Ransomware Explained

Ransomware is a type of malware (malicious software) that encrypts all of the data on a victim’s computer or mobile device and prevents the owner of the data from accessing it. After the initial infection, the victims will receive a message informing them that they are to pay a particular sum of money (typically in Bitcoins) to obtain the decryption key. There is often a time limitation for completing the payment; else, the files may be lost permanently. It should be reminded that even if the victim pays the ransom, there is no assurance that the decryption key will be delivered.

How Does It Work?

Every ransomware has a distinct personality. Locker ransomware and encrypting ransomware are the two forms of ransomware. The first locks the victim out of the operating system, making it difficult to access the desktop, programs, or files, while the second, which is the most prevalent, uses powerful encryption methods to prevent system data from being accessed. The end consequence, however, is always the same. Files or systems are locked and a ransom is demanded to unlock them. The following are some of the most typical processes in the ransomware process:

1. Delivery and Deployment of Ransomware

Cybercriminals just seek for the simplest method of infecting a machine or network and then utilize that backdoor to propagate harmful software. Nonetheless, hackers’ most typical infection tactics are as follows:

Security vulnerabilities in vulnerable software; Internet traffic diversions to malicious websites; Legitimate websites with harmful code inserted into their web pages; Phishing email campaigns that contain malicious links or attachments (malware may disguise itself in a variety of ways on the web); Drive-by downloads; marketing campaigns; SMS messages (when targeting mobile devices); exploitation of the weak Remote Desktop Protocol.

2. Lateral Motion

After gaining initial access, ransomware uses lateral movement strategies to spread to all devices on your network and attempt to gain complete control. If no micro-segmentation or network segmentation is implemented, the ransomware will migrate laterally across the network, causing the threat to propagate to additional endpoints and servers throughout the IT environment, resulting in self-propagation. Hackers can utilize detection evasion tactics to create long-lasting ransomware assaults in this fashion.

3. Execution of an Attack

EXFILTRATION OF DATA

If ransomware operators employed poor symmetric encryption in the past, they now deploy more modern approaches such as data exfiltration. Hackers might exfiltrate important company data before encrypting it, resulting in double extortion: cybercriminals can threaten to make private information public if the ransom is not paid. Using data as a hostage is no longer the sole option.

DESTROY DATA BACKUPS

Before encrypting data, ransomware will look for backups and destroy them. This form of virus may detect backups based on file extensions, and documents saved in the cloud may also be vulnerable. Offline backup storage or read-only backup file characteristics may prevent backups from being recognized and deleted.

ENCRYPTION OF DATA

Ransomware is essentially a hybrid of encryption and malware. Asymmetric encryption, often known as public-key cryptography, is a technique that encrypts and decrypts a file and protects it from unauthorized access or usage using a set of keys (one public key and one private key). The keys are produced individually for each victim and are only made available once the ransom has been paid. Without a private key, decrypting the data that is being held for ransom is very difficult. Certain varieties of ransomware, on the other hand, may be decrypted using ransomware decryptors.

REQUEST RANSOM

A warning appears on the screen after encryption, with instructions on how to pay for the decryption key. Everything unfolds in a matter of seconds, leaving victims stunned as they gaze at the ransom note in disbelief.

Examples of Ransomware

You’re probably aware that there are several versions available. With names like CryptXXX, Troldesh, and Chimera, these strains seem like something out of a hacker movie. While newcomers may seek a piece of the pie, a small number of families have established dominance.

Ransomware Conti

Conti ransomware has become well-known because of its attacks on healthcare facilities. Its conventional techniques rely on phishing attempts to get remote access to a system and expand laterally throughout the network, while also stealing passwords and collecting unencrypted data.

DarkSide Ransomware is a ransomware that encrypts files

DarkSide is a ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) organization that works as  ransomware software. DarkSide, like other similar threats used in targeted cyberattacks, began hitting companies globally in August 2020. It not only encrypts the victim’s data but also exfiltrates it from the compromised systems. In barely 9 months of existence, DarkSide has received at least $90 million in Bitcoin ransom payments from 47 distinct wallets. The ransomware group made roughly $10 million by targeting chemical distribution company Brenntag, which paid a $4.4 million ransom, and Colonial Pipeline, which paid a $5 million bitcoin ransom. It’s a fantastic example of ransomware that employs double extortion, since hackers usually demand a ransom to restore the data they stole, putting more pressure on the victim to pay.

Ransomware Revil

Revil Ransomware, also known as Sodinokibi, was initially discovered in April 2019 and is well known for its assaults on JBS in June 2021 and Kaseya in July 2021.

REvil Ransomware could encrypt Kaeya’s servers due to a Kaseya software vulnerability to SQL injection attacks. As a result, the company’s customers were infected, resulting in a supply chain attack.

Ransomware Avaddon

Avaddon Ransomware was noteworthy for its attack on the French company AXA in May 2021, which was spread using phishing emails including malicious JavaScript files. Its operators often utilize data leak websites to broadcast the personal details of victims who refuse to pay the ransom.

Ransomware QLocker

QLocker ransomware acts as a locker, compromising victims’ storage devices, as its name suggests. As a result, victims are locked out of their accounts until they supply the password. Its intended victims are QNAP devices. The files on these network-attached storage devices are password-protected and encrypted using the 7-zip archive format.

Ryuk Ransomware

Ryuk is a ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) organization that started operating in August 2018. It is well-known for offering a private affiliate scheme in which affiliates can apply for membership by submitting applications and resumes. The gang’s associates were assaulting around 20 organizations each week in the latter months of 2020, and starting in November 2020, they organized a large wave of attacks on the US healthcare system.

WannaCry Ransomware

WannaCry ransomware is a kind of ransomware that encrypts files. Even though it isn’t new, we can’t leave out this well-known example. A ransomware assault of “unprecedented intensity” (Europol) began spreading WannaCry throughout the world on Friday, May 12, 2017, about 11am ET/3 p.m. GMT. It took advantage of a flaw in Windows that allowed it to infect victims’ computers without them having to do anything. Until May 24, 2017, around 200,000 people in 150 countries had been infected with the virus.

How to Prevent Ransomware

Links and attachments from unknown sources should be avoided.

Malicious links are a common luring technique used in social engineering strategies, and they can be found in SPAM e-mails or texts. However, you should never click on a link that appears suspicious, since an infection can occur in a matter of seconds. Ransomware payloads are delivered with a single erroneous click.

This also applies to malicious JavaScript files in the form of readme.txt.js in e-mail attachments. Instead of opening unexpected attachments right away, perform some simple checks, such as looking up the sender’s name and double-checking the e-mail address. It’s likely a fraud if you have to activate a macro to view what’s inside. As a preventative step, you should always have macros deactivated.

Updating your software is essential.

This may appear to be a very recurrent and petty need, but it is, in fact, the most fundamental remedy regarding prevention. That’s because programs aren’t perfect, and security experts are always working to improve them by providing patches. As a result, companies and individuals may only benefit from the most recent fixes if they run updates regularly. You may use a Patch Management Tool to set up automated patch deployment.

A basic principle of zero-trust is the principle of least privilege (POLP). Users are given the bare minimum of access to apps or systems to do their duties properly. Because of the restricted access, no one will inadvertently or intentionally tamper with files or other critical information.

The importance of using a VPN when using public WiFi

Wi-Fi in public places is never safe. A Man-in-the-Middle Attack, for example, might be used by a hacker. When using public Wi-Fi, make sure you utilize a VPN to safeguard your activity.

Good cybersecurity software

The need for good cybersecurity protection cannot be overstated. Use trustworthy cybersecurity solutions to secure your endpoints and network, such as a ransomware encryption tool, firewall, excellent antivirus, email security, DNS filter, automated software patching, PAM software, and so on.

With the right information and practices, as well as a reliable portfolio of solutions, staying safe against ransomware is a lot simpler. As always, HeimdalTM Security is available to assist you with the latter. Please contact us or schedule a demo if you want to learn more about which of our company’s products are most suited for your needs.

Network segmentation

Network segmentation divides the network into subnetworks, resulting in various segments. This is especially handy when discussing lateral movement. If your computers are infected with ransomware, it will be unable to propagate to other sections of your network if there is a delimitation. A network traffic monitoring solution would also be beneficial, as it works together with networking segmentation.

Backup and encrypt data

Due to modern ransomware that exfiltrates data and exploits it as a double-extortion tactic, backup solutions are no longer a viable alternative for enterprises. If you handle it correctly, though, a backup should be set up. If you don’t have a decryption key, how will you be able to recover your data? Information saved in the cloud should be encrypted, and backups should be verified for performance regularly. A hard disk backup, for example, may be handy. Immutable storage (WORM – Write-Once-Read-Many) stores your data in a bucket that can’t be modified. You may also use endpoint protection on your servers to secure your backup.

Foster a cybersecurity awareness culture

Educate your personnel on how to spot phishing emails. An unusual e-mail address, a hovering over redirection to a strange website, language problems, and impersonal addressing might all be indicators of hacked e-mails. Invest in solutions for Security Awareness Training. These are excellent services with real-world examples: staff may learn how to effectively deal with fraudulent e-mails through phishing simulations.

THE ADVANTAGE OF UK CYBERSECURITY OVER RANSOMWARE

The greatest strategy for businesses is to avoid a successful ransomware assault in the first place. To do so, they’ll need to invest in a multi-layered solution that uses Indicators of Behavior to identify and thwart ransomware attacks early in the infiltration process, before sensitive data is exfiltrated for double extortion.

The restricted cybersecurity methodology used in the United Kingdom allows for early detection of ransomware assaults based on unusual or beneficial sequences of illicit conduct. This is why UK Cybersecurity Limited has never been beaten in the fight against ransomware and provides the greatest protection, detection, and response capabilities available, including:

Anti-Malware and Governance: UK Cybersecurity Ltd employs Cyber Essentials and IASME Governance which include the technical controls (Cyber Essentials) such as setting up your firewall correctly and the addition of anti-malware software and the governance of IASME to ensure that the correct policies and procedures are in place (and adhered to) to protect the company from attack.

Intelligence-based antivirus: UK Cybersecurity Ltd uses an ever-growing reservoir of threat intelligence based on previously discovered assaults to stop known ransomware variations.

Fileless Ransomware Protection: UK Cybersecurity Ltd interrupts assaults that use fileless and MBR-based ransomware, which are missed by typical antivirus software.

Endpoint Controls: UK Cybersecurity Ltd protects endpoints from assaults by administering security policies, maintaining device controls, installing personal firewalls, and enforcing whole-disk encryption across a variety of fixed and mobile device types.

UK Cybersecurity Ltd is committed to collaborating with defenders to combat cyber assaults across the board, from endpoints to the business and everything in between, including current ransomware.

If you would like to know more, do get in touch as we are happy to answer any questions.

Looking to improve your cybersecurity but not sure where to start? Begin by getting certified in Cyber Essentials, the UK government’s scheme that covers all the technical controls that will provide the protection that you need to help guard against criminal attacks. Or just get in touch by clicking contact us.

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