Ransomware has been a major problem for several years now, and 2018 continues to see this threat develop in unforeseen ways. Ransomware is malicious software that can encrypt data located on your device or network, with the encryption key only being available to those who pay a ransom. Ransomware is known today as one of the most pervasive threats out there. We’ll take a look at how ransomware has changed, what the future looks like, and how you can keep yourself safe.
Variants of Ransomware
Unlike other malware threats, ransomware isn’t designed to gain access to a system to steal data outright. Rather, it’s just to convince the user to hand over some cash for the safe return of their data. Businesses struck by ransomware are in danger of losing their data and money completely, as there is no guarantee that the hacker will ever return the data, even if the ransom is paid in full. There are two different types of ransomware--“locker” type ransomware targets the CPU, while “crypto” variants go for the encryption of file systems.
It doesn’t matter which strand you contract. The basic premise is still the same. After the threat is unpackaged and executed on the user’s device or network, it encrypts access to data, processing, or both, and it gives the system its demands in the form of instructions on how to make payment. The user then has to make the decision of whether they actually pay the ransom. If they don’t, there is always the option to restore from a data backup platform, if you have one.
Ransomware is a drastically different kind of malware compared to the more traditional methods of hacking. Unlike malware that wants to keep itself hidden so it can siphon information from a computer or install backdoors, ransomware wants you to know what misfortune has befallen you. Ransomware has grown more common in recent years, and so many strains are now seen in the wild that it’s tough to keep up with. These attacks have targeted municipalities, enterprises, and other organizations, all with the goal of leeching as much money from them as possible.
How Ransomware is Delivered
Ransomware might seem like something created by only the most nefarious hackers, but in reality, it’s spread in much the same way that any other threat would be. Spam messages and targeted email campaigns can initiate a ransomware attack, either through clicking on infected links or downloading suspicious attachments. In these cases, ransomware is typically most effective against businesses that have poor network security practices.
Take spam, for example. There’s no reason your business should be dealing with messages like this on a daily basis. With enterprise-level solutions, they can be outright prevented from even entering your inbox. The same can be said about your employees. With proper training, they shouldn’t be downloading unsolicited attachments or clicking on suspicious links in emails. If you invest some time and resources into proper network security, you can minimize the odds of being infected by ransomware.
The Consequences of Ransomware
The most dangerous aspect of ransomware is the downtime that ensues because of it. If you can’t get your work done due to your files being locked down by ransomware, you’re simply wasting time. The same can be said for any employee on your network. Assuming that the entire network is now encrypted by the ransomware, your whole organization could be left with nothing to do until either a backup is restored or someone hands over the ransom. It’s generally a best practice to not pay the ransom, as there is no guarantee that the hackers on the other end will stay true to their end of the bargain.
Instead, it’s best to take preventative and proactive measures to ensure that ransomware doesn’t become a problem in the first place. A Unified Threat Management (UTM) solution is a great way to keep your network secure from external threats, and employee training can keep influences beyond your direct control (like your employees) from placing your entire business in jeopardy. It’s also imperative that your business have a continuity and redundancy strategy in place, as in a worst-case incident like a ransomware attack, you’ll want to restore affected files and systems from a time before the attack struck.
To learn more about how your organization can stay safe from malware--including ransomware--reach out to us at 407-478-6600.