Running a business or doing any sort of computing in this modern technological world of ours can be scary sometimes. Malware, viruses, and other security threats can rear their ugly heads when we least expect it. One modern security threat that’s seen a rise to prominence in recent years is ransomware. At its core, ransomware is the scourge of the modern internet. It can generate loads of problems for the end-user, compromise an organization’s data, and create a veritable cybersecurity nightmare. On a basic level, ransomware is a constantly changing form of malware that encrypts files, making them unusable. Attackers then demand payment or some other form of a ransom in exchange for decrypting the files. If the ransom threat goes unfulfilled, data may be leaked or sold online. While this definition might seem like an oversimplification, make no mistake: ransomware is a very real, legitimate threat to businesses today. That’s why we’ve put together the guide to ransomware below. Check it out:

What Ransomware Does

Today, we’re going to have an in-depth discussion of ransomware. So, what is ransomware? It’s any type of malicious software that infiltrates your computer, encrypting your files and holding them for ransom. Once you pay the ransom, the attacker is supposed to send you the decryption key to decrypt your files (although things don’t always unfold that way). As it infects the system and encrypts the files, those files are no longer accessible/usable in any way. This becomes a significant problem if you don’t have any back-ups readily available, as ransomware essentially blocks most normal recovery options. Ransomware looks for vital or important information—such as documents, spreadsheets, images, and video crucial to your business operations—as specific targets during an attack. Some examples of modern ransomware are WannaCry, Jigsaw, and TeslaCrypt, all of which caused substantial damage to their intended targets all over the world.

Types of Ransomware

Ransomware comes in several different configurations. First, there’s Scareware, a type of ransomware that disguises itself as a security program. With scareware, you may receive a message of malware being detected on your computer. The only way to get rid of it? Pay the fee. If you pay, then you compromise your information. Screen-locking ransomware will freeze you out of your computer completely. When the computer is switched on, a screen usually comes up demanding a ransom payment. Screen lockers employ various tactics, including accusing you of illegal activities and requiring payment.

Finally, there are the encryption types of ransomware. These are the most dangerous. There are four primary types of encryption used in ransomware. These are symmetric encryption, client-side asymmetric encryption, server-side asymmetric encryption, and hybrid encryption. They’re all used in practical real-world applications such as online banking (symmetric encryption), messaging apps like WhatsApp (which uses both symmetric and asymmetric encryption), email, authentication/digital signatures, and many others. Encryption ransomware is the most pervasive and common version of the attack. Ransomware that uses the hybrid encryption method is particularly devious and difficult to fight back against.

How Devices Get Infected

According to cybersecurity industry leaders Trend Micro, ransomware usually infects devices via phishing emails—just like other malware or viruses that might infect your computer through dangerous email attachments, suspicious links, or drive-by downloads, Ransomware, however, is usually much worse and far more dangerous than typical malware. There are other possible infection points as well. These include:

Spear Phishing — a fraudulent email that attempts to get you to reveal personal information. They often appear to be from a legitimate or reputable source.

Malicious spam — unsolicited email used specifically to deliver malware. The spam email might have an infected PDF or other attachment that will deploy the ransomware once you download and open it. It often works similarly to a phishing email and may appear to be from a friend or trusted source.

Malvertising –  though not as prevalent as it once was, this is a type of malware-ridden advertisement (on the web or email) that may direct users to a dangerous server without even clicking on it. The malicious server will take the device’s information and send it malware, usually in the form of ransomware.

Pay per install – if a computer is already part of a botnet (a group of infected computers), attackers may seek additional infection opportunities. If your machine is affected, it can help them accomplish this goal.

Drive-by download – when a user clicks on a compromised website and the website auto-downloads a dangerous file.

Protection

The best protection against ransomware is being proactive and backing up your files. Regular updates and backing up procedures are your best friend here. Aside from creating extensive back-ups of your most crucial files, look into installing some type of cybersecurity program. Real-time protection is critical. The program should also be able to discover, isolate, and thwart advanced malware attacks before they can affect your computer. Some programs have an anti-ransomware component that can guard files against attacks and may be able to prevent attackers from taking advantage of exploits in your system. Do your homework and find the best software solution that can handle this heavy workload and get the job done. Finally, a little bit of common sense goes a long way, so if you get a suspicious email with a dubious attachment, exercise extreme caution before opening it!

Removal and Detection

To begin with, the FBI recommends businesses do not pay the ransom. Doing so only emboldens the attackers and there’s no guarantee they’ll even provide the decryption key! Recovering from an attack is much more difficult than preventing it in the first place. You may be able to find a security product that can restore your files or clean up the infection, but it’s highly unlikely. Disconnecting from the internet or network when you notice an issue might help mitigate an attack in progress. You may just have to wipe the system and reinstall it. If you have the foresight to make the back-ups, then recovery will be much easier. A system restore is not recommended, as malicious software can be buried somewhere on the drive and you may unknowingly re-introduce the problem to your newly refreshed system.

Conclusion

Ransomware is dangerous, but with the right foresight and preventative methods in place, you can make sure it doesn’t affect your business. The best bet is to always keep things updated, make regular back-ups, and don’t let yourself willingly become a victim. But now that you understand the anatomy of a ransomware attack, you should be much better prepared to prevent potential problems now and into the future!

Gate-Maker.com is a tech support company with a vision to inform, empower, and showcase Tech Entrepreneurs in order to bridge the gap between starting and becoming successful Tech Entrepreneurs.

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