A guide by WithSecure experts
Learn how Ransomware works, how it can affect your organization, and what you can do to prevent and recover from an attack. This article provides practical tips and best practices from WithSecure, a leading cybersecurity company.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a type of malicious software (malware) that steals control of the user’s machine or data. Most often, this is done through encrypting data stored on one or more devices. Once the legitimate users’ access is blocked, the attacker offers to restore access for a ransom. Over the past decade, this approach has become an increasingly effective method of online extortion for cybercriminals and other threat actors, which is generally the primary motivation for these attacks.
Encryption is the most well-known method cybercriminals use to pressure victims, but more recently, attackers have adopted secondary extortion methods, such as stealing and leaking the victims’ data before encrypting it.
Identifying a Ransomware attack
The most common signs that your organization has become a victim of a ransomware attack are unusual system behavior, such as sluggish performance, crashes, or unresponsive applications. If a system has been encrypted, files and folders will be locked from access.
Altered file extensions, modified desktop elements, and disabled security software are also strong indicators of a ransomware incident. In addition, unusual network traffic or unexpected system changes, like modified wallpapers, further raise suspicion.
Ransom notes in the form of pop-ups or text files often accompany these attacks, demanding payment for decryption.
What can be the outcome of a Ransomware attack?
A ransomware incident can result in severe financial losses for an organization, even without paying the ransom. An attack can lead to a shutdown in operations, which can result in revenue loss. Furthermore, even if the systems are not revenue-generating, having them offline costs the organization vital productivity time.
In addition to direct financial losses, there are also indirect costs. Organizations may not detect an attack in time to stop it, and tight budgets may leave them struggling to find the resources needed to restore operations. Therefore, either directly or otherwise, any financial loss may force the reallocation of funds from one department to another, leading to service disruptions.
Regardless of size or industry, a successful ransomware attack can bring organizations to a standstill. Ransomware infections can often jeopardize a company’s business interests, making it easier for criminals to pressure them into paying the ransom.
Many organizations depend on IT systems and databases to operate; in some cases, they have legal obligations to manage and protect customer data. For these reasons, organizations often feel pressure to resolve ransomware infections quickly (and quietly) by paying the ransom.
What channel does a ransomware attack come through?
Ransomware attacks employ diverse channels for delivery, with phishing emails being one of the most prevalent methods where cybercriminals use deceptive emails to distribute malware through malicious attachments or links.
Malicious websites and malvertising are additional vectors, exploiting vulnerabilities in web browsers or plugins to infect users who visit compromised sites. Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) attacks target weak or default passwords on systems with exposed RDP, enabling unauthorized access and ransomware deployment. Drive-by downloads can occur when users visit compromised websites, initiating malware downloads, even without interaction. In addition, ransomware can be distributed via social engineering whereby a user can be tricked into clicking on a malicious link or downloading malicious software.
How can endpoints and end users be protected from Ransomware attacks?
Exploring Activity Monitor Amidst the Ransomware Landscape
The LockBit ransomware attack on China's Industrial and Commercial Bank (ICBC) serves as a stark reminder of the vulnerabilities within complex systems.Read more
2023’s ransomware rookies are a remix of Conti and other classics
Ransomware’s business model is a big part of what’s made it such a potent threat for so many years. However, we dug into multi-point ransomware attacks from 2023, and found another factor in ransomware’s staying power: a seemingly endless supply of new cyber crime groups starting ransomware operations.Read more
Ransomware profits are transforming cyber crime
A new report published by WithSecure found that the huge profits of ransomware have led to a rapid evolution and professionalization of the wider cybercrime industry, and the rapid growth of a supporting underground marketplace of products and service providers.Read more
A New game changing technology for ransomware protection
WithSecure’s Elements Endpoint Protection for Servers product has a new ransomware protection capability: Server Share Protection. This monitors potentially malicious activities in real time using technology named Activity Monitor.Read more
Effective ransomware prevention: Insights from the Conti Playbook
The recent Conti Leaks serve as a newly found key for D&R teams to unravel some of the common ambiguities surrounding ransomware detection. Read on to discover more.Read more
We can’t fight ransomware on our own. It’s time to work together to make our businesses less attractive to criminals.
It’s time to work together to make our businesses less attractive to criminals. There’s a goldrush underway to extort money from businesses in the UK and the EU. But are there ways to raise the costs for criminals and lower their returns?Read more
Ransomware and Risk: a pragmatic approach
This report outlines how organizations can use common Intelligence and Threat Intelligence tools and methodologies to accurately calculate the probability and risk of a successful ransomware attack – and establish a qualitative risk assessment for your organization.Read more
Join our mailing list
Subcribe to our news and updates from WithSecure ans acquire valuable insights directly from our industry-leading professionals.