The Anatomy of a Ransomware Attack

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Once you have a firm idea of what ransomware is, understanding the anatomy of a ransomware attack becomes much easier, and when you know what the bad guys are up to, you can defend your personal and business data from them effectively. As ransomware appears in news headlines, it’s often attached to million-dollar price tags or catastrophic damages to a business, but this does not mean that ransomware attacks have to be complex or sophisticated. Often, an attack that is simple in form but effective in getting users to click on a malicious link is all bad actors need.

How a Ransomware Attack is Delivered

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The first thing to remember about ransomware is that it does not enter a network on its own. Malicious actors will deliver ransomware through another cyberattack, such as a phishing campaign. These phishing campaigns will try to look as legitimate as possible in order to coax a user into clicking on a malicious link or downloading a suspicious file. While these initial infection attempts are usually targeted towards a specific individual or entity, this does not always have to be the case. Sometime malicious actors will send out a ransomware attack in spam emails that attempt to reach thousands of people with no specific target.  

Ransomware Attack Execution

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Once the malicious link or file containing the ransomware has been clicked, the malware will immediately infect the computer its first victim is using. The ransomware will seek out and encrypt valuable information on the machine, which includes photos, PDFs, Word documents, applications, and just about everything else. Once the ransomware takes hold, the user will be given instructions on how to pay the ransom and how long they have to pay.

The most dangerous part of a ransomware attack is that it can spread throughout a network once it has taken hold of a single machine. Emails can be sent to coworkers containing the attack or other systems directly connected to the first infected machine can be taken over with the right permissions. If one employee at a company gets infected, then the entire network could be taken over before anyone has a chance to respond.

Should You Pay the Ransom?

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When a ransomware attack does happen, company’s can restore their data to a previous backup or try to find a means of decryption, but it may be tempting to pay the ransom. Generally, this is a bad idea. When paying a ransom, you rely on the hackers acting in good faith and sending you the decryption key, but this may not happen. The attackers could continue to make demands once they know you are willing to pay, or they can steal your data before sending the decryption key. Most importantly, cybercriminals talk, and if one threat group knows you will pay up, then they may target you again or inform another group that you are an easy target.

Summary

Ransomware has become a favorite attack among cybercriminals, and it is a real threat to any company’s cybersecurity. Because of their simplicity in execution and ability to get many companies to pay, cybercriminals will continue to invest in making ransomware attacks more convincing and easier to perform. Fortunately, with the right training, a few strong cybersecurity tools, and a bit of IT consulting advice, you can lower the chance of a ransomware attack ever happening to you. If you want to learn how Robinett Consulting can help make your network more secure, then book a free appointment with us right away!