Ransomware attacks continue to be among the most damaging cyberattacks on businesses. Infections often result in significant downtime, data loss, and costly repairs.
Phishing, remote desktop protocol (RDP) exploitation, and software vulnerabilities are the main root causes of ransomware infections. Once attackers have a foothold, they will display a screen to users announcing their files are encrypted and offering a deadline to make a ransom payment.
Attackers typically access a company’s systems by employing social engineering techniques that exploit human curiosity, greed, a sense of indebtedness or conditioned responses to authority. They may induce a sense of fear or urgency in victims by telling them they will lose money on their data or get jailed.
Alternatively, they might pretend to be tech support and trick employees into turning off their antivirus software. This allows attackers to install malware on their victim’s system. The hacker can also use other tactics like tailgating (waiting for an authorized user to enter a building or protected area and following right behind) and honey traps (interacting with fictitious attractive women online to gather sensitive information).
What is ransomware? Ransomware attacks are most common against businesses because they can halt productivity, destroy files, and result in lost revenue. The ransom demanded by attackers varies, but cryptocurrency is the most popular payment method. This allows the attackers to remain anonymous and avoid potential government sanctions even though the ransomware they launch often contains illegal child pornography or other illegal content.
Several cybersecurity solutions, including virtual private networks (VPN), can prevent ransomware from infiltrating your system or at least make it much more difficult to launch an attack. Another best practice is to regularly update your systems to avoid running outdated programs vulnerable to malicious attacks.
Vulnerabilities in Software
Vulnerabilities in software are weaknesses that hackers can exploit to access and manipulate data. They can result from various reasons, including code errors, insufficient security policies and misconfigurations. Using these weaknesses to gain control of your network or devices is how ransomware attacks can occur.
Cybercriminals can purchase ransomware kits on the dark web and create custom malware to target specific organizations. These attacks can occur through email attachments, compromised websites and external storage devices. Once the malware is deployed on a device, it can encrypt files and render them unusable until a ransom payment is made to the attackers.
Ransomware is one of the largest cyber threats for individuals and organizations. It is also a major threat to our critical infrastructure, including power and water-treatment plants, hospitals, government agencies and even companies that run vital stretches of our food supply chain.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent a ransomware attack from taking place. These include establishing an incident response plan, implementing security solutions that detect suspicious emails, and deploying endpoint discovery and response (EDR) tools.
Remote Access Attacks
Cybercriminals can gain access to a company’s systems through a variety of methods. Ransomware is one of the most profitable tactics for hackers because it can cause significant financial losses and brand damage to organizations. The best way to mitigate the fallout from a ransomware attack is to have backups of your critical data.
Keeping backups on external storage devices and the cloud is one of the most effective protections against ransomware. However, checking these backups regularly is important to ensure they are working properly.
Limiting the number of systems and applications users can access within an organization is also important. This is known as the principle of least privilege and is a cybersecurity best practice that reduces risk to your organization from malware attacks like ransomware.
Hackers can steal or guess an employee’s login credentials through phishing attacks and remotely access a computer within the enterprise network to install ransomware. This is how the WannaCry ransomware infection spread to so many different companies.
To prevent remote access, don’t open remote desktop protocol (RDP) ports unless they are being used by system administrators only. Use a firewall that can restrict RDP to only those IP addresses allowed to connect. This helps reduce the potential for ransomware attacks that exploit vulnerabilities in software and operating systems. Calling federal and local law enforcement agencies after a ransomware attack is also a good idea. This can help identify the attackers, ensure systems aren’t compromised in other ways, and gather intelligence that can be used to improve security practices in the future.
Cryptocurrency is a revolutionary digital currency that allows people to make private transactions without the need for banks or governments. It uses the blockchain technology, a public record of every transaction that ever takes place, vetted by thousands of computers worldwide. Criminals love it because the blockchain is virtually impossible to tamper with or manipulate, meaning their ransom payments can’t be tracked and stopped.
Cybercriminals often encrypt the data on victims’ computers with malware and then demand payment in cryptocurrency for a key that decrypts their files. The message will typically be displayed on their computer screen or in a text file placed on each encrypted directory.
While there are many reasons why people and businesses become ransomware targets, the main motivation is money. The value that criminals extract through extortion is considerable and can go into the millions for large companies. This is especially true in cases like the WannaCry attack that disrupted the entire NHS and caused estimated financial losses of billions.
Criminals can exploit vulnerabilities in companies of all sizes, and it’s important that companies put a priority on cybersecurity. For example, educating employees on recognizing phishing emails can help prevent ransomware attacks. Companies can also invest in a managed security service that monitors network activity, detects abnormal behavior, and stops malware before it causes damage.