Ransomware

Ransomware - SMEs Faces Greatest Risk - Attacks Grown 235%

Enterprises, beware. Threat actors are continuing to eye businesses for high returns on investment in Q1 2019, breaching infrastructure, exfiltrating or holding data hostage, and abusing weak credentials for continued, targeted monitoring. From a steadfast increase of pervasive Trojans, such as Emotet, to a resurgence of ransomware lodged against corporate targets, cybercriminals are going after organizations with a vengeance.

Ransomware attacks on business targets have seen a substantial increase in the first quarter of 2019, up by 195 percent since the fourth quarter of 2018, according to a recent Malwarebytes report.

Malwarebytes researchers analyzed the combined statistics and intel collected from its intelligence, research, and data science teams between January 1 and March 31, 2019. They also leveraged telemetry from both consumer and business products on PC, Mac, and mobile devices.

Overall, they found that business detection of ransomware attacks increased by more than 500 percent from the same time frame in 2018 with 336,634 detections.

SMEs face the greatest risk from attacks as overall business detections have grown 235%

“Zero day attacks are on the rise and estimated to be a daily occurrence by 2021. This is largely down to digitisation within organisations and there’s more pressure on developers to deliver software faster – leaving systems vulnerable. This problem is exacerbated by hackers becoming more sophisticated, enabling them to bypass defences more easily.

“IT teams often prioritise stopping a breach occurring at all, but in today’s cyber climate a successful breach is inevitable. The most important aspect of cyber security is that businesses prepare for the worst and have effective data recovery and backup systems in place. Zero day recovery makes sure critical systems are down for as little time as possible. It’s often true that real damage from these breaches doesn’t come from the attack itself, but the resultant downtime after a breach – the time taken to become fully operational dictates the financial and operational fallout on a business.”


Key takeaways

cryptomining seems to have gone the way of the dodo. Detections of consumer-focused Bitcoin miners have dropped significantly over the last year and even from last quarter, while business-focused miners have increased from the previous quarter, especially in the APAC region.

Adware in Macs and mobile devices was problematic.

While all Mac malware saw a more than 60 percent increase from Q4 2018 to Q1 2019, adware was particularly pervasive, clocking in at over 200 percent from the previous quarter. Mobile adware detections also trended upward, as supply chain attacks delivered malware pre-installed on mobile devices. However, overall adware detections were fewer in Q1 2019 than they were during the same time period last year.

Exploit authors developed some  attention-grabbing techniques. A new Flash Player zero-day was discovered in Q1 and quickly implemented into popular exploit kits, including Underminer and Fallout EK, as well as a new exploit kit called Spelevor. In addition, a Chrome zeroday required users to take action, fully shutting down and restarting their browser in order to patch the vulnerability. Finally, the popular software WinRAR was being used to deliver payloads to users.

As attacks against businesses ramped up, user trust in businesses to protect their data reached a new low.

In a survey conducted by Malwarebytes in Q1 2019 of nearly 4,000 respondents, users expressed deep concerns about abuse, misuse, and theft of PII, especially from social media and search engine companies. In a new section of our Cybercrime Tactics and Techniques report, we examine how cybercriminals found success by exploiting infrastructure weaknesses, gaps in policy and regulation, and even corporate negligence to not only walk away with valuable data, but establish persistence within the network.

Businesses are still the prime target. Overall detections of threats to businesses have steadily risen, while consumer threats have dropped off. Business detections increased by about 7 percent from the previous quarter, while consumer detections declined by nearly 40 percent, resulting in an overall dip in malware volume of 35 percent quarter over quarter. Compared to Q1 2018, business detections have skyrocketed 235 percent, with consumer detections dropping 24 percent year over year. This reinforces the observed trend of cybercriminals focusing more on business targets today.

Emotet shows no signs of stopping. Emotet, the most fearsome and dangerous threat to businesses today, has made a total shift away from consumers, reinforcing the intent of its creators to focus on enterprise targets, except for a few outlier spikes. Detections of Trojans (Emotet’s parent category) on business endpoints increased more than 200 percent from the previous quarter, and almost 650 percent from the same time last year.

Ransomware is back to business.

Ransomware has made a tremendous comeback against business targets in Q1 2019, with an increase of 195 percent in detections from Q4 2018 to Q1 2019. In comparison to the same time last year, business detections of ransomware have seen an uptick of over 500 percent, thanks in large part to a massive attack by the Troldesh ransomware against US organizations in early Q1.

Consumer detections of ransomware died down. Meanwhile, ransomware consumer detections have continued to drop, despite activity by families such as GandCrab, which primarily targeted consumers over the last quarter as it switched to a ransomware-asa-service and began brute-forcing RDP to infiltrate systems. Consumer detections of ransomware decreased by 10 percent quarter over quarter, and by 33 percent year over year.

Ransomware Breach and Ransomware Prevention

Cyber-criminals have turned to ransomware as the latest go-to tool for attacking and extorting businesses using a wide range of variants such as Dharma, Wallet, WannaCry, Cryptowall, Samas, Locky, TeslaCrypt., RyUK and others. The outbreak of WannaCry was one of the largest and worst ransomware campaigns ever. Traditional signature-based antivirus and threat detection methods have proven to be woefully ineffective against such attacks. CyberSecOp use AI to help organization protect their data, and provide ransomware Incident response and remediation services.

HOW DO I RESPOND TO RANSOMWARE?

Implement your security incident response and business continuity plan. It may take time for your organization’s IT professionals to isolate and remove the ransomware threat to your systems and restore data and normal operations. In the meantime, you should take steps to maintain your organization’s essential functions according to your business continuity plan. Organizations should maintain and regularly test backup plans, disaster recovery plans, and business continuity procedures.

Contact law enforcement immediately. We encourage you to contact a local FBI or USSS field office immediately to report a ransomware event and request assistance. Contact CyberSecOp Security Consulting Firm for ransomware incident response & digital forensic services.

There are serious risks to consider before paying the ransom. We do not encourage paying a ransom. We understand that when businesses are faced with an inability to function, executives will evaluate all options to protect their shareholders, employees, and customers. As you contemplate this choice, consider the following risks:

•       Paying a ransom does not guarantee an organization will regain access to their data; in fact, some individuals or organizations were never provided with decryption keys after having paid a ransom

•       Some victims who paid the demand have reported being targeted again by cyber actors.

•       After paying the originally demanded ransom, some victims have been asked to pay more to get the promised decryption key.

•       Paying could inadvertently encourage this criminal business model.

Ransomware Incident Response from CyberSecOp, the firm that provide ransomware protection, and ransomware ransom payment.

WHAT IS RANSOMWARE?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software cyber actors use to deny access to systems or data. The malicious cyber actor holds systems or data hostage until the ransom is paid. After the initial infection, the ransomware attempts to spread to shared storage drives and other accessible systems. If the demands are not met, the system or encrypted data remains unavailable, or data may be deleted.  

HOW DO I PROTECT MY NETWORKS?

A commitment to cyber hygiene and best practices is critical to protecting your networks. Here are some questions you may want to ask of your organization to help prevent ransomware attacks: 

1.    Backups: Do we backup all critical information? Are the backups stored offline? Have we tested our ability to revert to backups during an incident?

2.    Risk Analysis: Have we conducted a cybersecurity risk analysis of the organization? 

3.    Staff Training: Have we trained staff on cybersecurity best practices?

4.    Vulnerability Patching: Have we implemented appropriate patching of known system vulnerabilities?

5.    Application Whitelisting: Do we allow only approved programs to run on our networks?

6.    Incident Response: Do we have an incident response plan and have we exercised it? 

7.    Business Continuity: Are we able to sustain business operations without access to certain systems? For how long? Have we tested this?

8.    Penetration Testing: Have we attempted to hack into our own systems to test the security of our systems and our ability to defend against attacks?

Protecting Your Networks from Ransomware

Ransomware is the fastest growing malware threat, targeting users of all types—from the home user to the corporate network. On average, more than 4,000 ransomware attacks have occurred daily since January 1, 2016. This is a 300-percent increase over the approximately 1,000 attacks per day seen in 2015. There are very effective prevention and response actions that can significantly mitigate the risk posed to your organization.

Ransomware targets home users, businesses, and government networks and can lead to temporary or permanent loss of sensitive or proprietary information, disruption to regular operations, financial losses incurred to restore systems and files, and potential harm to an organization’s reputation. 

 Ransomware may direct a user to click on a link to pay a ransom; however, the link may be malicious and could lead to additional malware infections. Some ransomware variants display intimidating messages, such as: 

“Your computer was used to visit websites with illegal content. To unlock your computer, you must pay a $100 fine.”

 “You only have 96 hours to submit the payment. If you do not send money within provided time, all your files will be permanently encrypted and no one will be able to recover them.”

Ransomware?

Ransomware is a form of malware that targets your critical data and systems for the purpose of extortion. Ransomware is frequently

delivered through spearphishing emails. After the user has been locked out of the data or system, the cyber actor demands a ransom payment. After receiving payment, the cyber actor will purportedly provide an avenue to the victim to regain access to the system or data. Recent iterations target enterprise end users, making awareness and training a critical preventive measure.

Protecting Your Networks

Educate Your Personnel

Attackers often enter the organization by tricking a user to disclose a password or click on a virus-laden email attachment.

 Remind employees to never click unsolicited links or open unsolicited attachments in emails. To improve workforce awareness, the internal security team may test the training of an organization’s workforce with simulated phishing emails.

You will need and experience security consulting firm to guide you remediate the ransomware.

Proactive Prevention is the Best Defense

Prevention is the most effective defense against ransomware and it is critical to take precautions for protection. Infections can be devastating to an individual or organization, and recovery may be a difficult process requiring the services of a reputable data recovery specialist.

 The U.S. Government (USG) recommends that users and administrators take the following preventive measures to protect their computer networks from falling victim to a ransomware infection:

Preventive Measures 

•      Implement an awareness and training program. Because end users are targets, employees and individuals should be aware of the threat of ransomware and how it is delivered. 

•      Enable strong spam filters to prevent phishing emails from reaching the end users and authenticate inbound email using technologies like Sender Policy Framework (SPF), Domain Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance (DMARC), and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) to prevent email spoofing. 

•      Scan all incoming and outgoing emails to detect threats and filter executable files from reaching end users.

•      Configure firewalls to block access to known malicious IP addresses.

•      Patch operating systems, software, and firmware on devices. Consider using a centralized patch management system. 

•      Set anti-virus and anti-malware programs to conduct regular scans automatically.

•      Manage the use of privileged accounts based on the principle of least privilege: no users should be assigned administrative access unless absolutely needed; and those with a need for administrator accounts should only use them when necessary. 

•      Configure access controls—including file, directory, and network share permissions— with least privilege in mind. If a user only needs to read specific files, the user should not have write access to those files, directories, or shares. 

•      Disable macro scripts from office files transmitted via email. Consider using Office Viewer software to open Microsoft Office files transmitted via email instead of full office suite applications. 

•      Implement Software Restriction Policies (SRP) or other controls to prevent programs from executing from common ransomware locations, such as temporary folders supporting popular Internet browsers or compression/decompression programs, including the AppData/LocalAppData folder. 

•      Consider disabling Remote Desktop protocol (RDP) if it is not being used.

•      Use application whitelisting, which only allows systems to execute programs known and permitted by security policy. 

•      Execute operating system environments or specific programs in a virtualized environment. 

•      Categorize data based on organizational value and implement physical and logical separation of networks and data for different organizational units.  Business Continuity Considerations 

•      Back up data regularly. Verify the integrity of those backups and test the restoration process to ensure it is working. 

•      Conduct an annual penetration test and vulnerability assessment. 

•      Secure your backups. Ensure backups are not connected permanently to the computers and networks they are backing up. Examples are securing backups in the cloud or physically storing backups offline. Some instances of ransomware have the capability to lock cloud-based backups when systems continuously back up in real time, also known as persistent synchronization. Backups are critical in ransomware recovery and response; if you are infected, a backup may be the best way to recover your critical data. 

What to Do If Infected with Ransomware

Should preventive measures fail, the USG recommends that organizations consider taking the following steps upon an infection with ransomware: 

•      Isolate the infected computer immediately. Infected systems should be removed from the network as soon as possible to prevent ransomware from attacking network or share drives. 

•      Isolate or power-off affected devices that have not yet been completely corrupted. This may afford more time to clean and recover data, contain damage, and prevent worsening conditions.

•      Immediately secure backup data or systems by taking them offline. Ensure backups are free of malware.

•      Contact law enforcement immediately. We strongly encourage you to contact a local field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or U.S. Secret Service immediately upon discovery to report a ransomware event and contact CyberSecOp to request assistance.

•      If available, collect and secure partial portions of the ransomed data that might exist.

•      If possible, change all online account passwords and network passwords after removing the system from the network. Furthermore, change all system passwords once the malware is removed from the system.

•      Delete Registry values and files to stop the program from loading.

Implement your security incident response and business continuity plan. Ideally, organizations will ensure they have appropriate backups, so their response to an attack will simply be to restore the data from a known clean backup. Having a data backup can eliminate the need to pay a ransom to recover data

There are serious risks to consider before paying the ransom. CyberSecOp does not encourage paying a ransom to criminal actors. However, after systems have been compromised, whether to pay a ransom is a serious decision, requiring the evaluation of all options to protect shareholders, employees, and customers. Victims will want to evaluate the technical feasibility, timeliness, and cost of restarting systems from backup. Ransomware victims may also wish to consider the following factors:

•      Paying a ransom does not guarantee an organization will regain access to their data; in fact, some individuals or organizations were never provided with decryption keys after paying a ransom. 

•      Some victims who paid the demand were targeted again by cyber actors.

•      After paying the originally demanded ransom, some victims were asked to pay more to get the promised decryption key. CyberSecOp can negotiate the ransom for you, we have a 60% t rate of reducing the ransom.

•      Paying could inadvertently encourage this criminal business model. 

Ransomware Variants

Ransomware is a growing criminal activity involving numerous variants. Since 2012 when police locker ransomware variants first emerged, ransomware variants have become more sophisticated and destructive. Some variants encrypt not just the files on the infected device, but also the contents of shared or networked drives, externally attached storage media devices, and cloud storage services that are mapped to infected computers. These variants are considered destructive because they encrypt users’ and organizations’ files, and render those files useless until a ransom is paid. 

 Recent federal investigations by the FBI reveal that ransomware authors continue to improve ransomware code by using anonymizing services like “Tor” for end-to-end communication to infected systems and Bitcoin virtual currency to collect ransom payments. Currently, the top five ransomware variants targeting U.S. companies and individuals are CryptoWall, CTBLocker, TeslaCrypt, MSIL/Samas, and Locky. New ransomware variants are continually emerging.  

CryptoWall

CryptoWall and its variants have been actively used to target U.S. victims since April 2014.

CryptoWall was the first ransomware variant that only accepted ransom payments in Bitcoin.

The ransom amounts associated with CryptoWall are typically between $200 and $10,000. Following the takedown of the CryptoLocker botnet, CryptoWall has become the most successful ransomware variant with victims all over the world. Between April 2014 and June 2015, IC3 received 992 CryptoWall-related complaints, with victims reporting losses totaling over $18 million. CryptoWall is primarily spread via spam email but also infects victims through drive-by downloads and malvertising. 

CTB-Locker

CTB-Locker emerged in June 2014 and is one of the first ransomware variants to use Tor for its C2 infrastructure. CTB-Locker uses Tor exclusively for its C2 servers and only connects to the C2 after encrypting victims’ files. Additionally, unlike other ransomware variants that utilize the Tor network for some communication, the Tor components are embedded in the CTBLocker malware, making it more efficient and harder to detect. CTB-Locker is spread through drive-by downloads and spam emails.

TeslaCrypt

TeslaCrypt emerged in February 2015, initially targeting the video game community by encrypting gaming files. These files were targeted in addition to the files typically targeted by ransomware (documents, images, and database files). Once the data was encrypted, TeslaCrypt attempted to delete all Shadow Volume Copies and system restore points to prevent file recovery. TeslaCrypt was distributed through the Angler, Sweet Orange, and Nuclear exploit kits.

MSIL or Samas (SAMSAM)

MSIL or Samas (SAMSAM) was used to compromise the networks of multiple U.S. victims, including 2016 attacks on healthcare facilities  that were running outdated versions of the JBoss content management application. SAMSAM exploits vulnerable Java-based Web servers. SAMSAM uses open-source tools to identify and compile a list of hosts reporting to the victim’s active directory. The actors then use psexec.exe to distribute the malware to each host on the network and encrypt most of the files on the system. The actors charge varying amounts in Bitcoin to provide the decryption keys to the victim.

Locky

In early 2016, a destructive ransomware variant, Locky, was observed infecting computers belonging to businesses globally, including those in the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom. Locky propagates through spam emails that include malicious Microsoft Office documents or compressed attachments (e.g., .rar, .zip) that were previously associated with banking Trojans such as Dridex and Pony. The malicious attachments contain macros or JavaScript files to download the Locky files. Recently, this ransomware has also been distributed using the Nuclear Exploit Kit.

Links to Other Types of Malware

Systems infected with ransomware are also often infected with other malware. In the case of

CryptoLocker, a user typically was infected by opening a malicious attachment from an email.

This malicious attachment contained Upatre, a downloader, which infected the user with GameOver Zeus. GameOver Zeus was a variant of the Zeus Trojan used to steal banking information and other types of data. After a system became infected with GameOver Zeus, Upatre would also download CryptoLocker. Finally, CryptoLocker encrypted files on the infected system and demanded a ransom payment

 The disruption operation against the GameOver Zeus botnet also affected CryptoLocker, demonstrating the close ties between ransomware and other types of malware. In June 2014,

an international law enforcement operation successfully weakened the infrastructure of both

GameOverZeus and CryptoLocker.

Ransomware Attack: Threats, and Countermeasures

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.

bad guys attack.png

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).

Ransomware Checker & Removal Tools

Are Users Your Weakest Link - To Your Cybersecurity Posture

Humans remain the weak link in corporate data protection

Humans remain the weak link in corporate data protection, but you might be surprised that it isn't only rank-and-file employees duped by phishing scams who pose risks. Some companies are lulled into a false sense of cybersecurity by vendors. You read that right, Some enterprises believe the shiny new technologies they've acquired will protect them from anything.

As we continue to build defense in depth and deploy security appliances utilizing AI and other emerging technologies, attackers will continue to pivot to the perennial weak spot: the users. Recently I hosted the Social Engineering Capture The Flag competition at Hackfest in Quebec, and similar to last year, the results were sobering. Every single targeted company had employees that gave detailed information over the phone on their OS and service pack level, and 88 percent gave detailed information on the browser they were using. Three quarters went to a URL that they were given over the phone. The information that the companies bled was disheartening but not shocking. Until we train employees to trust their instincts and tell them it's okay to say no to a customer, things won't change. In the current environment where companies ask their customers to leave a positive review online, employees increasingly feel less empowered to terminate a call they feel is suspicious. Your friendly neighborhood hacker is happy to exploit this weakness.

Billions being send on security tools

The threat of cyber crime has created a significant increase in interest on the topic of cyber security, with organizations spending billions of dollars to protect themselves against a fast evolving array of current and potential future threats. Many spend heavily on monitoring, surveillance and software; however, they often neglect the risk exposure created by their own people – and, in this digital age, by their customers.

Businesses are losing the fight, pay ransom, or lose their lively hood

Businesses are forced to make exceedingly difficult decisions. On one hand, it feels wrong to negotiate with the cybercriminals and give them what they want. On the other hand, the looming financial hit and business interruption is typically far more detrimental than the payoff amount. If business owners don’t engage with the ransomers, they face the prospect that they, and their employees, may lose their livelihood. I see ransomware as a continuing cyber threat in 2019 and beyond. It’s up to business owners to implement the best security practices and ensure that their employees are properly trained to identify and avoid potential threats.

Ransomware Cyberattack - 92% of MSSPs Expect Ongoing Attacks

Ransomware is the leading cyberattack experienced by small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), according to a survey of more than 2,400 managed service providers (MSSPs) conducted by data protection company Datto.

Datto’s State of the Channel Ransomware Report provides unique visibility into the ransomware epidemic from the perspective of the IT Channel and the SMB clients who are dealing with these infections on a daily basis. The report provides a wealth of detail on ransomware, including year-over-year trends, frequency, targets, impact, and recommendations for ensuring recovery and continuity in the face of the growing threat.

ransomware_infographic.jpg

Key findings from Datto’s “State of the Channel Ransomware Report” included:

  • 79 percent of MSSPs reported ransomware attacks against customers.

  • 85 percent indicated that victims had antivirus software installed, 65 percent reported victims had email/spam filters installed and 29 percent reported victims used pop-up blockers.

  • 89 percent are “highly concerned” about ransomware attacks.

  • 92 percent predict the number of ransomware attacks will continue at current, or worse, rates.

  • MSPs ranked phishing emails as the top ransomware delivery method, followed by malicious websites, web ads and clickbait.

  • The average requested ransom for SMBs is roughly $4,300, while the average cost of downtime related to such an attack is approximately $46,800.

  • The number of MSPs reporting OS/iOS attacks increased by nearly 500 percent year over year in the first six months of 2018.

No single solution is guaranteed to prevent such attacks, Datto indicated. Conversely, SMBs require a multilayered approach to identify and stop ransomware attacks before they cause brand reputation damage, revenue loss and other problems.

How Can SMBs Address Ransomware Attacks?

CyberSecop offered the following recommendations to help SMBs safeguard their data and assets against such attacks:

  • Leverage business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) technologyBCDR technology won’t stop ransomware attacks; instead, it helps an SMB determine how to limit downtime and maintain operations despite a ransomware attack.

  • Provide cybersecurity training. By offering regular and mandatory cybersecurity training, an SMB can ensure all of its employees can identify and avoid potential phishing scams that otherwise lead to such an attack.

  • Employ a dedicated cybersecurity professional. It may be difficult for an SMB to hire a full-time cybersecurity professional. Fortunately, working with an MSSP allows an SMB to receive cybersecurity monitoring and other security services.

Data Breaches Ransomware and Cyber Attacks

Data Breaches Ransomware and Cyber Attacks

It’s unrealistic to think that you can completely avoid cyberattacks and data breaches, so it’s vital to have a proper data recovery plan in place. You can also tighten your defenses significantly by ensuring all of your network devices are properly configured, and by putting some thought into all of your potential network borders.

Data Recovery Capability

Do you have a proper backup plan in place? Have you ever tested it to see that it works? Disaster recovery is absolutely vital, but an alarming number of companies do not have an adequate system in place. A survey of 400 IT executives by IDG Research revealed that 40% rate their organizations’ ability to recover their operations in the event of disaster or disruption as “fair or poor.” Three out of four companies fail from a disaster recovery standpoint, according to the Disaster Recovery Preparedness Benchmark.

A successful malware attack can lead to altered data on all compromised machines and the full effects are often very difficult to determine. The option to roll back to a backup that predates the infection is vital. Backed up data must be encrypted and physically protected. It’s also important that a test team routinely checks a random sampling of system backups by restoring them and verifying data integrity.

Secure Configurations for Network Devices such as Firewalls, Routers, and Switches

The default configurations for network devices like firewalls, routers, and switches are all about ease of use and deployment. They aren’t designed with security in mind and they can be exploited by determined attackers. There’s also a risk that companies will create exceptions for business reasons and then fail to properly analyze the potential impact.

The 2015 Information Security Breaches Survey found that failure to keep technical configuration up to date was a factor in 19% of incidents. Attackers are skilled at seeking out vulnerable default settings and exploiting them. Organizations should have standardized secure configuration guidelines applied across devices. Security updates must be applied in a timely fashion.

You need to employ two-factor authentication and encrypted sessions when managing network devices, and engineers should use an isolated, dedicated machine without Internet access. It’s also important to use automated tools to monitor the network and track device configurations. Changes should be flagged and rule sets analyzed to ensure consistency.

Boundary Defense

When the French built the Maginot Line in World War II, a series of impregnable fortifications that extended along the border with Germany and beyond, it failed to protect them because the Germans invaded around the North end through neutral Belgium. There’s an important lesson there for security professionals: Attackers will often find weaknesses in perimeter systems and then pivot to get deeper into your territory.

They may gain access through a trusted partner, or possibly an extranet, while your defensive eye is focused on the Internet. Effective defenses are multi-layered systems of firewalls, proxies, and DMZ perimeter networks. You need to filter inbound and outbound traffic and take caution not to blur the boundaries between internal and external networks. Consider network-based IDS sensors and IPS devices to detect attacks and block bad traffic.

Segment your network and protect each sector with a proxy and firewall to limit access as far as possible. If you don’t have internal network protection, then intruders can get their hands on the keys to the kingdom by successfully breaching the outer defenses.

The real cost

A lot of businesses argue that they can’t afford a comprehensive disaster recovery plan, but they should really consider whether they can afford to lose all their data or be uncertain about its integrity. They may lack the expertise to ensure that network devices are securely configured, but attackers don’t lack the skills to exploit that. It’s understandably common to focus on the outer boundary of your network and forget about threats that come from unexpected directions or multiply internally, but it could prove costly indeed.

Compared to the cost of a data breach, all of these things are cheap and easy to set up

Ransomware Business Impacts, Ransomware Business Cost

Projecting the overall cost of a ransomware attack can be tricky for security executives considering the many factors that can come into play when responding to and recovering from one. Information from numerous previous incidents show the costs go well beyond any demanded ransom amount and the costs associated with cleaning infected systems.

Ransomware is defined as a form of malicious software that is designed to restrict users from accessing their computers or files stored on computers till they pay a ransom to cybercriminals. Ransomware typically operates via the crypto virology mechanism, using symmetric as well as asymmetric encryption to prevent users from performing managed file transfer or accessing particular files or directories. Cybercriminals use ransomware to lock files from being used assuming that those files have extremely crucial information stored in them and the users are compelled to pay the ransom in order to regain access.

Ransomware History

It’s been said that Ransomware was introduced as an AIDS Trojan in 1989 when Harvard-educated biologist Joseph L. Popp sent 20,000 compromised diskettes named “AIDS Information – Introductory Diskettes” to attendees of the internal AIDS conference organized by the World Health Organization. The Trojan worked by encrypting the file names on the customers’ computer and hiding directories. The victims were asked to pay $189 to PC Cyborg Corp. at a mailbox in Panama.

From 2006 and on, cybercriminals have become more active and started using asymmetric RSA encryption. They launched the Archiveus Trojan that encrypted the files of the My Documents directory. Victims were promised access to the 30-digit password only if they decided to purchase from an online pharmacy.

After 2012, ransomware started spreading worldwide, infecting systems and transforming into more sophisticated forms to promote easier attack delivery as the years rolled by. In Q3, about 60,000 new ransomware was discovered, which doubled to over 200,000 in Q3 of 2012.

The first version of CryptoLocker appeared in September 2013 and the first copycat software called Locker was introduced in December of that year.

Ransomware has been creatively defined by the U.S. Department of Justice as a new model of cybercrime with a potential to cause impacts on a global scale. Stats indicate that the use of ransomware is on a steady rise and according to Veeam, businesses had to pay $11.7 on average in 2017 due to ransomware attacks. Alarmingly, the annual ransomware-induced costs, including the ransom and the damages caused by ransomware attacks, are most likely to shoot beyond $11.5 billion by 2019.


Ransomware Business Impacts Can Be Worrisome

Ransomware can cause tremendous impacts that can disrupt business operations and lead to data loss. The impacts of ransomware attacks include:

  • Loss or destruction of crucial information

  • Business downtime

  • Productivity loss

  • Business disruption in the post-attack period

  • Damage of hostage systems, data, and files

  • Loss of reputation of the victimized company

You will be surprised to know that apart from the ransom, the cost of downtime due to restricted system access can bring major consequences. As a matter of fact, losses due to downtime may cost tens of thousands of dollars daily.

As ransomware continues to become more and more widespread, companies will need to revise their annual cybersecurity goals and focus on the appropriate implementation of ransomware resilience and recovery plans and commit adequate funds for cybersecurity resources in their IT budgets.

Consider the following examples. The Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) in Buffalo, NY, last July estimated it spent $10 million responding to an attack involving a $30,000 ransom demand. About half the amount went toward IT services, software, and other recovery-related costs. The other half stemmed from staff overtime, costs related to lost revenues, and other indirect costs. ECMC officials estimated the medical center would need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars more on upgrading technology and employee awareness training.

Public records show that the City of Atlanta spent almost $5 million just in procuring emergency IT services following a March 2018 ransomware attack that crippled essential city services for days. The costs included those associated with third-party incident response services, crisis communication, augmenting support staff and subject matter expert consulting services.

In Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper had to set aside $2 million from the state disaster emergency fund after ransomware infected some 2,000 Windows systems at CDOT, the state department of transportation, this February. In less than eight weeks, CDOT officials spent more than half that amount just returning systems to normal from the attack.

Not surprisingly, industry estimates relating to ransomware damages have soared recently. Cybersecurity Ventures, which pegged ransomware costs at $325 million in 2015, last year estimated damages at $5 billion in 2017 and predicted it would exceed $11.5 billion in 2019.

For security executives trying to prepare a total ransomware cost estimate, the key is not to get fixated on the ransom amount itself. Even if you end up paying it to recover your data—something that most security analysts advocate against—the actual costs of the attack in most cases will end up being greater.


FBI: Protecting Your Networks from Ransomware

Protecting Your Networks from Ransomware

Ransomware is the fastest growing malware threat, targeting users of all types—from the home user to the corporate network. On average, more than 4,000 ransomware attacks have occurred daily since January 1, 2016. This is a 300-percent increase over the approximately 1,000 attacks per day seen in 2015. There are very effective prevention and response actions that can significantly mitigate the risk posed to your organization.

Ransomware targets home users, businesses, and government networks and can lead to temporary or permanent loss of sensitive or proprietary information, disruption to regular operations, financial losses incurred to restore systems and files, and potential harm to an organization’s reputation. 

 Ransomware may direct a user to click on a link to pay a ransom; however, the link may be malicious and could lead to additional malware infections. Some ransomware variants display intimidating messages, such as: 

 “Your computer was used to visit websites with illegal content. To unlock your computer, you must pay a $100 fine.”

 “You only have 96 hours to submit the payment. If you do not send money within provided time, all your files will be permanently encrypted and no one will be able to recover them.”

 What is Ransomware”

Ransomware is a form of malware that targets your critical data and systems for the purpose of extortion. Ransomware is frequently

delivered through spearphishing emails. After the user has been locked out of the data or system, the cyber actor demands a ransom payment. After receiving payment, the cyber actor will purportedly provide an avenue to the victim to regain access to the system or data. Recent iterations target enterprise end users, making awareness and training a critical preventive measure.

             

Protecting Your Networks

Educate Your Personnel

Attackers often enter the organization by tricking a user to disclose a password or click on a virus-laden email attachment. Remind employees to never click unsolicited links or open unsolicited attachments in emails. To improve workforce awareness, the internal security team may test the training of an organization’s workforce with simulated phishing emails. For additional information on Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks.

 Ransomware Proactive Prevention is the Best Defense

Prevention is the most effective defense against ransomware and it is critical to take precautions for protection. Infections can be devastating to an individual or organization, and recovery may be a difficult process requiring the services of a reputable data recovery specialist.

The U.S. Government (USG) recommends that users and administrators take the following preventive measures to protect their computer networks from falling victim to a ransomware infection:

Ransomware Preventive Measures

• Implement an awareness and training program. Because end users are targets, employees and individuals should be aware of the threat of ransomware and how it is delivered.

• Enable strong spam filters to prevent phishing emails from reaching the end users and authenticate inbound email using technologies like Sender Policy Framework (SPF), Domain Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance (DMARC), and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) to prevent email spoofing.

• Scan all incoming and outgoing emails to detect threats and filter executable files from reaching end users.

• Configure firewalls to block access to known malicious IP addresses.

• Patch operating systems, software, and firmware on devices. Consider using a centralized patch management system.

• Set anti-virus and anti-malware programs to conduct regular scans automatically.

• Manage the use of privileged accounts based on the principle of least privilege: no users should be assigned administrative access unless absolutely needed; and those with a need for administrator accounts should only use them when necessary.

• Configure access controls—including file, directory, and network share permissions— with least privilege in mind. If a user only needs to read specific files, the user should not have write access to those files, directories, or shares.

• Disable macro scripts from office files transmitted via email. Consider using Office Viewer software to open Microsoft Office files transmitted via email instead of full office suite applications.

• Implement Software Restriction Policies (SRP) or other controls to prevent programs from executing from common ransomware locations, such as temporary folders supporting popular Internet browsers or compression/decompression programs, including the AppData/LocalAppData folder.

• Consider disabling Remote Desktop protocol (RDP) if it is not being used.

• Use application whitelisting, which only allows systems to execute programs known and permitted by security policy.

• Execute operating system environments or specific programs in a virtualized environment.

• Categorize data based on organizational value and implement physical and logical separation of networks and data for different organizational units. Business Continuity Considerations

• Back up data regularly. Verify the integrity of those backups and test the restoration process to ensure it is working.

• Conduct an annual penetration test and vulnerability assessment.

• Secure your backups. Ensure backups are not connected permanently to the computers and networks they are backing up. Examples are securing backups in the cloud or physically storing backups offline. Some instances of ransomware have the capability to lock cloud-based backups when systems continuously back up in real time, also known as persistent synchronization. Backups are critical in ransomware recovery and response; if you are infected, a backup may be the best way to recover your critical data.

What to Do If Infected with Ransomware

Should preventive measures fail, the USG recommends that organizations consider taking the following steps upon an infection with ransomware:

• Isolate the infected computer immediately. Infected systems should be removed from the network as soon as possible to prevent ransomware from attacking network or share drives.

• Isolate or power-off affected devices that have not yet been completely corrupted. This may afford more time to clean and recover data, contain damage, and prevent worsening conditions.

• Immediately secure backup data or systems by taking them offline. Ensure backups are free of malware.

• Contact law enforcement immediately. We strongly encourage you to contact a local field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or U.S. Secret Service immediately upon discovery to report a ransomware event and request assistance.

• If available, collect and secure partial portions of the ransomed data that might exist.

• If possible, change all online account passwords and network passwords after removing the system from the network. Furthermore, change all system passwords once the malware is removed from the system.

• Delete Registry values and files to stop the program from loading.

Implement your security incident response and business continuity plan. Ideally, organizations will ensure they have appropriate backups, so their response to an attack will simply be to restore the data from a known clean backup. Having a data backup can eliminate the need to pay a ransom to recover data.

There are serious risks to consider before paying the ransom. USG does not encourage paying a ransom to criminal actors. However, after systems have been compromised, whether to pay a ransom is a serious decision, requiring the evaluation of all options to protect shareholders, employees, and customers. Victims will want to evaluate the technical feasibility, timeliness, and cost of restarting systems from backup. Ransomware victims may also wish to consider the following factors:

• Paying a ransom does not guarantee an organization will regain access to their data; in fact, some individuals or organizations were never provided with decryption keys after paying a ransom.

• Some victims who paid the demand were targeted again by cyber actors.

• After paying the originally demanded ransom, some victims were asked to pay more to get the promised decryption key.

• Paying could inadvertently encourage this criminal business model.

How Law Enforcement Can Help

Any entity infected with ransomware should contact law enforcement immediately. Law enforcement may be able to use legal authorities and tools that are unavailable to most organizations. Law enforcement can enlist the assistance of international law enforcement partners to locate the stolen or encrypted data or identify the perpetrator. These tools and relationships can greatly increase the odds of successfully apprehending the criminal, thereby preventing future losses.

Federal law enforcement places a priority on conducting cyber investigations in a manner that causes minor disruption to a victim entity’s normal operations and seeks to work cooperatively and discreetly with that entity. Federal law enforcement uses investigative measures that avoid unnecessary downtime or displacement of a company’s employees. Federal law enforcement closely coordinates its activities with the affected organization to avoid unwarranted disclosure of information.

As an affected entity recovers from a cybersecurity incident, the entity should initiate measures to prevent similar incidents. Law enforcement agencies and the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center can assist organizations in implementing countermeasures and provide information and best practices for avoiding similar incidents in the future. Additionally, the affected organization should conduct a post-incident review of their response to the incident and assess the strengths and weaknesses of its incident response plan.

Ransomware Variants

Ransomware is a growing criminal activity involving numerous variants. Since 2012 when police locker ransomware variants first emerged, ransomware variants have become more sophisticated and destructive. Some variants encrypt not just the files on the infected device, but also the contents of shared or networked drives, externally attached storage media devices, and cloud storage services that are mapped to infected computers. These variants are considered destructive because they encrypt users’ and organizations’ files, and render those files useless until a ransom is paid.

Recent federal investigations by the FBI reveal that ransomware authors continue to improve ransomware code by using anonymizing services like “Tor ” for end-to-end communication to infected systems and Bitcoin virtual currency to collect ransom payments. Currently, the top five ransomware variants targeting U.S. companies and individuals are CryptoWall, CTBLocker, TeslaCrypt, MSIL/Samas, and Locky. New ransomware variants are continually emerging.

CryptoWall

CryptoWall and its variants have been actively used to target U.S. victims since April 2014.

CryptoWall was the first ransomware variant that only accepted ransom payments in Bitcoin.

The ransom amounts associated with CryptoWall are typically between $200 and $10,000. Following the takedown of the CryptoLocker botnet, CryptoWall has become the most successful ransomware variant with victims all over the world. Between April 2014 and June 2015, IC3 received 992 CryptoWall-related complaints, with victims reporting losses totaling over $18 million. CryptoWall is primarily spread via spam email but also infects victims through drive-by downloads and malvertising .

CTB-Locker

CTB-Locker emerged in June 2014 and is one of the first ransomware variants to use Tor for its C2 infrastructure. CTB-Locker uses Tor exclusively for its C2 servers and only connects to the C2 after encrypting victims’ files. Additionally, unlike other ransomware variants that utilize the Tor network for some communication, the Tor components are embedded in the CTBLocker malware, making it more efficient and harder to detect. CTB-Locker is spread through drive-by downloads and spam emails.

TeslaCrypt

TeslaCrypt emerged in February 2015, initially targeting the video game community by encrypting gaming files. These files were targeted in addition to the files typically targeted by ransomware (documents, images, and database files). Once the data was encrypted, TeslaCrypt attempted to delete all Shadow Volume Copies and system restore points to prevent file recovery. TeslaCrypt was distributed through the Angler, Sweet Orange, and Nuclear exploit kits.

MSIL or Samas (SAMSAM)

MSIL or Samas (SAMSAM) was used to compromise the networks of multiple U.S. victims, including 2016 attacks on healthcare facilities that were running outdated versions of the JBoss content management application. SAMSAM exploits vulnerable Java-based Web servers. SAMSAM uses open-source tools to identify and compile a list of hosts reporting to the victim’s active directory. The actors then use psexec.exe to distribute the malware to each host on the network and encrypt most of the files on the system. The actors charge varying amounts in Bitcoin to provide the decryption keys to the victim.

Locky

In early 2016, a destructive ransomware variant, Locky, was observed infecting computers belonging to businesses globally, including those in the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom. Locky propagates through spam emails that include malicious Microsoft Office documents or compressed attachments (e.g., .rar, .zip) that were previously associated with banking Trojans such as Dridex and Pony. The malicious attachments contain macros or JavaScript files to download the Locky files. Recently, this ransomware has also been distributed using the Nuclear Exploit Kit.

Links to Other Types of Malware

Systems infected with ransomware are also often infected with other malware. In the case of

CryptoLocker, a user typically was infected by opening a malicious attachment from an email.

This malicious attachment contained Upatre, a downloader, which infected the user with GameOver Zeus. GameOver Zeus was a variant of the Zeus Trojan used to steal banking information and other types of data. After a system became infected with GameOver Zeus, Upatre would also download CryptoLocker. Finally, CryptoLocker encrypted files on the infected system and demanded a ransom payment.

The disruption operation against the GameOver Zeus botnet also affected CryptoLocker, demonstrating the close ties between ransomware and other types of malware. In June 2014,

an international law enforcement operation successfully weakened the infrastructure of both

GameOverZeus and CryptoLocker.

HOW DOES RANSOMWARE WORK?

HOW DOES RANSOMWARE WORK?

  1. Ransomware infections occur when a user opens a malicious email attachment, clicks on a malicious link, or visits a website infected with malicious code, known as a drive-by download.

  2. Once a system is infected, the ransomware contacts a command and control (C2) server to generate an encryption key and begins encrypting files on the victim’s machine.

  3. The ransomware runs quietly in the background performing in-depth searches of all disk folders, including removable drives and network shares, and encrypts as many files as it can.

  • Ransomware may also delete Shadow Volume Copies, destroy restore points, and overwrite free disk space to prevent victims from recovering their files and systems without paying the ransom.

  • If a system is powered off as files are being encrypted, some ransomware variants resume where they left off when the system or device is powered on again.

After files are encrypted, a ransom note is displayed on the screen with instructions on how and where to pay the ransom and the length of time before the hacker or software destroys the decryption key.

  • Some recent variants offer victims a ‘second chance’ to pay after the initial timer expires; however, the ‘second chance’ is often at least double the original ransom amount.

  1. If the victim pays the ransom, the malware is supposed to contact the C2 server for the decryption key and begin decrypting the victim’s files; however, in many cases, the files are never decrypted.

  • Some ransomware files can delete themselves in order to avoid detection and analysis by security researchers or law enforcement.

CyberSecOP: Ransomware Remediation and Prevention Service

RANSOMWARE MITIGATION STRATEGIES

For many organizations, preventing ransomware entirely is nearly impossible, however, the impact of a successful infection can be greatly reduced if a robust data backup process is in place. Comprehensive data backups should be scheduled as often as possible and must be kept offline in a separate and secure location. The most effective method to prevent ransomware infections is to conduct regular training and awareness exercises with all employees to ensure users are proficient in safe Internet-browsing techniques and the ability to identify phishing emails. For specific recommendations for data protection, systems management, network management, mobile device management, and post-infection remediation.

5 steps for preventing ransomware

5 steps for preventing ransomware

Hardening Your Environment Against Ransomware

To avoid ransomware infection, follow these steps:

1.    Back up your computers and servers regularly.

Regularly back up the files on both the client computers and servers. Either back up the files when the computers are offline or use a system that networked computers and servers cannot write to. If you do not have dedicated backup software, you can also copy the important files to removable media. Then eject and unplug the removable media; do not leave the removable media plugged in.

2.    Lock down mapped network drives by securing them with a password and access control restrictions.

Use read-only access for files on network drives, unless it is absolutely necessary to have write access for these files. Restricting user permissions limits which files the threats can encrypt.

3.    Deploy and enable the following Endpoint Protection:

Implement and managed endpoint antivirus on all endpoint to prevent ransomware, most ransomware can be detected by popular antivirus.

4.    IPS/IDS

IPS blocks some threats that traditional virus definitions alone cannot stop. IPS is the best defense against drive-by downloads, which occurs when software is unintentionally downloaded from the Internet. Attackers often use exploit kits to deliver a web-based attack like CryptoLocker through a drive-by download.

See Enabling network intrusion prevention or browser intrusion prevention.

5.    Download the latest patches for web application frameworks, web browsers, and web browser plug-ins.

Attacking exploit kits cannot deliver drive-by downloads unless there is an old version of a plug-in to exploit, such as Flash. Historically, attacks were delivered through phishing and web browsers. Recently, more attacks are delivered through vulnerable web applications, such as JBOSS, WordPress, and Joomla.

6.    Use an email security product to handle email safely.

CryptoLocker is often spread through spam emails that contain malicious attachments. Scanning inbound emails for threats with a dedicated mail security product or service is critical to keep ransomware and other malware out of your organization. For important advice and recommendations, see:

How to remove ransomware

There is no ransomware removal tool or CryptoLocker removal tool. Instead, if your client computers do get infected with ransomware and your data is encrypted, follow these steps:

1.    Do not pay the ransom.

If you pay the ransom:

·         There is no guarantee that the attacker will supply a method to unlock your computer or decrypt your files.

·         The attacker uses the ransom money to fund additional attacks against other users.

2.    Isolate the infected computer before the ransomware can attack network drives to which it has access.

3.     Update the virus definitions and scan the client computers.

New definitions are likely to detect and remediate the ransomware. Configure Endpoint Protection to automatically downloads virus definitions to the client, as long as the client is managed and connected to the Symantec Endpoint Protection Manager.

4.    Restore damaged files from a known good backup.

No security Endpoint Protection cannot decrypt the files that ransom lockers have sabotaged.

  1. Submit the malware to antivirus provider.

If you can identify the malicious email or executable, submit it to antivirus provider.

 

Remediate Ransomware Attack - Ransomware Survival

 

Made famous by the WannaCry attack that crippled the NHS in 2017, ransomware is continuing to hit businesses.  According to security research firm Symantec, infections have steadily increased every year since 2013, reaching record levels in 2017.

Even over the last few months, ransomware has impacted multiple organizations, including the PGA of America, and the borough of Matanuska-Susitna in Alaska – where government workers were forced to use typewriters to carry out their daily tasks.

It is not surprising that governments are concerned about the impact of the malicious software, which locks a user’s device or data until they pay a ransom. In the UK, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has published advice on mitigating against ransomware. Meanwhile, the UK government’s behavioral change campaign for cybersecurity, Cyber Aware, promotes simple measures to stay more secure online.


RANSOMWARE REMEDIATION, RANSOMWARE PREVENTION, AND THREAT RESPONSE SERVICES


But according to security researchers, there has been a decline in ransomware compared to other threats including cryptomining. Yet the malicious software remains a very real risk: attacks are becoming fewer but more targeted. “The major difference between 2017 and 2018 appears to be a trend towards more targeted ransomware,” says Matt Shabat, strategy director at Glasswall Solutions. “Instead of seeking mass infections through relatively blunt means, threat actors are using more precise infection vectors to achieve initial compromise.”


Identifying ransomware

Ransomware comes in two types. The first encrypts the files on a computer or network; the second locks a user's screen. “Some ransomware will also act like a worm – as was the case with WannaCry – and once inside a network, will spread laterally to other machines without interaction by the attacker or the infected user,” says a NCSC spokesman.

Occasionally, malware is presented as ransomware, but after the ransom is paid the files are not decrypted. This is known as ‘wiper’ malware.

The ‘ransom’ is often demanded in a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin as a prepaid card or gift voucher. In many cases the ransom amount is modest, a tactic designed to make paying the quickest and cheapest way to resume use.

Generally, if a firm is hit by ransomware, they will have no problem realising. Infected computers will be inaccessible because key files have been encrypted, with a ransom note displayed on-screen.

Most ransomware pops up a pay page, either in a text editor or on a browser, says Paul Ducklin, senior technologist at Sophos. “But a lot of it also changes your desktop wallpaper to a graphical image of the pay page.”

And sadly, the first sign of compromise may already be too late, especially if ransomware has spread network-wide and every desktop is hijacked, says Chris Boyd, malware analyst at Malwarebytes. “Much of it comes down to basic social engineering, and fake emails aimed at HR with dubious receipt attachments harboring an infection.”

Recognizing the warning signs: Ransomware and email phishing

Email still remains the top attack vector for all malicious activity, says Adenike Cosgrove, cybersecurity strategist, EMEA, Proofpoint. She says the easiest route for cyber criminals is to exploit the vulnerability of humans “through simple yet sophisticated social engineering tactics”. She explains: “Cybercriminals have found new ways to exploit the human factor — the instincts of curiosity and trust that lead well-intentioned people to play into the hands of the attacker. This could be in the form of a disguised URL or seemingly benign attachment, but all it takes is one click and the ransomware can take hold immediately.”

The majority of ransomware is spread via massive spam campaigns involving hundreds of thousands of emails sent daily, says Dick O'Brien, threat researcher at Symantec.

Ransomware may also be spread via websites compromised to host what’s known as an exploit kit. “This is a tool that scans the visitor’s computer to see if it’s running software with known vulnerabilities,” says O’Brien. “If it finds any, it will exploit one of these vulnerabilities to download and install ransomware on the victim’s computer.”

In a small number of cases, firms may be specifically targeted by groups who attempt to break into the company’s network and infect as many computers as possible before triggering the ransomware.

How to fight off ransomware

You’ve been hit. So, what do you do?

“A lot of ransomware is poorly coded, or master keys are leaked, and it's worth checking online to see if anyone has built a decryptor tool,” says Boyd. He says his firm Malwarebytes has released standalone versions for certain versions of Petya and Chimera, “and there's many more out there”.

Whatever you do, it is agreed that paying the ransom is a big mistake. Indeed, the National Crime Agency encourages industry and the public not to pay the ransom.

“We strongly advise not to pay the ransom, as it simply encourages the scammers to continue with their profitable business model,” agrees Boyd.

Jake Moore, cybersecurity specialist at ESET says he always advises against paying. “But I have seen CEOs with their heads in their hands asking me, ‘what else can we do?’ when they realise their resilience measures have also been attacked.”

Yet there is no guarantee that you will ever receive the data back and if you do, it might be damaged. “Funding cyber criminals also funds larger cyber-attacks, so it must be reiterated that paying won't always get make the issue go away,” says Moore.

Avoiding future attacks requires preparation such as incident response plans and educating employees.

organizations aren't training employees in security basics. “Perhaps they're not sending out emails warning about common scams, or maybe they aren't bothering with security tools known to prevent exploits and ransomware.”

Employees should be trained on how to spot attacks. This helps to avoid becoming a victim, and also means staff can raise the alarm straight away, says Rick Hemsley, managing director, Accenture Security. “Employees can become your strongest line of defense. Attackers will hit as many people in an organization as possible, and one click is all it takes. So, having a workforce of people ready to sound the alarm will help prevent that one click.”

Helen Davenport, director, Gowling WLG says it’s important to look for less obvious attacks. “Looking out for the less obvious attacks is highly advisable. If any hint of files being corrupted or encrypted is immediately addressed at the source, it will help to reduce the extent of an attack.”

It might seem obvious, but backup is integral. Even without other measures, firms would still be able to bring their files back with ease if they had a sensible backup process in place.

Ransomware campaign up around the world

A new email ransomware campaign is spreading around the world. Researchers at Fortinet say it’s a spam effort, meaning the messages are not targeted. Instead they are addressed generally, like “Dear customer.” The subject line in the email would be something like “Document number…”, “Your order number” or “Ticket number.” With the email is a malicious attachment that leads to the installation of malware. The initial targets are corporate mail servers used to forward this email. These have been found in Canada, the U.S. the United Kingdom and other countries. 

ransomware-cbyersecurity-consulting.jpg

The best defense against ransomware – or any email-delivered malware – is to watch out for it. Be cautious about unsolicited emails, especially those with attachments. And it’s vital you always have a separate backup of your data made it a way that can’t be infected, just in case you make a mistake.

Meanwhile McAfee reports some Canadian organizations have been victimized by a separate operation. A group security that researchers call Hidden Cobra, believed to be backed by North Korea, has been putting surveillance software on the systems of companies. The suspicion is the Canadian victims have been used as listening or data relay points. The malware that this campaign has installed has not stolen financial or sensitive data but appears to be there find out what’s on a computer, and be ready to launch further attacks.

Companies have to make sure their systems have the latest security patches. In addition, because the malware appears to be distributed through email, employees have to be reminded to be careful on what they click on.

For more on this see my story today on ITWorldCanada.com.

The U.S. National Security Agency has just suffered a black eye from an international standards body. According to a blog on Bitdefender, the International Organization of Standardization – known more commonly as ISO – rejected two new encryption algorithms suggested by the NSA to secure Internet of Things devices. The algorithms would scramble information on Internet-connected devices like home surveillance cameras and toys. But the NSA’s reputation for creating tools to hack into applications apparently give it a bad name at the ISO. One ISO delegate accused the NSA of telling half-truths and lies in its presentation.

If that allegation is accurate, it isn’t good. Internet of Things devices badly need better security. People and companies around the world buy tens of thousands of them a year. Insecure devices don’t improve security.

That’s it for Cyber Security Today. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or add us to your Alexa Flash Briefing. Thanks for listening.