Throughout 2021, ransomware was a major headline news story, and it continues to do so in 2024. Perhaps you have heard about ransomware attacks against large companies, organizations, or government agencies, or perhaps you have been the victim of one yourself. Holding your files and data hostage for a long period of time is a significant problem and a scary prospect. Read on to find out how you can protect yourself from ransomware, its different forms, and where it comes from.
What is Ransomware?
Ransom virus, often known as ransomware, is a form of malware that blocks users from accessing their system or personal files and demands a ransom payment to recover access. While some individuals believe “a virus locked my computer,” ransomware is normally regarded as a separate type of software than viruses.
The first ransomware variations were created in the late 1980s, with payment to be received via snail mail. Today, ransomware writers demand payment by Bitcoin or credit card, and attackers target individuals, corporations, and organisations of all types. Some ransomware developers offer their services to other cybercriminals, a practice known as ransomware-as-a-service, or RaaS.
How to Protect from Ransomware Attacks?
Ransomware attacks are carried out exactly how? First, they have to obtain access to a device or network. Having access allows them to use the malware required to encrypt or lock down your device and data. Ransomware may infect your computer in a variety of methods, including malspam, malvertising, spear phishing, and social engineering.
Ransomware assaults can do substantial harm, yet they are usually entirely prevented. Organizations that have a robust cybersecurity foundation will be significantly less vulnerable to attacks than their competitors.
Regardless of how the threat actor gains access, once the ransomware program encrypts your files or data, you will receive a notification demanding a ransom payment to restore what they have taken. Often, the attacker will demand payment in cryptocurrencies.
8 Ways to Prevent Ransomware Attacks
Below are the 8 ways to prevent from Ransomware Attacks you may need to know:
1. Practice Good IT Hygiene
Reducing the attack surface is vital for any organization; you have to gain insight into every endpoint and workload in your environment, as well as maintain any liable attack surfaces updated and secured.
The major benefit of IT hygiene is that it provides total network transparency. This viewpoint offers a bird’s-eye view as well as the ability to drill down and proactively clean up your surroundings. Once you reach this degree of openness, the awareness of “who, what, and where” that IT hygiene gives is extremely beneficial to your company.
2. Improve Resiliency of Internet-facing Applications
We’ve seen eCrime threat actors abuse single-factor authentication and unpatched internet-facing applications. BOSS SPIDER, one of the first large game hunting (BGH) ransomware threat actors, often targeted computers accessible via Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) via the internet.
Less skilled threat actors that use ransomware versions like Dharma, Phobos, and Globe Imposter commonly acquire access using RDP hacking attacks.
3. Implement and Enhance Email Security
The most prevalent approach used by BGH ransomware organizations is to get an early footing in a victim organisation via phishing emails. Typically, these suspicious emails include a malicious link or URL that downloads the ransomware payload to the recipient’s computer.
4. Harden Endpoints
Throughout an attack lifecycle that ultimately culminates in a ransomware deployment, threat actors will often leverage a number of endpoint exploitation techniques. These exploitation techniques vary from exploiting poor AD configurations to leveraging publicly available exploits against unpatched systems or applications.
5. Ransomware-proof Data with Offline Backups
In recent years, especially as ransomware has emerged as a popular technique of monetizing attacks, the developers of malicious malware have grown extremely adept at preventing victims and security researchers from decrypting impacted data without paying the ransom for the decryption key. Furthermore, when creating a ransomware-proof backup system, keep in mind that threat actors have previously targeted online backups before spreading ransomware in the environment.
For these reasons, the only reliable approach to recovering data after a ransomware attack is to use ransomware-proof backups. For example, keeping offline backups of your data enables for faster recovery in an emergency.
6. Restrict Access to Virtualization Management Infrastructure
As previously stated, threat actors involved in big game hunting ransomware operations are always innovating to improve the efficacy of their attacks. The most recent advancement is the ability to actively target virtualized infrastructure. This method enables the targeting of hypervisors that install and store virtual machines (VMDK). As a result, endpoint security products deployed on virtualized PCs are unaware of harmful operations performed on the hypervisor.
7. Implement a Robust zero-trust architecture
Companies may enhance their security posture by building a strong zero-trust architecture. By implementing a zero-trust security paradigm, individuals both inside and outside the organisation must be verified and authorised before being permitted access to the network and data. You might include an identity access management (IAM) program in your architecture. This enables IT teams to manage access to all systems and apps depending on each user’s identification.
8. Know When to Ask for Help
If you feel your organisation may be affected by ransomware, bringing in professionals to assist investigate, assess, and improve the issue might be the difference between a minor incident and a massive breach. In certain cases, organisations become aware of threat actor activity in their environment but lack the visibility to handle the issue or the necessary intelligence to comprehend the nature of the danger. Getting informed on the current threats and requesting assistance by activating an incident response team or retainer, such as those provided by CrowdStrike Services, may enable for discovery and remediation before the threat actor can spread ransomware or exfiltrate data from the environment.
Is it possible to remove ransomware?
Keeping yourself healthy is worth more than treating your illness. Ransomware certainly fits into this category. No matter whether you pay a ransom for your device to be unencrypted, there is no guarantee that it will be unencrypted.
Therefore, you should be prepared before you are attacked by ransomware. The following are two key steps to take:
- Ransomware can infect your computer if you don’t install security software.
- It is important to back up your important data (files, documents, photos, videos, etc.).
If you find yourself infected with ransomware, the first suggestion is to never pay the ransom. (The FBI now endorses this suggestion.). All this accomplishes is to encourage cybercriminals to initiate new attacks against you or someone else.
Steps to follow to remove ransomware
One possible approach for removing ransomware is to use free decryptors to recover certain encrypted data. To be clear, not all ransomware families have had decryptors developed for them, often because the ransomware employs complex and sophisticated encryption methods.
Even if there is a decryptor, it is not always apparent whether it is for the correct version of the infection. You do not want to further encrypt your data by employing the incorrect decryption script. As a result, you should pay great attention to the ransom letter itself, or seek the opinion of an IT professional before attempting anything.
Other options for dealing with a ransomware infestation include downloading a security software recognised for remediation and conducting a scan to eradicate the problem. You may not be able to recover your files, but you can be confident that the virus will be removed. For screen-locking ransomware, a full system restoration may be required. When it doesn’t work, try performing a scan from a bootable CD or USB drive.
If you want to try to resist an encrypting ransomware outbreak in action, you’ll need to be more attentive. In the event that you observe your machine slowing down for no apparent reason, turn it off and unplug from the Internet. If the virus remains active after you reboot, it will be unable to communicate or receive orders from the command-and-control server. That is, without a key or a method to extract money, the virus may remain dormant. At that moment, download and install a security suite and do a comprehensive scan.
Should you pay the ransom?
You may want to pay, but cybersecurity researchers disagree. Ransom payments are opposed by the FBI. The key to their files is provided to some victims who pay; the key is not provided to others who pay. Data encrypting software was developed without a method for decryption in the case of Petya.
Getting the private key to restore your data is not guaranteed if you pay the ransom. Take protective measures in your everyday operations instead of relying on vulnerabilities to protect your files. It is possible to restore files to their original state in the event of an attack. Backups are crucial for recovery from an attack because of this reason.
- User training
- Quarantining suspicious emails
- Content filtering
In the next wave of ransomware attacks, organizations that follow these best practices will be well prepared. In spite of the fact that these security controls aren’t rocket science, the fact that millions of successful attacks have occurred in the past year reminds us that they are critical.