What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a type of malware from cryptovirology that threatens to publish the victim’s personal data or perpetually block access to it unless a ransom is paid. While some simple ransomware may lock the system without damaging any files, more advanced malware uses a technique called cryptoviral extortion. It encrypts the victim’s files, making them inaccessible, and demands a ransom payment to decrypt them. In a properly implemented cryptoviral extortion attack, recovering the files without the decryption key is an intractable problem – and difficult to trace digital currencies such as paysafecard or Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that are used for the ransoms, making tracing and prosecuting the perpetrators difficult.
Ransomware attacks are typically carried out using a Trojan disguised as a legitimate file that the user is tricked into downloading or opening when it arrives as an email attachment. However, one high-profile example, the WannaCry worm, traveled automatically between computers without user interaction.
Everything You Need To Know About Ransomware!
Imagine that someone gets access to your laptop’s data without your permission and threatens to make all your private data public while demanding a hefty ransom in order to restore access! Well, your life would turn upside down, right? In simple terms, ransomware is malware that is used to paralyze an entire organization’s databases by getting unauthorized access of the same; it’s practically stealing all your stuff, only the catch being that you can’t see the thief!
How does ransomware work?
Mostly, every organization has an extensive database that encrypts its critical data, but the attackers are quite intelligent, they use a pair of keys to encrypt and decrypt a file. The attacker generates a unique public-private pair of keys to attack the victim’s data, and with the private key, the attacker decrypts the file of the victim and stores it on their server, thereby stealing all the data. The next step is when the attacker demands ransom from the victim in exchange for that private key. The more horrifying fact is that without access to the private key, it is almost impossible to decrypt the files that are stored in the attacker’s server.
Well, we live in a data-driven world, covered with a blanket of numerous technologies. To be honest, our social media accounts say more about our life than our closest friends, so through ransomware, someone else will not only have access to your data but about your life! (shit scared, are you?)
If you think about the ransomware thing on a broader level, the malicious software actually holds all accessed data as hostages, which can create havoc for multi-dollar companies! The riskiest thing about cyber attackers is that they are not trustworthy, so there’s no guarantee that they will restore access to all your files, documents and data after getting the ransom.
Types of ransomware
This type of ransomware can cause a lot of damage since it encrypts things, including folders, files, documents and hard drives. Mostly, attackers use this form of ransomware to target big companies and access the entire database of the company.
This type of ransomware comes in the form of an antivirus or cleaning tool; yeah, you read that right! The scareware claims that it has found some bug issues on your computer or laptop and demands money to fix it. Some scareware can even lock your computer!
RaaS or ‘Ransomware as a service’ is a form of malware that is hosted by a hacker anonymously. From distributing the ransomware, collecting payments, manage data to restoring data access, these hackers do it all! (like a legit service provider!)
Ransomware on mobile devices
Did you think ransomware is only limited to computers and laptops? Well, ransomware began attacking smartphones in 2014. The malware enters your phone through a malicious app, leaving a message that your phone is locked! Well, imagine that in IRL!
This form of malware basically locks you out of your computer so that you can’t access any of your stored data or files. They are primarily android-based.
Can I save my data from ransomware?
Well, we don’t wanna sound too pessimistic! You can save your data from ransomware by following some of these steps:
- Always back up your data and keep your devices updated!
- Never use USB sticks from unknown sources and be cautious while surfing the internet.
- Install reliable and credible ransomware protection software.
- Back up important data in an external hard drive.
- Don’t surf the internet on public wi-fi
- You can use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to keep your data private.
How is Ransomware Attack Defined?
Ransomware is a type of malware attack in which the attacker encrypts and locks the victim’s data, critical files, and then demands payment in order to unlock and decrypt the data.
This type of attack exploits human, system, network, and software vulnerabilities in order to infect the victim’s device — which could be a computer, printer, smartphone, wearable, point-of-sale (POS) terminal, or other endpoint.
Examples of Ransomware Attacks
There are thousands of ransomware malware strains. The following are a few examples of malware that had a global impact and caused widespread damage.
WannaCry is an entry-level ransomware that takes advantage of a vulnerability in the Windows SMB protocol and uses a self-propagation mechanism to spread. WannaCry is distributed as a dropper, a self-contained program that extracts the encryption/decryption application, encryption key files, and the Tor communication program. It is not disguised and is relatively straightforward to detect and remove. WannaCry quickly spread across 150 countries in 2017, infecting 230,000 computers and causing an estimated $4 billion in damage.
Cerber is a ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) attack that is available for use by cybercriminals who collaborate with the malware developer to conduct attacks and distribute their loot. Cerber operates invisibly while encrypting files and may attempt to disable antivirus and Windows security features in order to prevent users from regaining access to the system. When it successfully encrypts files on the machine, it replaces the desktop wallpaper with a ransom note.
Locky can encrypt 160 different file types, the majority of which are used by designers, engineers, and testers. It was released for the first time in 2016. It is primarily distributed via exploit kits and phishing—attackers send emails encouraging users to open a Microsoft Office Word or Excel document containing malicious macros, or a ZIP file containing the malware.
In 2017, Cryptolocker was released and infected over 500,000 computers. It usually spreads via email, file sharing websites, and unprotected downloads. It not only encrypts files on the local machine, but can also scan and encrypt files on mapped network drives. Crypolocker’s new variants are capable of evading legacy antivirus software and firewalls.
Petya and NotPetya
Petya is a ransomware infection that infects a computer and encrypts the entire hard drive via the Master File Table (MFT). This renders the entire disk inaccessible, despite the fact that the files themselves are not encrypted. Petya first appeared in 2016, and was primarily spread via a bogus job application message linking to an infected Dropbox file. It was limited to Windows-based computers.
Petya requires the user’s consent to make administrator-level changes. After the user agrees, it reboots the computer and displays a bogus system crash screen while secretly encrypting the disk. It then displays the ransom demand.
While the original Petya virus was not particularly successful, Kaspersky Labs discovered that a new variant, dubbed NotPetya, was significantly more dangerous. NotPetya is endowed with a propagation mechanism and is capable of spreading autonomously.
NotPetya spread initially via a backdoor in widely used accounting software in Ukraine, and later via EternalBlue and EternalRomance, two vulnerabilities in the Windows SMB protocol. NotPetya encrypts not only the MFT, but also the rest of the hard drive’s files. While encrypting the data, it permanently damages it, rendering it unrecoverable. Users who pay the ransom are unable to reclaim their data.
Ryuk spreads infection through phishing emails and drive-by downloads. It employs a dropper, which downloads a trojan and establishes a persistent network connection on the victim’s machine. Attackers can then use Ryuk as the foundation for an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT), including the installation of additional tools such as keyloggers, privilege escalation, and lateral movement. Ryuk is installed on each additional system compromised by the attackers.
Once the trojan has been installed on as many computers as possible, the attackers will activate the locker ransomware and encrypt the files. In a Ryuk-based attack campaign, the ransomware phase occurs only after the attackers have caused damage and stolen the files they require.
GrandCrab was made available in 2018. It encrypts user files and demands a ransom, and has been used to launch ransomware-based extortion attacks in which attackers threatened to reveal victims’ pornographic viewing habits. There are several versions, all of which are designed for Windows-based computers. Today, decryptors for the majority of GrandCrab versions are available for free.