Ransomware Forensics


 

What is Ransomware Forensics and How Does It Work?

The term “Ransomware Forensics” refers to the techniques and methods used to investigate cybercrime. Throughout this process, digital evidence is preserved and later used to deduce cybercriminals’ actions. Numerous techniques are used to gain insight into how to respond effectively in order to recover and decrypt your files and lost data.

The entire ransomware forensics process entails a thorough investigation, in which forensics laboratories collaborate with various law enforcement agencies to rehabilitate victims. Typically, the investigation is based on the digital evidence gathered. Obtaining this evidence is a separate process that is discussed below. In some instances, this digital evidence is not collected properly, making it quite difficult to take steps to recover your files. You must understand how to preserve digital evidence in the case of specific cyber crimes. This is a critical step, as the entire investigation is dependent on the data obtained from the evidence. That is why we are here to assist you in safeguarding evidence and responding to a ransomware incident as required.

Typical Steps Taken

Alert Validation

The likelihood of your system being compromised is proportional to your organization’s size. Perhaps your business is at risk of receiving hundreds or thousands of cyber security events, any of which could be a sign of a breach. When this indicator is detected, the SOC notifies the forensics lab of a potential malware attack. This could be a false positive, nothing, or an actual malware attack. Each and every alert from the SOC should be treated with the utmost urgency. No alert should be overlooked. Being slow or indifferent when validating an alert of this nature could be critical for you. As such, ensure that the team is operating at full capacity. Utilize precise, timely, and accurate forensic tools. Analyze the notification/alert thoroughly to ascertain its exact nature. The alert by itself will direct you to the compromised device or endpoint. It is strongly recommended that you use a triage tool to verify the alert. These tools are used to perform a quick scan or triage of target endpoints in order to analyze malicious activity. Triage tools are capable of scanning multiple endpoints concurrently. Not always is it SOC that sends you alerts and notifications. An alert may originate from another system, an external source, or a device. Once you’ve received the notification, confirm it and determine whether further action is required.

Implementation of the Incident Response Plan

Assume the results of your triage confirm the presence of a security breach in your system, such as a ransomware attack. Prepare to implement your incident response plan immediately. You want to conduct a root cause analysis, and the forensics lab plays a critical role in this process. Whatever information is uncovered during a deep scan of the affected device or endpoint, it will be shared with the rest of the team. It will assist the entire team in making sound judgments while performing their duties. Distribute the information and contact your Cybersecurity services security teams, including those responsible for Endpoint Security, Cloud Security, and Network Security. You must isolate every affected endpoint, device, network, and server as quickly as possible.

Who Triggered the attack?

While communicating with your cyber security services teams, ensure that you contact the employee who initiated the attack. You’ll need to contact your Marketing or Public Relations departments to ascertain who that employee is. This is a critical stage of the investigation. At the moment, any pertinent information is extremely valuable. External teams, such as your cybersecurity insurance provider, should also be involved. If the ransomware attack’s scope and size are significant, you should contact law enforcement. If you are in the United States, for example, you should probably contact the FBI or Secret Service. Your incident response plan should also have the capability of serving as a means of communication. It is strongly advised that you have a single point of contact to facilitate the flow of focused work. It’s highly likely that your cybersecurity insurance provider will require you to comply with certain requirements in order for the policy to remain valid. Whatever steps these requirements include, ensure that they are incorporated into your Incident Response Plan.

The Analysis of the Root Causes and the Protection of the Evidence

After you’ve completed the first two phases, you should ask yourself the following series of questions. Obtaining responses to these questions will assist you in progressing with your incident response plan.

  • What was the source of the security breach? How did our system become compromised?
  • How many endpoints were infected as a result of the ransomware attack?
  • What have we gained? Which data types were encrypted?
  • Was any personally identifiable information (PII) or customer data stolen?
  • Is the assault concluded? Are our systems secure at the moment?

The forensics laboratory will be responsible for resolving all of these issues. Obtaining these responses will not be simple. There is a strong possibility that affected endpoints remain encrypted. Therefore, how do you collect critical digital evidence for a ransomware forensics investigation? You should conduct the root cause analysis using the best ransomware forensic tools available. Consider the following.

How Can I Preserve Digital Evidence for the Purposes of Ransomware Forensics?

As previously stated, ransomware forensics is only beneficial when the digital evidence is properly protected. Agencies require this evidence in order to conduct thorough investigations. Thus, how can such evidence be preserved? Should your system be configured in this manner prior to an attack? How are you going to ensure this? Protecting evidence from ransomware attacks can be time-consuming. But have no fear; with this simple-to-follow guide, it’ll be a piece of cake for you.

Following the Ransomware Attack:

The first thought that most people have is to shut down the affected device, but this should never be done. You’ll immediately lose the most critical data and evidence that can be used to conduct an investigation. As a result, never turn off your device.

Put an End to the Spread

Cut off all of the attack’s connections to prevent it from spreading. Regardless of whether the connection is Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or LAN. Disconnect any external devices connected to it (USBs, Hard Drives, etc.). Typically, the virus spreads to additional devices via various networks and connections.

Utilize the Forensic Toolkit

This tool will assist you in developing a forensically sound image. Utilize this tool to create images of systems that have access to sensitive information. Recent snapshots and backups of the affected endpoint can be extremely beneficial during the investigation process. Don’t forget to create an additional copy of the same image and store it in a secure location.

Preserve Records and Logfiles

You must save all relevant log files. It can contain VPN and firewall logs, as well as any other type of log that can be saved. These log files should be retrieved immediately, as they do not have a long lifespan. Therefore, save and preserve them as evidence before they are lost.

Create a unified document that contains every detail about the ransomware attack.

The following information should be included in your document.

  • Each encrypted (lost) file has a unique extension.
  • The attack’s timing. It should be close to accurate. Include the date and time.
  • The attacker leaves a note or a readme file in his or her wake. Ensure that you include the ransomware note’s file naming scheme.
  • The ransomware variant’s name if possible.
  • The critical step is to include a copy, an image, of the ransom demand left by the mysterious individual.
  • The perpetrators of a ransomware attack leave behind an email address or a link for further communication. Ensure that you include that email in your document.

Additionally, the attacker abandons the payment methods. It could also be a bitcoin address. Include whatever is provided in your document. Additionally, include the sum demanded by the attacker.

Analyzing the Root Causes and Securing the Evidence

After completing the first two phases, you should pose the following questions to yourself. Obtaining answers to these questions will aid you in developing your incident response plan.

  • What caused the security breach? How was our system harmed?
  • How many endpoints were infected with ransomware as a result of the attack?
  • What have we accomplished? Which types of data were encrypted?
  • Is there any evidence that personally identifiable information (PII) or customer data has been stolen?
  • Is the assassination complete? Are our systems currently secure?

All of these issues will be resolved by the forensics laboratory. It will not be easy to elicit these responses. There is a good chance that the affected endpoints will remain encrypted. As a result, how do you gather vital digital evidence for a ransomware forensics investigation? Conduct a root cause analysis using the most advanced ransomware forensic tools available. Take the following into consideration.

How Can I Preserve Digital Evidence for Ransomware Forensics Purposes?

As stated previously, ransomware forensics is beneficial only when the digital evidence is properly protected. This evidence is necessary for agencies to conduct thorough investigations. As a result, how is such evidence to be preserved? Should this be your system’s default configuration prior to an attack? How are you going to make certain of this? Protecting evidence against ransomware attacks can take time. However, fear not; with this straightforward guide, it will be a piece of cake for you.

In the aftermath of the ransomware attack:

The initial reaction of the majority of people is to power down the affected device, but this should never be done. You’ll immediately lose access to the most vital data and evidence necessary to conduct an investigation. As a result, never leave your device unattended.

Put an End to the Propagation

Eliminate all attack connections to prevent the attack from spreading. Regardless of the connection type, whether it is Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or LAN. Remove any external devices that are connected to it (USBs, Hard Drives, etc.). Typically, the virus spreads via various networks and connections to additional devices.

Keep Records

You must maintain a backup of all relevant log files. It can store VPN and firewall logs, as well as any other type of log. These log files should be retrieved immediately, as they do not retain their integrity for an extended period of time. As a result, save and preserve them as evidence prior to their disappearance. Create a consolidated document containing all pertinent information about the ransomware attack.