What is Ransomware – Learn How to Successfully Save Your Data and Money
A decade ago, the prevailing type of cybercriminal was intellectual property theft, the stealing of industrial designs, and military top-secrets. But ransomware is different since it doesn’t destroy equipment or data.
It locks it, making it inaccessible without a complex numeric key that’s provided only to those who pay the ransom fee.
Five years ago, such attacks were still relatively rare. But now they’re far more targeted, and as corporations and towns have shown an increased willingness to pay ransoms, wise guys have turned to new and more powerful methods of encryption and more sophisticated techniques of injecting the code into computer networks.
This treat isn’t going away – it’s just changing shape like a chameleon. If you aren’t protected against these strikes, you’re in more danger than you might realize.
What is Ransomware?
It’s malicious software with one mission – to extorts dollars or Bitcoins from its victims. It’s one of the most productive criminal business models today, mostly due to the multimillion-dollar ransoms criminals demand from enterprises and individuals.
These demands are pretty simple – pay the ransom fee, or you have your operations seriously compromised or shut down completely.
Quite often, the first companies know of an attack is when they get an on-screen notification informing them that data on their network is encrypted, and it’ll be inaccessible until the ransom has been paid.
Only when you pay, they’ll be given the decryption key to access their data. Failure to pay may result in the key being destroyed, rendering the data inaccessible for good.
How Does Ransomware Work
There’re five steps for attackers to achieve their aim, and how do you get ransomware.
- System is compromised – The majority attacks begin as a social engineering exercise, in the form of malicious link or an attachment – this is the typical way on how is ransomware spread on your system. The goal is that the user clicks on these objects to trigger the malware.
- Malware takes control – Once the malware has taken control of the system, some files will be encrypted, while access will be denied to users.
- Victim is informed – For the ransom to be paid, the users must be aware of the demands of the culprits. Then, they’ll receive a notification on the screen explaining the requirements of how they can “earn” access.
- Ransom is paid – Once they get system access, cybercriminals will either identify and encrypt certain file types or deny access to the whole system.
- Full access is returned – In the majority of cases, they return full control to the victim. It’s in their interest to do this – failure to do so would mean many businesses or individuals won’t pay if they didn’t believe their data would be restored.
Who is Target for Ransomware?
When ransomware was introduced, its initial victims were regular people. But cybercriminals began to realize its full potential when they rolled out this virus to big corporations and cities.
It was so successful against businesses, decreased productivity and resulting in lost data and profit, that its authors turned most of their attacks toward them.
Some companies are tempting targets since they seem more likely to pay a ransom quickly. For example, government agencies or medical facilities often need immediate access to their files.
Law offices and other businesses with sensitive data may be willing to pay to keep news of a compromise quiet – and these organizations may be uniquely susceptible to these attacks.
How to Prevent Ransomware
In this segment, we provide you tips on how to avoid ransomware attacks, from never opening untrusted emails, to back up your data.
Read on to discover more about how to protect against ransomware.
Avoid clicking on unverified links
Never click on links in unfamiliar sites or spam emails. Downloads that start when you click on malicious links is one way that your PC could get infected.
Once the virus is on your system, it’ll encrypt your data or lock your OS. As soon as the attacker has something to hold as “hostage,” crook will insist on a ransom so that you can recover the data.
Paying the ransom may seem like the best option. Still, this’s exactly what the thief wants you to do, and paying ransom doesn’t guarantee the perpetrator will give you access to your device or your data back.
Don’t open untrusted email attachments
Another route that this malware could get onto your PC is via an email attachment. Avoid to open email attachments from senders you do not trust. Look at who the email is from and confirm that the email address is safe.
Make sure to access whether an attachment looks valid before opening it. If you’re not sure, contact the person you think has sent it and double-check.
Never open attachments that ask you to allow macros to see them. If the attachment is infected, opening it’ll activate the malicious macro, letting the malware control over your device.
Only download from trusted sites
To minimize the risk of downloading this virus, do not download software or media files from unknown websites.
Go to verified, trusted sites if you want to download. Most reputable sites have markers of trust you can recognize. Look in the search bar to see if the sites use “https” instead of “http.” A lock symbol or shield may also show in the address bar to verify that the website is secure.
If you’re downloading on your smartphone, be sure you download from reputable sources. For example, Android phones users should use the Google Play Store to download applications, and iPhone users should use the App Store.
Avoid giving out personal data
If you receive an email, text, or call from the untrusted source they ask for personal info, don’t give it out.
Cybercriminals may try to gain personal data in advance of an attack. They can use this info in phishing emails to target you specifically.
The point is to entice you into opening an infected link or attachment. Don’t let the perpetrators get hold of data that makes the trap more convincing.
If you get contacted by an organization asking for information, disregard the request and contact the organization independently to verify it’s genuine.
Never use the unfamiliar USBs
Don’t insert USBs or other removal storage devices into your PC if you don’t know where they came from.
Perpetrators may have infected the device and left it in a public space to lure you into using it. Keep your software and OS updated will protect you from malware.
Because when you run an update, you’ll benefit from the latest security patches, making it harder for cybercriminals to find vulnerabilities in your software.
Use a VPN when using public Wi-Fi
Being careful with public Wi-Fi is a reasonable protection measure. When you are hooked to the public Wi-Fi, your computer system is more vulnerable to these strikes. To stay protected, evade using public Wi-Fi for confidential transactions, or utilize secure VPN.
Use security software
As cybercrime becomes more widespread, anti-virus protection has never been more crucial. Protect your PC from malware with extensive Internet security. When you stream or download, proper security software blocks infected files, preventing this malicious attack from infecting your device and keeping cyber “Goodfellas” at bay.
Backup your data
Make sure to keep everything copied on an external hard drive but avoid leaving it connected to your PC when not in use. If the hard drive is plugged when you become a victim of these criminals, this data will also be encrypted.
Also, cloud storage solutions enable you to revert to previous versions of your files. So, if they become encrypted by the ransomware, you should be able to return an unencrypted version via cloud storage.
How to Remove Ransomware
This malware makes a lot of trouble by restricting your access from your device and demands a ransom fee to be paid if you want to regain access to your data. By email attachments or via a browser, it can enter your system.
Therefore, if you use email frequently or you browse a lot using the computer, it’s better to know how to destroy this virus in case your PC is attacked.
Identifying the malware types
There’re three levels of ransomware, and your removal solution depends on it. Therefore, you’ll have to identify the type of malware that attacked your computer.
- Locker ransomware – It’s also known as a computer locker. It doesn’t encrypt the files, but if you don’t know how to remove a virus like this, it’ll deny your access from the infected device. It locks the device’s GUI and demands a ransom in exchange for the accessibility of the computer. It allows the victim to communicate with the attacker to be able to pay the ransom.
- Crypto ransomware – This virus has a sophisticated encryption arm versus its targets, and if you don’t know how to extract the virus, it would be complicated to deal with this issue. It denies access to the data of the involved device. When it infiltrates the system, the malware silently identifies and encrypts the valuable data. When the ransomware successfully accesses the target data and restricts the user, that’s the time it asks for the ransom. If you don’t have the decryption key, you lose access to the encrypted files.
- Scare-ware ransomware – It usually acts as a fake anti-virus. It may also consist of browser or Windows-style popups that appear when you visit a compromised site. Even though it’s the easiest to delete, it’s vital to know how to remove this virus. It’ll try to scare you and force to click the pop-ups that will download malware on your PC. In case you fall to do it, the culprit will try to steal your data from the computer.
Once you have identified the kind of ransomware that attacked your device, the next step is eliminating the virus from your system.
- Restore clean backup – If you secure a clean backup to the cloud or another separate disk and you have been attacked, you’ll be able to reformat the disk and restore your clean backup. This way, you’ll successfully remove it.
- Decryption tools – Another way of removing this “problem” is by using decryption tools. This decryption tool is developed by the programmers aimed to help victims recover their stolen data by the crooks.
- What decryption tool will you use depend mostly on which kind of this malware gets into your PC? Obviously, not all ransomware attacks are covered by this decryption utility. Some developers are unable to make a decryption tool since the ransomware has a more advanced encryption method.
- Negotiation – If you don’t know how to get rid of the ransomware virus, this could be your last and most dangerous operation. This option is very common for small businesses who value their data so much. They’re willing to pay the ransom fee just to retrieve their valuable data. Others try to negotiate and avoid paying the demanded ransom. They pay a smaller amount, and odds are high since all they want is a hard currency. It’s better for them to get something rather than nothing at all.
5 Most Common Examples of Ransomware
Let’s explore these 5 famous ransomware examples to help you understand how different and dangerous each type can be.
It’s a cyber-criminal attack that spread across 150 countries in 2017. Designed to exploit a vulnerability in Windows, it was allegedly created by the National Security Agency and leaked by the Shadow Brokers group – affected 230,000 computers globally.
It hits a third of hospital trusts in the United Kingdom, costing the NHS an estimated £93 million. Users were locked out, and a ransom was demanded in the Bitcoins. The attack highlighted the use of outdated systems, leaving the critical health service vulnerable to attack.
It’s a virus that was first released in 2016 by an organized group of hackers. With the ability to encrypt over 150 file types, Locky spreads by tricking victims to install it through fake emails with infected attachments.
This technique of transmission is called phishing, a form of social engineering. It targets a range of file types that are often used by engineers, developers, testers, and designers.
CryptoLocker demands cryptocurrency for payment (Bitcoin) and encrypts a users’ hard drive and attached network drives. It was spread via an email with an attachment that claimed to be UPS and FedEx tracking notifications.
In 2014, a decryption tool was released for this cyber-attack. Still, various reports suggest that upwards of $26 million extorted by CryptoLocker.
NotPetya infects the master boot record of a Windows-based system. It leverages the same vulnerability from WannaCry to spread rapidly, requiring payment in Bitcoin to undo the changes. It has been classified as a wiper since NotPetya can’t undo its changes to the master boot record and renders the target system unrecoverable.
5. Bad Rabbit
Bad Rabbit is visible virus that appeared to target Ukraine and Russia, mostly impacting media companies there. Unlike NotPetya, this malware allows for decryption if the ransom was paid. The majority of cases indicate that it was spread via a fake Flash player update that can hit users via a drive by attack.
No person or business can keep itself off a targeted attacker’s hit list. You would have to get off the Internet entirely, which isn’t realistic. This’s why it’s essential to know how to protect yourself from ransomware. So, whenever the attackers are using similar strategies, there’s an opportunity for you to apply similar defenses.