Amid the coronavirus outbreak, everyone is frightened to get infected. While everyone is taking precautions in their own capacity, there is a need to adopt digital precautions too. A ransomware attack is such a digital outbreak which may not be as dreadful as coronavirus. But still, consequences are nevertheless severe. Since businesses have shifted to the remote working and dynamics of business operations have already been changed, it is the need of the hour to take measures to remain safe from such cyber attacks.
Ransomware is a kind of malicious software that blocks the user’s access to the concerned computer by way of encrypting files. These encrypted files never get decrypted until and unless the user pay the ransom. If the victim fails to pay the ransom payment by the given deadline, then encrypted files are gone forever. On the contrary, if a ransom is paid then the victim is given the decryption key to unlock encrypted files. Involving the commercial as well as financial aspects, no one can afford to get in this situation. Especially when the coronavirus pandemic has already caused significant damages to the business operations.
Ransomware Past and Present
To assess the impact, ransomware can cast on the victim, let’s get to know how impactful it had been in the past. This is important to assess the risks and take appropriate measures accordingly. Usually, it penetrates to the victim’s computer system by way of a malicious attachment, advertisement, or any other phishing activity. As soon as the user clicks or opens the malware equipped advertisement or attachment, ransomware encrypts the user files. Once the user opens those files, ransomware gets executed, and the ransom demand pops up on the user’s screen. There are multiple payment methods in which attackers demand ransom, such as bitcoin ransom or demand payment.
Ransomware made its first victim in 1989, where AIDS Virus was used to extract ransom from the victim. Payments were sent by mail to Panama, and upon receiving, decryption keys were mailed back to the victim.
However, with the time Ransomware has become more and more vulnerable. According to the security experts and department of justice, now they use Cryptocurrency and dark web to hinder their identity. This is the reason they stand untraceable. Now with CryptoLocker, they have access to the military graded encryption. Here they store the encryption key on a remote server. Therefore, the victim does not have any other option except to pay the ransom and get his/her file decrypted.
Petya in June 2017 and WannaCry in May 2017 are some of the recent largest outbreaks. In those ransomware attack, hackers used the encrypting ransomware to trap the victims. Ransomware is so gross that it has affected more than 35% of small as well as medium-sized corporations around the globe. United States, United Kingdom, and Canada are the most affected countries.
How to avoid ransomware?
Emails, as a source of social engineering, are the most common source for the ransomware spreading. As soon as the victim opens the malicious attachment or any other relevant link, ransomware attacks the computer and comes into play. Secure Email Gateways can be a handful of tools to combat ransomware, as they provide stern protection against malicious documents, attachments, and links.
Not only just computers are a target of ransomware, but mobile devices can also be their prey. Especially in this pandemic and remote working situation, a unification of Mobile Device Management tools and Mobile attack protection utilities is vital. This conjunction can detect and analyze malicious activity on any mobile application. If it’s a threat, it will alert the user and the connected IT network about the possible ransomware attack.
Another key source of a ransomware attack is the web gateways, so protecting them is highly recommended. Enabling secure web gateways can let users remain free from any cyber-attack. They protect by scanning the user’s web traffic and identifies those URLs and websites that can be the potential source of ransomware.
Though taking such measures will save the user from any ransomware attack, but in a sophisticated business network, the security of IT infrastructure is very important. It is therefore advised to monitor servers and network tools, and where necessary, system backup should also be made. Strict monitoring of the network can let the network administrator know about the unusual activity in the network. Furthermore, creating a full image backup of the system can also let the organization to survive through any such attacks. Because, even if files are encrypted, one can escape the ransomware by resetting the system and recover the deleted files. So, there won’t be any need to pay the ransom.
Removing a Ransomware
Above mentioned drills were meant to save the system in the first instance. This means that if the system does not have any such malware, then taking on these measures will enhance security. Thereby minimizing the risk of a ransomware attack.
But in case, ransomware has already attacked the system, then the only way left is to pay the ransom. But this is not what the FBI or any law enforcement agency would advise because doing so will encourage attackers. However, informing local law enforcement and anti-cybercrime units can also be fruitful sometimes. They will investigate the extent of the attack. The forensic technicians will make sure that the concerned system isn’t affected by any other way. Moreover, they will also go after the attackers, based on the available evidence.
With the coronavirus, everything is ceased, and while working remotely, network securities are more in danger. Therefore, it is high time for ransomware attackers as well as for us to take preventive measures. While adopting the above-mentioned measures, it is always recommended to prepare a full backup of the system. It is imperative to survive through any such attacks. Furthermore, while post-attack measures are being taken, these measures won’t let anyone lose the lead of their business operations.