Each week at RB’s Computer Service, a customer visits our shop and asks us if their business or personal computer is at risk of a ransomware attack. The short answer is everyone is pretty much at risk. Just a few years ago a local health care facility fell victim to ransomware. But the good news is that businesses and individual computer users can take steps to help prevent a ransomware attack. In this blog, I’ll highlight some of the common types of ransomware reported in the media and explore some of the techniques ransomware hackers use to trick their victims. However, identifying these techniques is only one part of an effective ransomware prevention program. I’ll wrap up this blog with other steps businesses and computer users can take to help prevent a ransomware attack. At RB’s Computer Service, we recognize the average computer user and the business owner doesn’t have the time or the ability to “get into the weeds” with the ins and outs of ransomware prevention. If this is you and you are concerned about ransomware, don’t hesitate to contact us today for a no-obligation consultation via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 763-441-3884.
Three Common Types of Ransomware that Have Made Headlines in Recent Years.
WannaCry: WannaCry is a well-known ransomware that was first detected in May 2017. It spread rapidly across computer networks, encrypting files and demanding ransom payments in Bitcoin. It exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows systems, particularly targeting older and unpatched versions, i.e., Windows 7. This ransomware was highly disruptive, affecting organizations worldwide.
Ryuk: Ryuk is another prevalent type of ransomware that has been active in recent years. It emerged in 2018 and primarily targets businesses, demanding large ransom amounts. Ryuk often enters the target network through phishing emails or exploiting existing vulnerabilities. It is known for its ability to encrypt files quickly and spread across connected systems, causing significant damage.
Maze: Maze ransomware gained notoriety in 2019 and has since become one of the most destructive types of ransomware. It employs a technique called "double extortion," where in addition to encrypting files, it steals sensitive data and threatens to release it publicly if the ransom is not paid. Maze has targeted various industries, including healthcare, finance, and government sectors.
It is important to note that the nature of cyber threats evolves rapidly, and new variants of ransomware are constantly emerging. It is crucial to stay informed by consulting reliable sources, like RB’s Computer Service, for the most up-to-date information on active ransomware threats.
Documented Methods Used by Ransomware to Compel Victims to Initiate Contact.
File Encryption: Ransomware encrypts the victim's files, rendering them inaccessible. The attackers then display a ransom note on the infected system, instructing the victim to contact them for the decryption key. The note often includes instructions, payment details, and threats of permanent file deletion if the ransom is not paid.
Time Pressure: Ransomware attackers may set a deadline for payment, typically accompanied by a countdown timer or warning that the ransom amount will increase after a specific timeframe. This creates a sense of urgency, pressuring the victim to contact the attackers promptly.
Contact Information: Ransomware may provide contact details, such as email addresses or instant messaging accounts, through which victims can reach the attackers. The contact information is usually included in the ransom note or displayed on the ransomware's interface, enticing victims to initiate communication.
Personalized Messaging: Some ransomware strains employ personalized messaging to make the ransom note appear more legitimate and intimidating. This could include displaying the victim's name, organization, or other personal details within the ransom message, aiming to increase the victim's belief that the attackers have specific knowledge about them.
Social Engineering: Ransomware creators often use social engineering techniques to manipulate victims into contacting them. They may exploit psychological tactics, such as instilling fear, claiming to be law enforcement agencies, or presenting themselves as helpful entities that can assist with decryption once contact is established.
Keep in mind, paying the ransom does not guarantee the recovery of encrypted files, and it encourages cybercriminals to continue their activities. The best defense against ransomware is prevention, including regular backups, robust security practices, up-to-date software, and user awareness to avoid falling victim to phishing attempts or downloading malicious attachments.
Three Ways to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Ransomware
To avoid becoming a victim of ransomware, it is critical to adopt proactive security measures and follow best practices. Below are three key ways to help protect yourself and mitigate the risk of falling victim to ransomware:
Maintain Strong Security Practices:
a. Regularly Update Software: Keep all your operating systems, applications, and software up to date with the latest security patches. Software updates often include bug fixes and vulnerability patches that help protect against known exploits used by ransomware.
b. Use Robust Antivirus and Antimalware Software: Install reputable antivirus and antimalware software on all your devices and keep them updated. These tools can help detect and prevent malicious software, including ransomware, from infecting your system.
c. Enable Firewall Protection: Ensure that your device's firewall is enabled to provide an additional layer of defense against unauthorized access and malware.
a. Be Cautious with Email Attachments and Links: Avoid opening email attachments or clicking on links from unknown or suspicious senders. Ransomware often spreads through phishing emails that trick users into downloading malicious files or visiting infected websites.
b. Verify the Authenticity of Websites: Exercise caution when visiting websites, especially those requiring you to enter personal information or download files. Stick to trusted sources and verify the legitimacy of websites before providing any sensitive data.
c. Beware of Social Engineering Tactics: Be wary of social engineering techniques used by cybercriminals to manipulate and deceive users. These tactics may involve impersonation, urgent requests, or attempts to gain your trust. Think critically and double-check the legitimacy of any requests before acting.
Implement Effective Backup and Recovery Strategies:
a. Regularly Back Up Your Data: Ensure you have a robust data backup strategy in place. Regularly back up your important files to an external storage device or cloud storage service. Offline backups are particularly effective as ransomware typically targets files accessible via network connections.
b. Test and Verify Your Backups: Periodically test your backups to ensure they are functioning properly and that you can restore your data if needed. Verification helps ensure the integrity of your backups and confirms their usability in case of a ransomware incident.
c. Educate and Train Users: Provide cybersecurity awareness training to all users, emphasizing the risks associated with ransomware and best practices for prevention. Teach them to recognize phishing emails, suspicious websites, and potential social engineering tactics.
Remember that prevention is key when it comes to ransomware. By implementing these practices and staying vigilant, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to ransomware attacks.
RB’s Computer Service recognizes that small business owners are experts in their industries but may not be experts in ransomware. If you need help implementing a ransomware strategy, don’t hesitate to contact us today via email at email@example.com or call us at 763-441-3884. We would be glad to help. In addition to ransomware strategies, RB’s Computer Service provides affordable Managed IT Service Agreements and sells the best commercial-grade firewall routers, best laptop computers, best desktop computers, business computers, computer parts, and computer monitors. We also provide computer repair, iPhone and smartphone repair, and tablet repairs to customers and clients throughout central Minnesota and St. Cloud.
CROWDSTRIKE, Alexander Hanel, Big Game Hunting with Ryuk: Another Lucrative Targeted Ransomware, January 10th, 2019, https://www.crowdstrike.com/blog/big-game-hunting-with-ryuk-another-lucrative-targeted-ransomware/.
CROWSTRIKE, Kurt Baker, HOW DOES RANSOMWARE SPREAD? 10 MOST COMMON INFECTION METHODS, November 22, 2022, https://www.crowdstrike.com/cybersecurity-101/ransomware/how-ransomware-spreads/
McAffee, Alexandre Mundo, Ransomware Maze, March 26th, 2020, https://www.mcafee.com/blogs/other-blogs/mcafee-labs/ransomware-maze/
FORTRA, Chris Brooks, How to Prevent Ransomware: 7 Tips to Avoid a Ransomware Attack, August 22nd, 2022, https://www.digitalguardian.com/blog/how-prevent-ransomware-7-tips-avoid-ransomware-attack