What Do You Need to Know About Ransomware – And How To Prevent It?

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In November, hackers launched a ransomware attack on the Taiwanese electronics company Foxconn. The malicious actors stole and deleted the crucial data from the company’s server and demanded a ransom of $34.7 million in Bitcoins. Most of us read about it in the news, but our concept isn’t cleared. Have you ever wondered what ransomware attacks are? To aid our readers in this topic, we’ve come up with another article that gives insight into ransomware attacks and how to prevent them?

Ransomware is an emerging yet the most destructive cyber-threat. It is a form of malware that cyber-criminals often use to get money from the victims. The Verizon Data Breach Report of 2019 ranked ransomware as the second most occurring attack. Read the remaining article to know everything about ransomware attacks. Let’s begin!

What Is A Ransomware Attack?

Ransomware is malicious software that prevents the users from accessing their system, files, and data, and in exchange for the data, demand a hefty amount. The cyber-attackers demand between $100 to $200, but the amount is not fixed. As the hacker knows that the data can cause significant loss to a company, they demand a lump sum amount.

The attacker has your personal and private data in the ransomware attack. It includes your financial business documents, photos, and everything on your device. The malicious agent blackmails to a great extent that you don’t see any other option than paying the ransom money. The malware encrypts the device along with all the data and files that it becomes inaccessible for you.

Ransomware also spreads through phishing, spam emails, and other social engineering techniques. The malware can also get into your device through downloads and visiting bogus websites. Upon entering the device, the ransomware penetrates throughout the network.

The ransomware attacks are on the rise, and their numbers are increasing every month. The hackers use sophisticated techniques to trick the users and get hold of their devices. A single ransomware attack causes hundreds and millions of dollars at a time. In this regard, a report reveals that during the first half of 2020, the global ransomware attack reports increased by 715%. It is alarming and poses questions on business integrity.

Different Types of Ransomware Attacks

There are different types of ransomware attacks. Some might be more dangerous than the others, but they all have one thing in common, and that’s they ask for a ransom. The following mentioned below are four different types of ransomware attacks.

Crypto Malware

In this type of ransomware attack, the malware encrypts all the crucial files, documents, and hard-drives. The famous WannaCry ransomware attack is an example of crypto-malware. The attacker harms hundreds and thousands of computer systems and later spreads on their global network. To get back the data, hackers asked for the ransom in Bitcoins.

Lockers

It is a common type of ransomware attack on Android devices. The malicious software infects the operating systems to such a great extent that it locks the access. Despite making several attempts, you can’t access your files and other valuable data.

RaaS

 It is an anonymous ransomware attack by a hacker. The cyber-crooks manage everything from distributing the malware on the device and collecting payment. 

Scareware

 It is a ransomware attack in which a fake software pretends to be an antivirus and gets into your system. The phony software claims that there are some severe issues in your system that need to get fixed soon. They ask you for money in return. In some cases, they even lock your system or bombards you with annoying alert messages.

What Are the Steps Involved In a Ransomware Attack?

A typical ransomware attack comprises of the following steps:

  • Infection: The ransomware gets into your system via phishing emails, downloading a bogus link, and using an infected application. Later, ransomware installs itself on your device and network and starts taking control over them.
  • Secure Key Exchange: In the next step, the ransomware contacts the hacker operating them behind the control server. Here, the attacker asks them to develop the cryptographic keys they can use on the local devices.
  • Encryption: From here, the real work starts. The ransomware begins encrypting the existing files and other valuable data on the network.
  • Extortion: The ransomware displays a message of paying the money and retrieving the data back. They adopt all means to blackmail and threaten the victim to pay the ransom amount, or otherwise, they’ll destroy their data.
  • Unlocking: The business companies either pay the money and retrieve their data. Moreover, if they follow a strict cyber-hygiene culture, there is no need to pay the amount. They can recover their data by restoring it from the backup and removing all the infected files from the system.

Who Are the Possible Targets of Ransomware Attacks?

Ransomware attacks can spread anywhere, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have any specific targets. The creative mind behind the ransomware attack is of the hackers, and they choose their targets. After some research, we present four possible targets of a ransomware attack.

  • Business in West: The cyber-attacker always aims to get out a significant amount of money. They target firms and markets in developed countries like Canada, the UK, and the US. The business market is more refined and bloomed in these regions, so they target all areas to get great wealth.
  • Government Agencies: Another target of ransomware attacks is government agencies. It includes police and other law enforcement departments. All these firms hold crucial and sensitive data. They need to quickly respond to any emergency to recover their data and are always ready to pay the ransom amount as they can’t afford to lose their data.
  • Finance and Healthcare Department: Both the finance and healthcare industries are the prime target of ransomware attacks. The healthcare units pay the ransom without any hesitation. For them, nothing is more important than their patients’ data, who are already fighting dreadful diseases. Ransomware attacks on the finance units are the most destructive and cause significant damage. Since recovering the finance data is tricky, they prefer to pay the hefty ransom amount.
  • Smaller Security Teams: Usually, educational institutions fall into this category. As they have less security but a vast database, so this makes them easy prey for the ransomware attack.

How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks?

To develop a defense strategy against ransomware attacks, you need to follow some security measures. All these steps mentioned below are essential to prevent the damage caused by a ransomware attack. The steps are as follows:

Update Your Operating System and Software 

Updating the operating system and its software helps in combating malware. Regular updates mean that your system is free from all the latest security flaws and security patches are fixed. Thus, it becomes challenging for cyber-attackers to get a loophole to get into your network and cause any harm.

Use a VPN on a Public Wi-Fi

We all know the hazards of using a free Wi-Fi network. The hackers target public Wi-Fi by tricking them to click on any link or provide their sensitive information. If you want to use a public network, use a VPN along with it. 

At the moment, a VPN is the most used privacy boosting software. It encrypts the data traffic and makes you anonymous over the web. All your activities become invisible to the ISP and all other snooping eyes. So, use a reliable VPN and prevent ransomware attacks.

Don’t Give Your Personal Data.

Hackers use phishing techniques to access users’ data. If you receive any text message, email, or a call from an unknown source that requests you to provide your personal information, don’t give any details about you.

The malicious agent might encourage you to a great extent in giving out your sensitive data, but you should be vigilant in this case. Here you must know how to detect social engineering scams. Ignore such requests, and stay secure.

Avoid Using Unfamiliar USBs

Avoid inserting USBs or any other removable storage devices into your system. The cyber-criminals might infect them with ransomware to use against you. If you use such devices, make sure your device runs on the reliable antivirus software that detects the threats and ensures your security.

Backup Your Data

Data backup has become an integral step towards preventing any cyber-attack, including ransomware. If you have data in your backup, you can retrieve it even if you don’t pay the ransom. Backup your data on an external hard drive or use any cloud storage solutions. These solutions allow reverting the data in its previous version and save you from paying the ransom amount. 

Parting Words

Ransomware is a form of deadly malware that encrypts the system files and data and makes it inaccessible. The hackers ask you to pay some money to get your data back. Government agencies, healthcare, finance units, and big business are the main targets of ransomware attacks. But, by following any one of the above-mentioned preventive measures, you can prevent the ransomware attack. So, follow the steps mentioned above and protect yourself.