As ransomware is an evolving problem in this technologically advanced world, organizations of all sizes are finding themselves investing in ways to prevent a ransomware attack. Those who have fallen prey to an attack will need to seek help in recovering their data. Unfortunately, ransomware is here to stay. Therefore, let us investigate how we can better protect our data.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a type of malicious software (malware for short) that can restrict or block a user’s access to their files. Cybercriminals use this malware to hold the user’s important documents as “hostages” and demand a ransom in return for them – hence the term ransomware.
The concept behind ransomware is relatively simple. More often than not, a computer gets infected by ransomware after a user clicks on a malicious link or opens a suspicious attachment in an email. By doing so, the ransomware will secretly start encrypting the user’s data. Upon completion of the encryption, a ransomware note will appear on the user’s system, demanding payment in exchange for the decryption of that data. This ransom demand will usually be in Bitcoin, which is harder to trace, and typically has a cut-off time. If the cybercriminal does not receive the demanded ransom by the stipulated deadline, the ransom may increase. That being said, it may not be a good idea to pay for the ransom too as these cybercriminals may not decrypt the data after receiving the ransom. It is best to engage a professional ransomware recovery company to restore your data.
There are two major types of ransomware: Crypto ransomware which usually involves encryption to prevent a user’s access to files or data; and Locker ransomware, which locks the user out of their computer or device.
Crypto ransomware is similar to the example stated above – where the user’s data is being encrypted and the user cannot use this data until it has been decrypted. Cybercriminals then thrive on the affected victims, who desperately want to get their files decrypted and safely returned, by demanding a ransom from them.
Locker ransomware, on the other hand, does not require data encryption. It simply prevents the user from using their computers or devices by locking them out. Once their access is blocked from their computers or devices, the cybercriminals will then demand a ransom in exchange for unlocking the devices.
Here are a few famous examples of ransomware:
Read our blog on The Different Types of Ransomware to find out more about them.
A splash screen is the most obvious sign of ransomware infection. These splash screens will typically appear upon computer or device startup, thereby preventing the user from accessing their computer or device. Instructions on how to pay the ransom will be provided as shown in the sample picture above.
Error Message When Opening Files:
Error messages like the ones above are another sign of ransomware infection – specifically crypto ransomware. Such messages typically appear when opening individual documents on a computer or device.
Unusual File Extensions:
File Extensions refer to the suffix at the end of a filename, preceded by a full stop. These file extensions allow a computer or device to know what type of file it is. Some common examples of file extensions are “.pdf”, “.jpg”, “.doc” and “.txt”.
Ransomware encrypted files will have unusual file extensions or extensions that end with “.crypted”, “.cryptor” or “.crypt”. The file icon will usually be blank, like the ones shown above.
Files with Instructions on Paying the Ransom:
If a computer or device is infected by ransomware, it is common for the cybercriminal to leave instructions for the user to pay the ransom. After all, the main aim of planting ransomware is for the user to pay the cybercriminals.
To make these instruction files easily accessible, they will tend to be stored in every folder that has encrypted data. More often than not, these instructions are text documents with capitalized titles, preceded by an underscore. Some examples of the document titles are “_READ ME”, “_OPEN ME” and “_YOUR FILES HAVE BEEN ENCRYPTED”.
In order to find solutions on how to prevent a ransomware attack, we must always look for the root cause first. Most users who experienced a ransomware attack shared that they got infected by clicking on a link or opening an email attachment from unknown senders. Knowing this, here are some tips and precautions users can exercise to prevent them from falling prey to ransomware attacks:
It is good practice to check the sender of an email before opening any links or attachments associated with that email. Never open email links or attachments from unknown sources. If needed, contact a trusted IT personnel to check on the email before opening any links or attachments.
Companies should spread awareness of ransomware by educating their employees about what it is and how to avoid being infected. This is a crucial precaution that most companies should take because ransomware can be easily prevented if every single computer user in a company is wary of it. All it takes is for one user to be at the mercy of these cybercriminals, and the entire company might be enmeshed in ransomware.
Effective Spam Filter:
On top of relying on its employees to be vigilant, companies should also take an extra precautionary measure too – ensuring that an effective spam filter is in place. An effective spam filter is one that is continuously updated. As technology is ever-evolving, so is ransomware, and likewise, spam filters should perpetually update themselves too. With an effective spam filter in place, suspicious emails can be blocked before even reaching the employees.
Endpoint Protection is a larger scale of antivirus. While antivirus software detects and blocks malicious files on a single computer or device, endpoint protection software protects an entire business network against different types of security threats. With endpoint protection software in place, different remote devices that are connected to the network, such as laptops and smartphones, will be protected. This acts as an extra step against ransomware attacks too as employees who are constantly on-the-go may access their emails via their smartphones.
If a company’s data is continuously being backed up regularly, there will not be a need to pay for any ransom if a cybercriminal happens to plant ransomware in any of the companies’ computers. Lost data can be easily recovered, and the users will not be in the clutches of these cybercriminals.
In an unfortunate event that a company is being attacked by ransomware, they should seek help from IT companies that specializes in cybersecurity. Being experts in cybersecurity, these IT companies may have a decryption tool for the ransomware. One such company is Adventus.
On top of ransomware recovery, Adventus provides Managed Backup Services too. Our team of recovery specialists are equipped with and possess advanced tools, expertise, and experience to ensure that our clients’ systems or files are recovered within the shortest time possible (remotely or onsite) for them to achieve, and even improve, their recovery time objective.
To ensure that the backed-up data is working and not corrupted, Adventus Managed Backup Services includes monitoring services too. This means that all of our clients’ backup jobs and systems are being monitored religiously for errors, failures, resource constraints, and exceptions. When the need for file recoveries arise, our clients can be at ease and trust that they are able to restore the most recently backed-up version of their files.
Even with all the precautionary measures taken against ransomware, there may still be a chance of an attack. Therefore, having consistent backup can “shield” companies from ransomware attacks. With proper and regular backup, companies being infected by ransomware can easily restore their lost data in an unencrypted state.
At Adventus, we understand the business needs of our clients and will provide a Fully Managed Service that best fits their requirements. If you’re looking to improve the cybersecurity in your company, contact us now!