What Is Ransomeware?

July 29, 2021

1:00-2:00AM PST

Ransomware encrypts a user's or organization's files and demands a ransom for the data to be decrypted. Distribution strategies for ransomware frequently target file servers and databases and can cripple an entire enterprise. 

When the user responds to the ransom demand, the attacker provides a guide to the user on how to pay the ransom fee so their files can be decrypted. The amount of payment can be anywhere from hundreds to many thousands of dollars depending on the victim. The ransom demand usually requires the user to pay in Bitcoin. The prevalence of ransomware is increasing, causing businesses and government organizations to lose billions of dollars, as well as causing injury to individual users. 

Trustifi’s email security software can prevent ransomware attacks because this type of attack usually occurs through email. If you have proper email security in place, it is very difficult for the attacker to find a way through your computer into your network and encrypt your data. 

How Ransomware Attacks Take Place

Ransomware gains access to your computer and encrypts and locks the data contained on your harddrive. If the pernicious ransomware is designed to attack a network, it follows the network path from your workstation to infect systems companywide. How does it take place? It occurs when a user unwittingly downloads the attacker’s malware or malicious software via email attachments or links. 

The ransomware may target the data on your individual PC, or it may go after the servers on your network. It encrypts and locks the data on your harddrive or on your server drives, preventing your access to the data. Your data is held hostage by this malicious software. The loss of access to your personal data is annoying, but the loss of access to critical data by an entire organization can damage a company on an extremely large scale. 

To regain access to your data, the attacker demands a ransom. However, even if you pay the ransom, there is no guarantee the attacker will give you access to your files. You simply cannot  trust ransomware and the extortionists behind it.

Types of Ransomware

Ransomware attacks come in many forms. Some are more dangerous than others, but all of them demand a ransom. Following are some common types of ransomware.

1. Crypto Locker

Among the most common and harmful types of malware is crypto-malware, which locks files, folders, and drives. The risk is  significant because the encryption algorithm is extremely difficult to crack. A user or an organization is unable to access files and folders until they pay the ransom to the attacker to get the decryption key.

2. WannaCry

WannaCry ransom, aka WanaCryptor or WCry, has been around for many years. This variant has caused damage to over 1250,000 businesses across 150 countries. As an example, note the horrific WannaCry ransomware attack of 2017 that affected thousands of Windows PCs worldwide in addition to spreading through corporations globally. The attackers demanded users to pay a Bitcoin ransom to gain access to their data.

3. Cerber Ransomware

Cerber ransomware affects Office 365 users who store data in the cloud. Phishing campaigns have exposed millions of Office 365 users to Cerber over the years. 

4. Lockers

Known as locker attacks, locker ransomware completely locks down the computer's operating system and stops users from accessing the device, preventing the victim from accessing their files or even using applications.  

5. Jigsaw

JIGSAW is one of the most dangerous forms of ransomware. It not only encrypts the files but also gradually deletes them until the victim pays the ransom. Hour after hour, the attacker deletes files. At the end of the 72-hour countdown, the victim has lost all their files.  

6. Scareware

Scareware attacks are types of ransomware that are disguised as bogus antivirus software or cleaning software. When the user installs the application, it says that it detects serious issues with the device and charges the users money to fix them. It also comes in different types, some of which lock the device, others just flood the screen with pop-ups and unwanted alerts. 

How to Prevent Ransomware Attack

As with other cyber attacks, users can avoid becoming victims of ransomware. Here are some tips:

Create a backup of your data: Copying your data to an external hard drive periodically will help you avoid losing your data. Hackers will be unable to hold your data hostage if it is already a backup.

Stay alert while surfing the Internet: Keep an eye out for malicious websites and pop-ups when you visit a new website, as they are just waiting for you to click. 

Use Trustifi: Since most ransomware attacks happen through email by installing a malicious attachment or clicking on a suspicious link, protect yourself and your company by using Trustifi’s email security solution to secure your email. Trustifi puts an extra layer of security on your email and gets rid of those malicious emails even before they enter your inbox. Contact a Trustifi representative today to see a demo of Trustifi’s powerful yet affordable solution to ransomware and other cyberattacks.

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