Ransomware is to blame for 27% of malware attacks that were recorded in 2022. Malware called ransomware is made to prevent a user or business from accessing files on a computer. Cyberattacks put businesses in a situation where paying the ransom is the quickest and least expensive option to recover access to their files by encrypting these files and requesting a ransom payment for the decryption key. For increased motivation for ransomware victims to pay the ransom, several variants have included other capabilities, like data stealing. An organization may be more affected by ransomware than by a data breach. Ransomware is a form of cyber extortion that involves malicious software infiltrating computer systems, encrypting data, and keeping the victim hostage until they pay a ransom. It can cost businesses millions of dollars in the immediate term and a potentially even higher loss in the long run, affecting reputation and dependability.

How Ransomware Operates

Ransomware requires access to a target machine in order to encrypt the data inside and demand a ransom from the victim. While the specifics of each ransomware variant’s deployment differ, they all follow the same fundamental three stages.

  1. Vectors of Infection and Dissemination:- Like all virus, ransomware has a variety of ways to access a system within an organization. However, ransomware developers frequently favor a small number of distinct infection channels. These include phishing emails. A malicious email may include a downloader-equipped attachment or a link to a website offering a malicious download. When a recipient of an email falls for a phishing scam, ransomware is downloaded and run on their computer. The Remote Desktop Protocol and other services are used as a common ransomware infection vector (RDP). RDP enables an attacker to remotely authenticate to and access a computer connected to the company network after stealing or guessing an employee’s login credentials. With this access, the attacker has direct access to the malware download and execution on the controlled machine.
  2. Data Encryption:– After gaining access to a machine, ransomware might start encrypting its files. This only requires accessing the files, encrypting them with an attacker-controlled key, and then replacing the originals with the encrypted copies because encryption technology is embedded into an operating system. To maintain system stability, the majority of ransomware variations are selective in the files they choose to encrypt. To make recovery without the decryption key more challenging, certain variations will additionally take action to erase backup and shadow copies of files.
  3. Mysterious Demand:-After all files have been encrypted, the ransomware is ready to demand money. This is implemented in various ways by various ransomware versions, however it is usual to have the display background changed to a ransom note or to have text files added to each encrypted directory that contains the ransom note.

Ways to Protect Yourself from a Ransomware Attack

  1. Perform initial ransomware evaluations:- To evaluate the attack surface and the present state of security resilience and preparedness in terms of tools, processes, and capabilities to fight against attacks, conduct risk assessments and penetration testing.
  2. Impose ransomware regulations:- Even before preparing for the technical response to a ransomware attack, establish protocols and compliance procedures that engage important decision makers within the firm. Ransomware may quickly turn from a problem to a crisis, costing a business money and damaging its brand. The preparation must engage crucial individuals including the CEO, board of directors, and other significant stakeholders. Journalists and other external stakeholders are more likely to contact the board of directors for a response to a ransomware attack than the security chief or chief information security officer.
  3. Consistently maintain operational efficiency:- To make sure that systems can always detect ransomware threats, frequently practice and drill. The ransomware response strategy should include regular testing of incident response scenarios. To check for vulnerabilities, noncompliant systems, and   misconfigurations, test, test, and retest at regular intervals. Make that incident response procedures are not dependent on IT systems that might be vulnerable to ransomware attacks or inaccessible in the event of a major incident. 
  4. Backup, test, and iterate your ransomware defense:- Not just the data, but also every non-standard application and the IT infrastructure that supports it, should be backed up. Keep up regular, trustworthy backup and recovery processes. If online backups are used, make sure that ransomware cannot encrypt them. Harden the backup application, storage, and network access of enterprise backup and recovery infrastructure against assaults by frequently comparing this to expected or baseline activities. Create specific recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) parameters, protect backup storage media, and get ready for key application recovery in a system-wide ransomware attack.
  5. Implement the ‘least privilege’ principle:- Limit access to devices and prevent unlawful entry. Remove the local administrator privileges from end users, prevent the installation of applications by common users, and replace it with a centralized software distribution facility. Multifactor authentication must be used whenever it is practical by CISOs and security executives, especially for privileged accounts. On all crucial servers, network appliances, and directory services, increase authentication logging, and make sure logs are not destroyed. Be sure to alert security operations teams to any strange activity and to look out for irregular logins and unsuccessful authentication attempts.
  6. Informing and preparing people for ransomware reaction measures:- Investigate local and national authorities that have offered recommendations on how businesses may defend their network infrastructure against ransomware. These principles can be used by security executives to develop a fundamental training program for every employee within the company. For best outcomes, ransomware readiness training must be tailored to the enterprise. The ever-evolving strategies and goals of hackers are challenges for ransomware and other types of malware. A preparation plan in place can help the organization be protected and keep losses under control.
  7. Patching:- Patching is a crucial part of preventing ransomware attacks since hackers frequently search the patches for the most recent discovered exploits and then target unpatched systems. Because fewer possible vulnerabilities exist within the company for an attacker to exploit, it is crucial that firms make sure all systems have the most recent fixes applied to them.