How Does Ransomware Work?


Ever heard of a malware attack that encrypts data and locks the computer user/owner out? That is how ransomware works. It denies you access to your essential data and even your entire computer systems and demands a ransom.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malware that infects a computer by restricting the users from accessing their important files until a ransom is paid. Sometimes, the attackers might threaten to publish the victim’s data if they refuse to pay the ransom.

If you’re quick to detect ransomware malware on your computer, you can get rid of it before it unleashes its attack. However, most ransomware victims only realize the attack after the on-screen notification on their computers—informing them their data has been encrypted and needs to buy a decryption key. Ransomware attacks are well planned and implemented. The attackers ensure targeted data is correctly encrypted before sending the notification for ransom. Besides, payment is requested via Bitcoin or other digital currencies, making it difficult to trace the criminals’ identity.

How Ransomware Spreads

With phishing at the top of spreading methods, ransomware criminals have devised various tricky means of spreading the ransomware malware. Here is a quick look at some popular ways:

Malvertising

This method is becoming increasingly popular. It uses the same techniques and tools for displaying legitimate ads on the web to trick users into clicking malicious ads. They buy ads space and then link in a way that exploits viewers’ data. The ads are displayed in provocative images, free offers, or message notification.

When you click on the ads, your system is scanned for information about its operating system, software, browser details, etc. This eventually installs the malware on your computer. To prevent this, you want to be careful with the type of ads you click. If possible, you can install an ad blocker.

Email Attachments

This method is directly linked to phishing, and it has been around for a while. It is executed by distributing the ransomware via emails that convince the recipient to open the malicious attachment. Once the recipient opens the attachment, the ransomware can be deployed immediately, or it can take days, weeks, or months for the infection to start encrypting the recipient’s files. This depends on what the cybercriminal wants.

If you’re a target, the attackers may study your business emails and mimic them to trick your staff or clients on their target list. You can prevent this by verifying emails before opening any attachment.

Drive-by Downloads

A drive-by download occurs without your knowledge. The distributors of the ransomware do this by injecting malicious content on legitimate websites through some vulnerabilities. Other times, they can make use of their websites and install the malicious content on it.

The moment you visit the infected website, your device will be analyzed by the malicious content for specific vulnerabilities, and then the ransomware will be automatically executed in the background.

Drive-by downloads don’t require the user to download or click on contents that are on the website. Visiting the site is all that is needed for the ransomware to infect your system.

How to Prevent Ransomware

There are various ways to prevent ransomware attacks. Most of them serve as precautions to keep your computer safe while others safeguard your system when the ransomware malware tries to penetrate. Let’s take a look at some effective measures:

Antivirus/Anti-malware Programs: Installing effective antivirus/anti-malware programs on your commuter can help identify and block ransomware malware. Ensure you are using current versions to enjoy the full benefits.

Data Backup: Backing up your data locally and on the cloud will save you if you ever get attacked by ransomware. Your sensitive data will be unreachable. Once you have cleaned your affected system, you can install the backup data.

Keep all Applications Updated: Make sure your operating system, web browser, and applications are up to date. Most outdated software are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Besides, some core updates are meant to patch security vulnerabilities.

Ad Blocker: Based on your preferences, you may want to use an ad blocker to prevent malicious ads. You can also switch from automatic to click-to-play plugins on your web browser. This prevents Java and Flash from running automatically.

Use Endpoint Protection: Some ransomware attacks could trick antiviruses/anti-malware to penetrate your computer. To add extra layers to your protection, you want to opt for Advanced Endpoint Protection for detecting and locking of sophisticated malware like ransomware.

Only open email attachments that are from trusted senders.

Wrap Up

Ransomware attacks are on the increase, and no one is immune to the attacks. If it never happens to you, it is just a matter of time unless you have deployed the best safety measures. As highlighted above, ensure you have the best ransomware protection software on your computers, backup your data, and avoid opening suspicious email attachments.

Related Resources

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