Let us start with imaging a daunting scenario. You are working on your computer, and that too on a very crucial document, and gradually your computer starts acting funny. Perhaps all the operations are crashing, or you can’t access a document or media files that were previously available. Apart from such glitches, you might even be getting error messages from Windows telling you that “Windows can’t open this file” or “Unknown File type.”
And you might get the messages like “No associated application” or “There is no application set to open the document” if you are working on a Mac. There are a plethora of other possibilities as well that might occur to you. For instance, it might even happen that you are completely locked out of your system. And if you happen to look around in the office, you might also find other people going through the same issue.
You have been infected with ransomware.
With the advancement in Science & Technology, ransomware is becoming a mounting threat. There is nothing new about ransomware as it has been in headlines quite a few times for dealing with damage to individuals and companies alike. You might already be aware of this malicious threat if you have heard the stories of computer viruses locking out files and extorting money out of users without leaving a trace. Before plunging into the ways to prevent and remove it, we are first going to look at what ransomware is.
What is ransomware?
As it is very clear from the name, ransomware is intended to force a ransom from the victim to the person who launched the ransomware attack. It is a breed of malware that locks your entire device or files and prevents you from accessing them until you pay a specific amount of money. Involving digital extortion, where malware holds computer systems or data hostage until the victim pays a fee, ransomware is getting popular among an increasing number of cybercriminals. The high return of investment and the ease of implementation are the reasons for its growing popularity.
The attacker tends to use a variety of methods to load ransomware on to the victim’s computer. And once the ransomware manages to attack the computer, it will encrypt or lock the computer’s files, so that they cannot be accessed.
You will know the presence of ransomware when you receive messages like, “Your Computer has been locked.” The message generally comes with instructions on how to pay the ransom and unlock your device. Inducing guilt to the victims is the main objective.
A brief history of Ransomware
Ransomware was first introduced in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe in 2005. When the malware was first introduced, its functions were limited to locking keyboards or computers and forcing users to pay up. But as the technology is evolving, the newer generation of ransomware is responsible for encrypting your computer’s files and holding them hostage with a private key. Only the attacker possesses the core and delivers it to you only when you pay the ransom. The new generations of ransomware or crypto-ransomware can can encrypt files on any external or shared drives connected to the computer. But, for that to happen, the attackers must gain access to it.
How does Ransomware work?
There are a plethora of ways by which the ransomware can spread to the computers. It can typically spread via phishing emails and spam. It can also spread through drive-by downloads or websites to penetrate the network. As the infection methods are continually evolving, nothing is rendered impossible for the attackers anymore. Knowing about the tried-and-tested techniques of infection can help you prevent such attacks. The more you know about the tactics, the more you can do to help protect your data.
How do the attackers stage a ransomware attack?
If the attacker wishes to stage a ransomware attack, he must put the malware on your computer and have it open and execute. Above all of this, the attacker would make sure that you become his unwilling accomplice by tricking you into doing something.
The most common way for attackers to attack your computer is through email. And it is very familiar to see a friend sharing an image with you. You open the email, read it for a while, and click on the attached image file and bam, you are infected. As it is not unlikely to receive an image as an attachment, clicking on it comes naturally to you. And you might think that you cannot do anything to prevent it, but you cannot be more wrong. In the next segment, we are going to talk about avoiding the ransomware attack.
Ways to prevent, detect and recover from ransomware
Ransomware is responsible for the threat of disruption and extortion. We must know the ways to avoid it before it worsens the situation. Let us check out how.
Updates, patches, and configurations
The typical attackers tend to look for misconfigurations and vulnerabilities to exploit to gain access to your network. By not regularly updating with the latest security patches, you are making it easier for the attackers to achieve success. Proper endpoint security hygiene is essential for preventing ransomware. Take the time to disable any features you don’t need, and don’t make do with default configurations.
Security awareness training
One of the most common ways by which ransomware can get into the network is via a phishing attack. This attack is most likely to happen if an employee or the user unwittingly taps or clicks on any link they shouldn’t. The ransomware may gain a foothold on their system and rapidly spread across your network. Launching a proper security awareness training and reducing the threat of employee error can be one of the most effective ways to prevent ransomware.
Continuous vulnerability assessment
Ransomware attacks tend to exploit known vulnerabilities in popular software as the cybercriminals will always take the path of least resistance. If you wish to prevent the attack, you need a security system that is updated with the latest revelations in terms of vulnerabilities. To ensure that you are not offering an easy route in, you need to cross-check it with your network.
Up to date asset inventory
As long as you don’t know what devices are legitimately connected to your private and public clouds, you cannot expect to recognize or prevent an attack. You ought to have a clear understanding of what permissions each device should have and a real-time overview of all your devices.
File integrity monitoring
You are most likely to get automatic alerts if any critical file is accessed or altered if you set up file-integrity tracking on business-critical data. This can assist you in spotting a ransomware attack much more quickly. You can even limit the impact of the ransomware once you start getting automatic alerts.
Continuous threat intelligence
To gain a clear picture of your security, you need to be monitoring your network in real time. But monitoring tools can provide you with a limited amount of information. If you wish to catch ransomware attacks swiftly and prevent them from spreading, investing in the latest threat intelligence is vital. Security software is something you need for the understanding of the most recent types of activities and behaviors common to cutting edge malware.
Reliable backup recovery
Even if you practice every possible precaution to prevent ransomware, there are some attacks you can’t stop. All your defenses might fall short. Maintaining a regular and secure backup system is the best way to safeguard against ransomware attacks. This might also lessen the impact of ransomware on businesses.
And if you fail to do that, there is always a reliable data recovery service to look up to. For instance, CBL Tech is home to some of the most skilled technicians who can recover your data in a jiffy.
Summing it up
As an entrepreneur or a business owner, you ought to remain vigilant in today’s era of ransomware attacks and data breaches. Learning the proper steps to prevent, detect, and recover from ransomware can help you minimize its impact on businesses. As a customer, you can adapt the tips mentioned below to protect against ransomware.
Avoid entering passwords into login pages that show up after you click on a link in an email. It is better to bookmark the official login pages of your most-used sites.
Enable 2-factor authentication when it is available.
Do not keep the same passwords for every personal account.
Do not under any circumstances enable macros in document attachments received via email.
Never give out your personal data.
Back up regularly and keep a backup copy offsite as well.
CBL Tech always has your back in case these precautions don’t work out. We are there to recover all your lost data, and that too in a cinch. We leave no stone unturned in looking into the matter personally, and always strive to resolve the issues.