Digital Themes


What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malware that gains access to or denies a user or organization from accessing their data. The attackers use encrypted ransomware to encrypt the data and make ransom demands for the private key or decryption keys. Most common ransomware threats include publishing sensitive information or data destruction unless the ransom is paid, causing the victim to be vulnerable in paying the ransom.

How does Ransomware work?

There are different types of ransomware, ranging from the simple ones that block data access to the complex varients scanning for other vulnerable devices in an infected repository. Cyber attackers also use ransomware as a service or RaaS. RaaS is a pre-developed subscription-based tool that enables its affiliates to earn a certain percentage of the ransom after every successful attack. RaaS makes the cyberattacks less code intensive and reduces the technical capabilities of cyberattacks. While ransomware infection varies among the ransomware families, they share a common pattern, such;

  • Gaining access to the target operating system 

The attacker searches for a data breach to gain successful access to the target system. This can be done by phishing emails containing a malicious attachment, link, or built-in downloader functionality. If the victim tries to access the material, the ransomware will be downloaded and executed in the system. The attackers also use Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) by stealing team member credentials to access an organization's system to download and execute ransomware attacks. The use of multiple vectors is also getting common in ransomware attacks. 

  • Data encryption

After gaining access, the attacker will start to encrypt the data. Since most operating systems will have built-in encryption functionality, the attacker will replace the original files with encrypted ones. Some ransomware deletes backup or shadow files to make recovery impossible without a decryption key. 

  • Ransom demand

After encryption, the attacker makes a ransom demand through a ransom note within the victim's system. The ransom is normally in the form of cryptocurrencies, making it hard for the enforcement agencies to track the attackers. After paying the ransom, the attacker provides the victim's private key or decryption keys to run a decrypting program to reverse the encryption or gain access. However, there are rising instances of double extortion where the attacker demands two ransoms, one for decryption and the other for deleting the victim's data from the attacker's server. 

Protection from ransomware attacks

Securing personal and organizational data from ransomware attacks demands multi-layer security models and intelligent threat detection. This can be achieved using robust security software and secure data practices such as;

  • Email security and incident reporting system 
  • Security firewalls and segmentation 
  • Intelligence sharing 
  • Data backup and endpoint encryption and protection 
  • Zero trust implementation 
  • Cyber hygiene 

Ransomware attacks are increasingly common, especially when remote working is gaining pace. Organizations and individuals must practice safe cyber practices and consider third-party protection if deemed necessary. 

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