your files so you won’t be able to notice it when it first appears. Once it has encrypted enough data of your files, it will make itself known. It will first lock you out of your data using an encryption key that only the owner knows. Then, it will send you a message stating that it will give you that key if you pay first. You can’t access your data while you wait. Even if the ransom is paid, there’s no way to know if your data will be returned. The transaction is anonymous and the attacker can accept your payment but then ignore you. Although it is possible to get your data back without paying the ransom, it is difficult. Therefore, you will likely be looking through your cloud backups before the end of this day.
Here are some recent examples
The 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack is probably the most well-known. It used a backdoor in Server Message Block (SMB), a Microsoft Windows file-sharing protocol. EternalBlue was its name; the exploit gained quite a lot of attention in the public eye because the Equation Group, a cyberespionage group with alleged ties to the US National Security Agency (“NSA”), was the source of EternalBlue. It would sneak in and do its dirty work spreading to other systems that were also vulnerable. This was not an issue with Windows 8 for a while as the exploit wasn’t working against Windows’ memory management. Some hackers have managed to port EternalBlue to all Windows versions, bringing back the threat.
Another ransomware variant is SamSam. has also been in the headlines. CDOT, Colorado Department of Transportation stated that it was attacked by SamSam in February 2018. CDOT stated that the breach occurred not via an email or employee error but rather through a vulnerability in its system. Even though CDOT had up-to-date network security software, SamSam was able to get by them. As network security has been a constant arms race between network security software developers and malware writers, this is likely to continue in the future. When it comes to protection, what works today might not work tomorrow.
Ransomware can infect you
Ransomware can be inserted into your system in many ways. EternalBlue is one such way. Bad actors rarely have to use sophisticated ransomware to gain access to your systems. Inadvertently, we often give access to other people. Social engineering, which uses human communication to gain access to information, is the best way to access and exploit a company’s networks. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in the form of a visit or even a call; it can also remain completely digital.
Hackers can gain control of an intermediary email account by hacking their email service or simply getting access to the password. This is a common scenario. Once they have the account under their control, hackers can send carefully crafted emails to the contact list of that person. These emails don’t include clumsy queries about account credentials, but instead, contain links to infected material. This is an example of a common email: “Check out this clip, it’s funny” is one. You might find a video clip at another end of the link, but ransomware will be part of that data.
Other risk factors include disgruntled workers, official-looking emails from partners, phantom government agents, and in-person visitors leaving behind infected CDs and thumb drives. Although not all cases can be prevented, there is some SMB security best practice that can help you avoid most problems.
Release the Hostages
There are a variety of countermeasures that you can take depending on the ransomware attack. A ransomware attack that isn’t handled properly can cause serious damage to any company. Companies may decide to cut off their internet connection and go through the tedious process of reinstalling the client’s operating system, software programs, data, and backups. You can also download a tool to address a ransomware threat and remove it from your system.
However, the odds of finding the right tool to remove ransomware after it has been activated are not good. It can be as difficult to shut down your business and then reinstall everything (including OSes and data) as the ransomware attack you are trying to defeat. You should still make backups of your data. The cloud makes this even easier.
The best defense against ransomware doesn’t come down to reacting to it once it’s gone off. It’s about working to prevent it from infecting you. This is what this roundup of 10 tools aims to help you do. Many of these tools don’t have to be bought separately as they are add-ons for existing endpoint security products that your company is already using.
What We Tested
These packages were tested for their ransomware protection abilities. I took into account many factors when testing them. First, I looked at how the product dealt with known threats. This is usually consistent with the best performance. Next, I tested whether the product could detect if you were entering information on a phishing site. This is one of the most popular ransomware attack vectors. Active attacks are rarely isolated incidents. Sometimes, phishing and spearphishing attempts to gather targeted information can appear legit. Protecting your network requires that your users can verify whether the information they provide is legitimate.
Next, I tested how resistant the system was to exploits. This means any technical weaknesses that could be used to compromise a computer system and gain privileged privileges. This was done in three stages, with each stage adding a layer of encryption and obscurity. An elevated privilege level can give you access to uninstall an antivirus application and leave the system undefended. It’s possible to hide from a system, extract data or even install ransomware using a combination of technical and social engineering. Even more frightening is the fact that many of these processes can be automated and scaled.
Finally, I looked for ransomware-specific functions. Ransomware protection apps will often journal files and try to detect any suspicious changes. machine-learning (ML), is most commonly used in this process. While many apps can encrypt data, most of these are not malicious. This functionality was tested using KnowBe4’s Ransomware simulatorransim, and WannaCry lives on an isolated network. The payload was then detected and processed. Also, I checked if encryption had occurred and validated if files could be rolled back.