What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is one type of malicious software (or malware) that prevents users from accessing their system or personal files and demands ransom payment in order to regain access. Unlike the earlier ways when payment was to be sent via snail mail, today, ransomware authors order that payment is sent via credit card or cryptocurrency. The aim of a ransomware attack is mostly for monetary benefits, and unlike other types of attacks, the victim of a ransomware attack is normally notified that an exploit has taken place and is given instructions on how to recover from the attack. Ransomware is capable of spreading via infected software apps, infected external storage devices, malicious email attachments, and compromised websites. An increasing number of attacks have used remote desktop protocol and several other approaches that do not depend on any form of user interaction.

what is ransomware

How Ransomware Works?

Ransomware kits on the deep web have permitted cybercriminals to purchase and use a software tool to develop ransomware with particular capabilities and then generate this malware for their own distribution and with the ransom money paid to their bitcoin accounts. On the other hand, it is now possible for those with little or even no technical background to order less expensive ransomware as a service (RaaS) and then carry out attacks with very little effort.

It is possible for attackers to use one of the different approaches to extort digital currency from their victims. Some of these approaches are briefly discussed below:

  • The victim may be tricked into believing he is the subject of an official inquiry. The victim is first informed that illegal web content or unlicensed software has been found on his computer, and the victim is then given instructions on how to pay an electronic fine.

  • The victim could receive a pop-up message or email ransom note warning that if the money demanded is not paid within a specified date, then the private key needed for unlocking the device or decrypting files will be destroyed.

  • The ransomware attacker encrypts files on infected devices and makes big money by selling a product that guarantees to help the victim unlock files and also prevent future malware attacks.

  • The attacker could also threaten the victim that the data will be exposed to the general public in its unencrypted state if the ransom is not paid within a specific time period.

Types of Ransomware

  • Screen Lockers
    Once it gets inside a PC, a lock-screen ransomware halts all the PC activities. When that particular PC is turned ON, a full-size window appears mostly accompanied by an official-looking FBI or US Department of Justice seal. The message displayed reads that an illegal activity has been detected on the PC and that the user will have to pay the fine in order to restore the normal actions. There are also individuals who may not actually understand that it is a ransomware attack if they are not aware of the fact that the FBI does not actually make demands for any money or freeze the user out of their computer.

  • Encrypting Ransomware
    A hacker uses this ransomware to lock all the files and encrypt them on a computing device. After successfully completing this task, the cybercriminal later demands the ransom for decrypting and redelivering to the user. The Encrypting Ransomware is considered to be dangerous as a number of security programs lack the potential to tackle the attack. Additionally, you should also be aware of the fact that the ransom does not guarantee that the hacker will give back the access to all the locked files.

  • Scareware
    Scareware is a type of ransomware (malware) that has been developed to trick victims into buying and downloading software that is useless and potentially vulnerable. Scareware is available with rogue security software and tech support scams. Computer users are usually prompted with a pop-up message pointing out that malware was found and that the only way to get rid of it is to pay up.

Security Practices to Prevent Ransomware

Computer users will be able to prevent ransomware attacks by employing a few security practices that will help enhance their defenses and allow them to stay safe from different types of online threats.

  • Do not install software from unknown sources or give administrative privileges

  • Regularly update your operating system and keep it patched

  • Back up your files, automatically and regularly

  • Install a reliable antivirus software capable of effectively detecting malicious software

Spread of Ransomware via Websites

Ransomware could also spread through websites compromised to host what's known as an exploit kit. Exploit kits are actually automated threats that use compromised websites to scan for vulnerable browser-based applications, divert web traffic, and run malware. Exploit kits have been developed with the intention to silently and automatically exploit vulnerabilities on a victim's machine while browsing the web.

The spread of ransomware through websites can be detected and even prevented by a managed security service like Comodo's cWatch that is ideal for websites and web applications. cWatch Web is capable of discovering and mapping all devices and web applications on a network and then performing a complete scan, with Six-Sigma accuracy, and prioritizing results of detected vulnerabilities with detailed instructions in order to rapidly fix any security threats found. This web security tool instantly sends alerts to the Comodo Security Operation Center (CSOC) that houses a team of certified analysts working round-the-clock in order to deploy updates to the Web Application Firewall (WAF) and eliminate the threat even it hits the network.

Comodo cWatch offers the following features that can help prevent ransomware attacks by constantly performing automatic scanning that will help rescue you from threats and maintain the confidentiality of all your essential and private data.

  • Malware Monitoring and Remediation:
    cWatch is capable of detecting malware, providing the methods and tools to remove it, and preventing future malware attacks.

  • Web Application Firewall (WAF):
    A powerful, real-time edge protection for web applications and websites providing enhanced filtering, security and intrusion protection.

  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM):
    Advanced intelligence that can leverage existing events and data from more than 85M endpoints and 100M domains.

  • Secure Content Delivery Network (CDN):
    A global system of distributed servers to enhance the performance of web applications and websites.

  • PCI Scanning:
    This scanning enables service providers and merchants to stay in compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

  • Cyber Security Operations Center (CSOC):
    A team of always-on certified cybersecurity professionals providing 24x7x365 surveillance and remediation services.

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