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Ransomware: A Cyber Threat

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By: Manik

July 15, 2020

The immense damages and losses within cyberspace have caught the attention of many all over the globe. With the pandemic upon us, the tremendous shift to working online drastically increases the possibility of more severe incidents of cyberattacks. With so many questions and doubts settling inside many minds, it is time to answer them all. The initial question always comes down to one: What is a cyber attack? Let’s dive a little deeper into the technical aspect.

In simple terms, a cyber attack is a threat to your digital, even physical belongings. These attacks are rigorous steps taken with the motive to cause damage or bypass the security layers for a general-purpose of stealing something. These meticulous steps are acts by individuals or groups called “Threat Actors.” The ocean is big. It is now time to swim even further down.

The attacks that come into the picture are of several types, and each has its original purpose, which varies depending on the threat actor’s motive. These attacks are what we call “Cyber Threats” and comprise several types of threats, including Malware, Phishing, Ransomware, and Man in the Middle attacks (MITM). The one to pay the most attention to is perhaps the most common, even the most feared, cyber threat in the modern era: Ransomware. Time to answer all the questionable aspects.

What is a Ransomware attack?

A ransomware attack is an imposition of purposefully designed or crafted code or software that takes control of a computer system, denying the system owner access to it. The ransomware typically corrupts the data stored within the system by encrypting it with multiple layers of encryption algorithms. With the owner unable to access the data, the threat actors move ahead and demand that the owners pay a certain amount of ransom through a secure payment gateway. The threat actors often prefer crypto-currency to be used for paying the ransom to prevent getting caught by law enforcement while promising the return of the data via a decryption key.

What is the scope of such an attack for the threat actor?

Cybersecurity proves to be a crucial aspect of the digital realm. The more secure technology gets, the more vulnerabilities appear. Threat actors exploit these vulnerabilities to their advantage. Since data is one of the most significant segments of anything in existence, the threat actors move into targeting the said data. Threat actors might join hands with rival firms with the motive of attacking to support the growth of their partners. But that is not always the end, because sometimes the actors take everything for themselves for financial gain. It would have been better if the original goal of stealing could stay until there only, but it is not happening. A lot of threat actors work with the sole agenda of either gaining political advantages or terrorism.

What are a few incidental ransomware and their damages?

The increase of ransomware attacks has been tremendous and has been only growing. The latest analysis results declare that every 14 seconds, new ransomware comes into action. When discussing these incidents, we can not just let the WannaCry ransomware attack pass without any attention. Wannacry ransomware was an attack in 2017 by using some leaked hacking tools from NSA, and the effect of the attack spread like wildfire. The main target of this attack was the outdated Windows Operating System across the globe. Hence, this attack affected more than 200,000 computer systems across 150 countries, costing billions of dollars.

Moving the conversation to the pandemic affected year, which is 2020, the cyber threats, including ransomware, have not stopped infecting computer systems. The Maze Ransomware, which sprang into action in April 2020, targeted a US-based IT firm. The Maze Ransomware not only focused on encrypting data, but also on stealing and selling it on the dark web. Since January 2020, up until May 2020, there have been at least 72 recorded ransomware attacks that were successful throughout the globe, with a total of millions and billions of dollars in damage. The ransomware attacks affect all sorts of firms, ranging from Travelex, a currency exchange firm, to the Office of Court Administration in Texas.

A lot of information on the ransomware and its damages leads to one crucial question.

How does the ransomware work behind the scenes?

Describing the exact working of ransomware is difficult because of one reason: the variation in purpose. As pointed out earlier, ransomware is a purposefully crafted piece of code by threat actors. The ransomware attack's actual goal depends on the threat actor, and, based on that goal, the ransomware would have a unique design. Every unique ransomware has a particular approach to target the system. Take the TeslaCrypt ransomware attack, for instance. This attack targeted computer game files such as saved game files and downloadable content.

Ransomware attacks start luring the victim into performing an action that will not be determined as suspicious. Making the victim open an infected email or click on a fake link, both of which appear genuine, is a part of that action. Clicking on the email or the link downloads the code onto the target system or a network, starting the encryption process.

Every single thing about a ransomware attack comes down to one most significant and crucial question.

How can we prevent being targeted or attacked by ransomware?

Ensuring safety against a ransomware attack has become a significant aspect of cybersecurity, for which some steps have proved to be crucial and beneficial, and which everyone should follow:

  • Avoid clicking unknown links received in emails.
  • Use a variety of trusted tools to scan for malware in the emails.
  • Establish various security layers, like firewalls.
  • Always hold a backup of the current data, whether in cloud or external storage.
  • Hold your information and data very dear to yourself.

Protecting data has become a highly prioritized aspect of day-to-day life. Everyone wants to take steps to ensure the safety of that data and strengthen established security. Following up on all of the conceptual details, finding a platform to increase the growth and development of security has become a priority for everyone. Cybrary has been taking care of that need for years.

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