Ransomware attacks is a special type of malware that encrypts data and holds it hostage until the ransom is paid. A user or organization cannot access the data and in order to get back the acces they have to pay a demanded sum of money.
In recent years the cybercriminal ecosystem that operates ransomware has become a growing threat to large enterprises and companies demanding cosmic sums of ransom.
Though the implementation details of a ransomware work may vary from one variant to another, the general principle of work consists of three steps: to gain access to a target system, encrypt the files there, and demand a ransom from the victim.
How Do Ransomware Attacks Work?
Step 1. To Infect and Distribute Malware
In case of a ransomware its operators tend to choose only specific vectors to infect future victims. One of the most obvious ones is phishing emails. It can be a malicious attachment that has a built in downloader or the email may contain a malicious link that will redirect a victim to a website hosting a ransomware. If the victim falls for the phishing email the ransomware will be downloaded and executed on the targeted machine.
Another thing that ransomware actors highly exploit is the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP).With the abuse of this service an attacker can directly download the malware and execute it under control. But there’s also rare and interesting cases like the EternalBlue vulnerability exploited by WannaCry ransomware.
Step 2. To Encrypt Data to Protect Yourself
After the access to the system has been gained the malware begins to encrypt the files. But it needs to be added that most ransomware variants tend not to encrypt system vital files in order to keep the system stable. In addition, some variants will also delete backup and shadow copies of the files to make it impossible for the victim to recover them without the decryption key which ransomware operators promise to provide after the ransom is paid.
Step 3. To Demand a Ransom
Once the files get encrypted the ransom note is presented to the victim. It will ask for a certain amount of cryptocurrency to pay to unlock the files. The ransomware will also place the note either on background or in file directory to make sure the victim sees it.
That’s the general way ransomware works but some variants will have other additional techniques to make chances of money extortion more successful like double extortion when the ransomware operators not only encrypt files but also steal them to have the additional pull when negotiating for money to be paid.
How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks
How fierce and stealthy ransomware can be – you can avoid them by following simple rules of proper cyber hygiene. For how the old saying goes “It’s better to prevent the problem than deal with it”:
- Use VPN services while on public Wi-Fi networks. It should be a general rule to use vpn while on a public wifi network not just because of ransomware protection. Learn important tips on how to use public Wi-Fi safely to avoid risks.
- Use only known trusted download sources. Download files or media only from the websites that you know for sure can be trusted. Also don’t forget to look up the trust seal like padlock in the address bar of your browser to verify the security of the site. Exercise special caution because it’s the possibility of high risk when looking for something on the internet to download you can end up having ransomware on your machine.
- Regular do the update of your operating system and programs. The regularly updated programs and operating system make it harder for threat actors to exploit any known vulnerabilities to target you with ransomware. When you do the updates, see if you do the latest of them.
INFORMATION FOR DISTRACTION: It is very important to research this topic in order to know the basic tips for preventing malware injection and data leakage. Internet security is important for users.
- Don’t use any unknown USB sticks. Make it a habit not to use any unknown USB sticks. Just a simple rule not to connect anything suspicious to your computer.
- Do not open suspicious looking email attachments and click on strange links. This rule is especially true about any unexpected emails or other online correspondence that you`ve received in your mailbox or a messenger. Look carefully if there might be anything strange about the message. Do not open right after you receive those emails that have documents with macro attachments to them as these things possibly could be infected with any malware to say the fact.
- Do not disclose your personal info. Avoid sharing much of your personal information on the internet. Ransomware operators might use it to phish you with emails specifically tailored which means they will be based on the info provided by the future victim online.
- Even though new ransomware variants appear constantly and it’s sometimes hard to keep track of all of them, they all share some common characteristics that make them the ransomware.
TOP Ransomware Viruses: Ransomware Attacks Examples
They use similar tactics to target the users and hold their data hostage. The very first ransomware variant got the attention of the public in 2013 and since then this type of malware has been on the rise attacking large enterprises and companies demanding ever whooping sums of money. So, how to decrypt ransomware?
Below we present you with the list of the top ransomware attacks that you should be especially beware of:
Makop Ransomware – What is it?
The malware appeared for the first time in 2020 and the last time was seen in 2021. It targets multiple countries and multiple industries. The same as with other ransomware it encrypts the files and demands a $250 worth of bitcoin ransom.
NOTE: The ransom note contains several FAQs to inform a victim what has happened, how to retrieve files and more importantly how to contact authors.
Its operators target their victims by a method of “spray-and-pray” distribution campaigns, something like spam or cracked versions of popular apps. In case of non payment you lose the data. To avoid getting your files encrypted with this malware do regular scans of your computer.
MedusaLocker Ransomware Attacks
First came onto the scene in 2019. In addition to the usual encrypt and demand money it also deletes all Shadow Volume Copies of files to ensure the victim won’t have the possibility to restore their files in the backups without cooperation with the ransomware operators.
MedusaLocker ransomware attacks also creates a scheduled task that will auto run every 30 minutes scanning for new files and encrypting them. After the encryption the malware creates a ransom note named Readme.html or HOW_TO_RECOVER_DATA.html.
NOTE: Don`t forget to do regular scans as this and as many more similar ransomware can be deleted by a decent antivirus solution and stop it to infer further damage onto you.
This malware also follows the usual rule of encrypt and demand money. It creates a pop up window (“!INFO.HTA”) that informs victims about the attack and what should be done next. But the operators behind this ransomware say in the ransom note that they “offer” the victim to buy their software to restore the files.
After 48 hours the sum for the software will double. Before paying users can test the “service” and submit several files for the decryption. The only possible way to have your files back is to have their backups stored separately before the encryption happens.
Avaddon Ransomware Attacks
New Maze-like ransomware that not only encrypts files, demands money but also steals victim`s data and threatens to make it public. For such matters, ransomware operators even launched their own leak site where they already had published data from the U.S. Auto Parts Network, Inc and Liberty Linehaul.
What makes VoidCrypt ransomware stand out is that it doesn`t only deletes backups of the files but also deletes system backups while disabling automatic repair and recovery, and cleaning the bin. In case of this ransomware you may need to call your local law enforcement.
This ransomware attack variant mainly targets high value enterprises and organizations. In addition to operation distortion and money extortion it steals data and blackmails a victim with illegal publication. Formerly it was known as “ABCD” ransomware and first time was detected in September 2019. In the past it targeted organizations in China, Indonesia, Ukraine, the United States and throughout Europe ( Germany, UK, France).
LockBit ransomware attacks operators work as ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS). It means there are those who develop the malware and the affiliates who do the direct job of infiltrating the targeted network and hold the negotiations over ransom money.
An open source ransomware that was developed by a Turkish programmer. Later it was released as proof of concept on GitHub. Some of the cybercriminals use the project to develop their own variants of ransomware. The ransomware variants created on the base of it include Cyber Police, Sorry, ScorpionLocker, OPdailyallowance, IT.Books, Nog4yH4n Project and others. The sums of money demanded by the ransomware vary from $500 and $1500. Typically threat actors will demand payment in Monero, Dash, Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies.
One of the most prolific ransomware groups, it targets large organizations and companies. Conti ransomware variant has been observed since 2020 and since then has become one of the major threats for business worldwide. Once it gets on the system it deletes Volume Shadow Copies.
During the 2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine the group expressed their support of the Russian government and warned if there be any cyber attacks on the country they will take necessary actions. The only way to get back the affected files is to have their backups.
INTERESTING FACT: The US and EU sanctions against Russia seem to have hit Russian hackers hard. They are looking for new ways to launder money.
Matrix Ransomware Attacks
Still in development ransomware Matrix does not encrypt all files. The ransom demand sums vary between $500 and $1500 in Bitcoins. But cyber security specialists warn that its better not to pay the ransom because as it often happens in the cases of ransomware theres high chances that you won’t receive your data back.
Matrix ransomware and other ransomware cybercriminals will simply ignore you. Apart from the encrypting files the malware also installs additional password-stealing trojans and similar malware.
Threat actors that operate this Magniber ransomware are known to exploit PrintNightmare CVE-2021-34527. The malware is under continuous development having frequent code changes and obfuscation improvements, constant encryption mechanisms and evasion tactics. First time the researchers detected the ransomware in 2017. Early versions of ransomware have been executed only on Korean systems. More recent versions do not now restrict only to this specific geography.
STOP/Djvu Ransomware Attacks
First time it was detected in 2018. The malware mainly targets average users and demands payments in ranges between from $490 to $980 in Bitcoins. In its destructive actions the ransomware deletes Volume Shadow copies to make the restoration of files for the victim impossible. In addition the STOP/Djvu ransomware also installs password-stealing Trojan on the system, like AzorUlt Spyware. Threat actors distribute it via RDP exploits, peer-to-peer networks, third-party downloaders and installers.
IMPORTANT FACT: A study in 2022 shows that the biggest threat these days is STOP/Djvu ransomware. This type of malware is notorious for its ability to block files and then ask you to pay.
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