The Rise of the Curse of Ransomware
Technology now drives the world. In our pursuit and attempts to evolve, improve, and expand the use of technology, we have let it take over so much of our lives that the human brains that conceived this idea of technology and brought it to life, now stand inferior to its own brainchild. For technology is now an essential part of life, so much that the millions of ways in which it has been easing our work on one ground, it sure has evolved a parallel, contradictory world, that has nothing to do with good, that has no boundaries that is not confined by any rule, and of course has no good intentions – it is the shady world of cyber crimes.
Taking the technological sector into our specific consideration, the progress is at an all time high. Hundreds of thousands of apps and software become part of the virtual world every day. Augmented reality is improving by every passing instant, creating a smart bridge between physical and the virtual world. Everything that was considered as solely a human job is now effectively being performed by machines and their advanced, encrypted brains. Organizational operations that once required full-fledged teams to perform a complex, exasperating task are now credited into the job specification of a mere set of software that does it with precision to perfection and with absolute accuracy.
However, like everything that comes along with its equal contradiction, with the perks of technology comes its curse. While a software developer works tirelessly, developing a software program, another developer, in a parallel world is assembling his codes, creating a program to counteract the efforts of the first. Not soon after a software is launched, there come a variety of hacks and cracks to counter its benefits. This is how the industry is booming on both sides along the lines. The software industry was already struggling to cope with virus, Trojans, malwares and other data breachers, and now it comes to face the biggest threat of all times – the ransomware!
Gone are the days when you would expect to receive those ransom notes, made of letters clipped out of newspapers now. It’s not just humans that can be abducted anymore – machines and systems are more at stake!
Ransomware – DefinedRansomware is the brainchild of cyber criminals across the globe, to extort money from their victim, in return for their own data, programs or systems.
Techopedia defines ransomware as, “a type of malware program that infects locks or takes control of a system and demands ransom to undo it. Ransomware attacks and infects a computer with the intention of extorting money from its owner”.
Also known as crypto-virus, crypto-Trojan or crypto-worm, it penetrates into the system through a loophole, identifies the keys and takes the system’s steering wheel in control, decrypting your files and paralyzing the entire network – unless you pay the abductors an amount they ask, to liberate your account, files or system from its clutches and to retrieve your data, back in your control.
The first ever ransomware assaults were reported in Russia, in 2005, where the attacks were confined to taking hold of a few key files, releasing them when the ransom was paid. The scam then took its toll and has evolved a great deal since then, worsening its impacts and extending its reach and accessibility. Ransom wares were designed and are well in vogue for one sole objective – to create a direct source of income, through extortion.
How it Works?Messages on our screens like "Warning: Malicious code detected", "Warning: A malicious program is trying to access your settings" and others likewise, are the regular reminders and notifications that you receive, issuing a hint at some activity beyond your knowledge taking place in your PC and we all know how to deal with it. Stop! Ignore! Do not allow! All it takes is a single click to get rid of the threat and we think we are safe.
But, bigger threats do not essentially appear in bigger sizes or with critical warnings. According to Symantec, “even a single weakness in the operation could cause the whole scheme to fail. There are many more elements to a ransomware attack than just the malware”.
You never know an email you just received from your bank, a shipping company, a recreational club with its offer or even your own employer, anything can be ransomware. And because it so official-looking, that appears as anything but malicious, and coming from authentic and reputable sources, ransomware are hard to detect and identify.
Once you click open the email attachment or a web link, the malicious software installs itself in your system, in a spur of a moment, without even bringing it into your knowledge or asking for installation permissions. Once the malicious ware is installed, it will start decrypting your files, denying accessibility at you end and will paralyze or shut down your system. Upon reaching attempt you make to access your files, a notification window or message box will pop up, asking you to pay a specific amount at ransom to retrieve your system. They may even play smarter than that, imitating that your account has been locked down by the cyber security agencies and a fine has been imposed for some reasons. They ask you to pay the fine for a crime that you never remember committing and only then you will be handed over control.
Who’s at Stake?The attackers do not have an ideal victim profile. Anyone who can pay, they will attempt to make him pay, for his program, systems or data property. Millions of users, the potential prospects of the cyber criminals are attacked worldwide, so that if not from all, they will successfully wriggle out money from a fragment of them with a program and data property of high importance.
Their victims and prospects can be classified into three levels, varying in their technological use and the nature of their work. They may be:
- Domestic and Home-Based Users - This victim group suffers from the highest number of ransomware attacks, because of their lack of knowledge and technical assistance and expertise. Often they have sensitive and valuable data stored on their hard drives in the form of files, pictures or videos, without any strong back up. During an attack, the ransomware seizes hold of their personal data, encrypts and deletes any local or external backup files.
- Businesses and Organizations - Since the evolution of the virtual world, organizations and businesses have switched over to cloud, for a better, smart and integrated working and performance. And especially, with the incorporation of Point of Sales and Omni Channel strategies, that have elevated cloud networking and computing to a whole new level, it has also brought about a huge opportunity for cyber criminals to attacks these cloud organizational setups, freezing the entire systems and hence, an opportunity to settle the extortion deal on their own terms.
- Government Institutions and Public Agencies - Government institutions and public agencies possess ample information of high significance, and work with data that is most critical in terms confidentiality. Since the cyber crime world is bound by no law or rules, this sounds ridiculous that not only the educational, banking, immigration and internal affairs institutions but the law enforcement agencies too are prone to the threat of ransomware.
Effective Countermeasure Strategies for RansomwareWhether you are a domestic user or a commercial, business entity, when it comes to the curse of ransomware, prevention should top your list of countermeasures, for if you settled for post-attack cure, you might not be able to completely revoke the effects of the cybercriminal assault. Here are some strategies that can be incorporated within your systems and your organizational standard operating procedures to prevent, eliminate and fight off any risk or threat of a ransomware attack.
- Train and Educate - Formulate Standard Operating Procedures
- Restructure Your Defense Mechanism - Incorporate a Layered Defense Technique
- Look Out for the Escape Clauses
- Lock your End Points and Server Terminals
- Back Up - It's Your Lifeline!
- Use Credible Network Protection Programs
- Avoid Unauthentic Software Toolkits
- Every Unit Counts - Individual System and Device Protection
- Prepare for the Worst – Update Your Alternates
ConclusionThe bottom line is that ransomware is a now a concrete, present age reality of the online world, which is growing worse. The cybercrime world is a profitable and booming industry for the online hackers, snatchers and malware producers to rob people off their precious data and extort money for its return. Paying the data and system abductors would not do you any good, for they will get you trapped and engulfed into the long haul of exploitation, and will continue to extort money from your account. Moreover, they will keep your entire system at stake, and if ever you try to go against their demands, they will damage your entire cloud entity. The best way to fight off the curse of ransomware is to prevent it, taking precautionary measures beforehand so that you leave no crack or chance for the assaulters to manipulate.
What can iConnect do for you?
iConnect has the tools and technology to help overcome this growing menace. iConnect is helping several Furniture Retailers safeguard their network infrastructure by putting controls and check points at various levels in an attempt to thwart all such nefarious attacks that has the potential to bring down your working network infrastructure to a standstill.
Please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org | 703-471-3964 *241 and let us know how we can help you.