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Ransomware: Don’t Be A Victim

We’re not that far into 2021 and already ransomware has made a lot of headlines. You may have heard reports of ransomware attacks on huge corporations, organizations, and government institutions, or you yourself may have been a victim on your own device.

Having all of your files and data held hostage until you forfeit cash is a serious problem and simultaneously terrifying. If you want to understand more about this issue, keep reading to learn about the different types of ransomware, how to receive it, where it comes from, who it targets, and what you can do to defend yourself.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of software that blocks users from accessing their computer or personal files and demands payment in exchange for access. 

In today’s day and age, ransomware criminals demand payment in cryptocurrency or by credit card, and attackers prey upon individuals, corporations, and organizations of all sizes.

How does ransomware work?

There are several ways for ransomware to infiltrate a computer. One of the most popular methods is that of phishing spam – attachments sent to the victim in an email that appear to be a file they should trust. They ensuingly take over the victim’s computer once they’ve been downloaded and opened, especially if they’re developed in such a way that they get people to authorize administrative access.

Other ransomware, such as NotPetya, takes advantage of security flaws to infect machines without the need to deceive people.

Malvertising is another prevalent infection tactic. This is the practice of using web advertisements to spread malware with little to no user engagement. Users can be routed to criminal servers while browsing the web, even on reputable sites, without ever clicking on an ad. These servers collect information about victims’ computers as well as  their locations, then choose the virus that is most suited to transmit it.

Once the virus has taken the computer hostage, the most typical route it takes is to encrypt the user’s files. This is where the attacker gains the upper hand as essentially what happens is that the user’s files become locked and the only person who holds the key is the hacker. This means users can only gain access again once they’ve paid a ransom over.  

Another variant, known as leakware or doxware, involves the attacker threatening to leak sensitive information pertaining to the victim to the public unless a ransom is paid. However, because this can be quite a cumbersome task for attackers, encryption ransomware is usually the most popular.

Who is a target?

Ransomware attacks affect organizations of all sizes—5 percent or more of businesses in the top ten industrial categories have been hit—and no company is immune, from small and medium-sized businesses to large corporations. Attacks are on the rise in every industry and at every scale.

No target is out of bounds when it comes to attackers choosing their next victim and this is made evident by the phishing attempt against the World Health Organization (WHO). These attempts show that firms with weaker controls and IT systems that are outdated should take extra precautionary measures in order to safeguard themselves and important data.

On a global scale, the United States is the country with the most ransomware assaults, with Germany and France following closely behind. Unfortunately, Windows machines are the most targeted, and Macintosh and Linux have also been known to be susceptible to ransomware attacks.

The sad reality is that ransomware has become so pervasive that most businesses can expect to be targeted at some point. The only thing they can do, really, is be prepared and develop strategies to best mitigate ransomware’s effects.

Furthermore, some ransomware spreads indiscriminately across the internet, which means even if you’re not a business or corporation, you are also at risk of falling prey to a ransomware attack.  

Phishing emails, destructive email attachments, and browsing infected websites are the most prevalent methods of infection, however, new means have come up in recent years. 

Cryptoworms have spread thanks to flaws in Microsoft’s Server Message Block (SMB) and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). Certain desktop apps, and even Microsoft Office (Microsoft’s Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) have been used to infect computers.

How to avoid a ransomware attack

You can take a number of protective measures against ransomware: 

  • To ensure that you have fewer vulnerabilities to exploit, keep your operating system patched and updated. Make sure the software you are using is still supported – Windows 7 for example is no longer receiving updates 
  • If you don’t know what a certain software is or what it does, don’t install it or grant it administrative capabilities.
  • Install antivirus software to detect harmful programs like ransomware as soon as they appear, as well as whitelisting software to prevent unauthorized programs from running.
  • Make regular and automatic backups of your files! All vital files should also be isolated from local and open networks.
  • In the Microsoft Office suite, disable macros. They’re known to be a common ransomware attack method.
  • Do not open strange email attachments or click on unknown links, especially if they are included in unfamiliar emails. 
  • If you haven’t already done it, consider switching to a cloud server as they are regularly updated with the newest security patches and antivirus programs, lessening the chance of a ransomware attack.

If your home or business becomes the victim of a ransomware attack, it can be incredibly damaging. Important files can be destroyed, and removing the virus and restoring system functionality can take numerous hours of work.

It’s obvious that the best method to deal with a ransomware assault is to prevent one from happening in the first place. Aside from that, ensuring that your important data is backed up and out of reach from ransomware criminals will ensure that you don’t lose valuable operating time as well as vital information. 

Ransomware attacks are continuously evolving, and the methods are becoming more refined as time goes on. We don’t want you to be another statistic. With careful preparation and strategic placement, you can protect yourself, your family, and your business.