When you combine cryptography with malware, you get a very dangerous mix of problems. This is a type of computer virus that goes by another name, “ransomware”. This type of virus is part of a field of study called “cryptovirology”. Through the use of techniques called phishing, a threat actor sends the ransomware file to an unknowing victim. If the file is opened it will execute the virus payload, which is malicious code. The ransomware runs the code that encrypts user data on the infected computer or host. The data are user files like documents, spreadsheets, photos, multimedia files and even confidential records. The ransomware targets your personal computer files and applies an encryption algorithm like RSA which makes the file inaccessible. The only way to access them is if the user pays a ransom to the threat actor by following instructions which appear encoded into the encrypted files. Thus it is called ransomware, because a form of payment is demanded in order to fix the problem.
Once they have all publicly available email addresses, the fun starts. The more of your email addresses that are floating out there, the bigger your attack footprint is, and the higher the risk is. It’s often a surprise how many addresses are actually out there. Now they can send all employees an email supposedly coming from Accounting, Human Resources, the CEO or perhaps the mail room, and social engineer your users to click on a link. almost 90 percent of attack are done via the internet, based on the new software model, and yes the bad guys are also moving to the cloud. Software is shifting away from locally-installed apps to Software as a Service web applications that run in the cloud. Criminals are cashing in on this trend, which has led to the creation of Ransomware as a Service (RaaS), a growing threat to business.
RaaS refers to various online malware exploits that bad actors can use to attack the IT assets of businesses and individuals. These attack programs are created by criminal entrepreneurs who sell their services to other criminals. The people who buy these programs then extort or blackmail their victims by holding computer systems to ransom.
How does Ransomware spread?
Ransomware is typically spread through phishing emails that contain malicious attachments. These emails appear to come from a legitimate source and give a compelling reason that the document is important. Malicious attachments are often PDF, ZIP, DOC, XLS, PPT files that appear as invoices, legitimate business documents, or other work-related files. In some cases, Ransonware may end up on your computer by visiting infected web sites. To avoid malicious drive-by downloads, ensure that antivirus and all installed software is up-to-date.
How to Mitigate the Risk of Ransomware Infections
These recommendations are not comprehensive but provide general best practices.
Securing Networks and Systems
Have an incident response plan that includes what to do during a ransomware event.
Backups are critical. Use a backup system that allows multiple iterations of the backups to be saved, in case a copy of the backups includes encrypted or infected files. Routinely test backups for data integrity and to ensure it is operational.
Use antivirus and anti-spam solutions. Enable regular system and network scans with antivirus programs enabled to automatically update signatures. Implement an anti-spam solution to stop phishing emails from reaching the network. Consider adding a warning banner to all emails from external sources that reminds users of the dangers of clicking on links and opening attachments.
Disable macros scripts. Consider using Office Viewer software to open Microsoft Office files transmitted via e-mail instead of full office suite applications.
Keep all systems patched, including all hardware, including mobile devices, operating systems, software, and applications, including cloud locations and content management systems (CMS), patched and up-to-date. Use a centralized patch management system if possible. Implement application white-listing and software restriction policies (SRP) to prevent the execution of programs in common ransomware locations, such as temporary folders.
Restrict Internet access. Use a proxy server for Internet access and consider ad-blocking software. Restrict access to common ransomware entry points, such as personal email accounts and social networking websites.
Apply the principles of least privilege and network segmentation. Categorize and separate data based on organizational value and where possible, implement virtual environments and the physical and logical separation of networks and data. Apply the principle of least privilege.
Vet and monitor third parties that have remote access to the organization’s network and/or your connections to third parties, to ensure they are diligent with cybersecurity best practices.
Participate in cybersecurity information sharing programs and organizations, such as MS-ISAC and InfraGard.
Securing the End User
Provide social engineering and phishing training to employees. Urge them not to open suspicious emails, not to click on links or open attachments contained in such emails, and to be cautious before visiting unknown websites.
Remind users to close their browser when not in use.
Have a reporting plan that ensures staff knows where and how to report suspicious activity.
Responding to a Compromise/Attack
Immediately disconnect the infected system from the network to prevent infection propagation.
Call CyberSecOp.com Ransomware Response Team: They provide remediation and bitcoin payment services.
Determine the affected data as some sensitive data, such as electronic protected health information (ePHI) may require additional reporting and/or mitigation measures.
Determine if a decryptor is available. Online resources such as No More Ransom! can help.
Restore files from regularly maintained backups.
Report the infection. It is highly recommended that SLTT government agencies report ransomware incidents to MS-ISAC. Other sectors and home users may report to infections to local Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) field offices or to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).