Ransomware prevention and protection measures

By Ralph Aceves

HackerStrike Corporation

ralph.aceves@hackerstrike.com

It is no surprise that ransomware prevention in today’s digital era has become worsened even with the rapid advancements in technology, and has made ransomware prevention extremely difficult. Cybercriminals are using revolutionary attack vectors and techniques that can easily bypass and trick conventional cybersecurity defensive measures. Apart from using malicious digital attack techniques, adversaries are now turning to ransomware malware attacks to fulfill their malicious financial, social, and political agendas. 

Ransomware prevention


What is ransomware malware and how it works? 

As the name suggests, ransomware is a type of malware that is programmed by expert hackers to extort ransom from their victims. There are many types of ransomware viruses i.e WannaCry, CryptoLocker, Bad Rabbit, etc. however, the concept and end-goal of all types remain the same. The difference between various variants of ransomware malware includes their working and damage capabilities. Ransomware malware works by infecting a network or device and encrypting all the data/information available in the infected devices or networks. The encryption makes it nearly impossible for the victims to access and recover the encrypted data/information. Attackers then demand a ransom from the victims in exchange for a decryption key that will allow the victims to regain access to the encrypted data/information. To create a sense of chaos and urgency, adversaries also threaten to publicly expose, misuse or delete all the hostage data/information if their ransom demand is not met within a specified period of time.  

Evolution of ransomware 

The origin of ransomware goes back to the 1980s when the concept of ransom by leveraging a virus was introduced by a virus called “AIDS virus”. This concept of ransom by encrypting the valuable data/information was extensively studied and experimented with by two researchers named Young and Yung. In a 1996 IEEE Security and Privacy conference, these researchers exhibited the first cryptovirology attack demonstrating the capabilities and strength of cryptography. With the more developments in cryptography and adoption of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Etherum, Litecoin, and Ripple, the popularity and use of ransomware by adversaries escalated quickly. As cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin offer total digital and transactional anonymity, adversaries started using cryptocurrencies as a payment method. This allowed attackers to ensure payments are not traced back to them and their identities will remain hidden. As one of the primary motives of adversaries involves financial gain, today, ransomware has become one of the most favorite attack vectors of cybercriminals and hacktivist groups.  

Impacts of ransomware attacks 

From average internet and apps using individuals to small, medium, and large business ventures working in diverse industries, all are facing an unprecedented level of ransomware attack attempts. Industries including healthcare, business, educational institutes, pharmaceutical, hospitality, financial institutions, manufacturing, construction, Government, etc all are being actively targeted by adversaries leveraging ransomware as their attack vector.  According to the FBI, there are on average more than 4000 attempts of ransomware assaults every single day. Experts have also revealed devastating damage impact statistics reporting an estimated 20 Billion global loss due to ransomware attacks. While it has also been reported that on average, companies suffered a loss of $8,100 per ransomware incident in 2020. Apart from financial losses below are some of the other impacts of ransomware attacks.. 

Reputation and revenue loss

Companies that fail to prevent and mitigate a ransomware attack or any other type of cyber attack immediately witness a huge decline in their public relations. As the trust is lost in the eyes of clients, customers, and partners, the business also starts to suffer. Lack of trust from the side of customers and partners consequently results in loss of loyalty, reputation, and revenue. 

Legal implications

Ransomware malware targets data/information that can be misused and it can also be too sensitive to be released publicly. In an incident of a successful ransomware infection, sensitive data/information of users, employees, business partners can be taken hostage that can result in lawsuits being filed against the targeted company by its stakeholders. The victim companies in many cases spend millions of dollars as a result of legal sanctions, fines, and settlements. 

Data/information loss

There is no guarantee of data/information confidentiality and privacy when ransomware is involved. As soon as adversaries compromise the device or network and take the data/information hostage, it simply means that they already have access to all the compromised data/information. This ultimately means that even if they return the compromised information/data, there is no guarantee that they will not have made copies of the data/information that they will not misuse for further malicious gains. Therefore, in realistic terms, all the compromised data/information is already lost. 

Protecting yourself and your business from Ransomware attacks 

The above mentioned are nothing but only some of the implications of ransomware assaults. There can be countless implications depending on the magnitude and value of the data/information compromised and the type of ransomware malware used by the attackers. In some exceptional cases where a less powerful malware is used, victim companies successfully recover partial or full compromised data/information, however, such cases are rare. Considering prevention in the first place can avoid the implications and risks of most cyberattacks like ransomware. Below are the best tips to protect yourself and your business from ransomware. 

Encryption & Data-backups 

The best way to win against ransomware is to fight with encryption against encryption. Ransomware malware is nearly impossible to recover because they use a strong encryption mechanism to encrypt the data/information. As an individual and as a business you can store all of your personal data/information in an encrypted form that will make your encrypted data/information useless to the attackers as they won’t be able to access, use or even see it. Likewise, making regular backups of encrypted data/information can provide you full immunity against not only ransomware but also most other cyber threats. 

Cybersecurity education 

Learning to identify the digital security risks and best practices to mitigate them can provide you with valuable information and skills that can assure your digital safety. For businesses, it is critical that you encourage or provide your employees to get cybersecurity education to increase ransomware prevention. Experts have revealed that 90% of successful security intrusions are the result of human negligence and mistakes. Ransomware prevention requires high cybersecurity hygiene across all networks

Ransomware is nothing but only one type of attack vector used by cybercriminals. As today’s cyberspace continues on the road to becoming worse, it is imperative that self-learning regarding cybersecurity threats is increased in order to be able to prevent existing and upcoming new types of security attack vectors. 

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