CYBER SECURITY ENTHUSIAST

Ransomware is a type of malware (malicious software) that encrypts all data on a computer or mobile device, preventing the owner from accessing it. Following the infection, the victim receives a message informing him or her that a particular amount of money (typically in Bitcoins) must be paid in order to obtain the decryption key. There is usually a time restriction for paying the ransom. There is no assurance that the victim will get the decryption key if he or she pays the ransom.

Ransomware prevention refers to the combination of practices, products, and services used to avoid ransomware attacks.

Most Common Ransomware Infection Methods

Phishing

Phishing is a general phrase that refers to assaults where hackers try to get their hands on sensitive information (such as credit card numbers, usernames and passwords, and so on) from consumers.

Phishing is the practice of sending out hundreds or thousands of faked emails in the hopes that one of the recipients would open them and click on the link to the credential-stealing website in order to get personal information. A splash of sophistication is added to the scamming process with spear-phishing – no more blindly entering a system; instead, you hit, grab, and slide your way in.

Abuse of the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and Credentials

Since 2016, the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) has been identified as a method of infiltrating and attacking computers and networks. Malicious cyber actors, or hackers, have devised techniques of discovering and exploiting weak RDP connections via the Internet in order to steal identities and login credentials, as well as to install and execute ransomware assaults on a victim’s computer.

RDP is a network protocol that enables a person to operate a computer that is connected to the internet from a different location. The remote person sees everything that is shown on the computer screen they are operating, and their keyboard and mouse behave just like the ones that are physically connected to the distant machine. Authentication by username and password is required between the local and distant workstations in order for a remote desktop connection to be created between them. The connection between the devices may be compromised by cybercriminals, who can then inject malware or ransomware onto the remote system. Attacks using the RDP protocol do not need the input of the victim, making them difficult to detect.

Once a hacker has gained access to a system, he will often choose to take advantage of the system or sell the stolen RDP access credentials on the Dark Web.

The value of the credentials is determined by the location of the hacked system as well as the resources that the compromised system has access to. Data and money theft are two of the potential risks posed by someone gaining access to a machine on your network over RDP. It is possible to install and activate malware and ransomware, which would then send infected e-mails to your contacts, suppliers, and customers.

Vulnerabilities

MITRE defines zero-day vulnerabilities as a Common Vulnerability Exposure (CVE) in their vulnerability classification system (CVE). A vulnerability is a weakness that may be exploited by hackers to gain unauthorized access. A cyberattack that is effective in exploiting a vulnerability can run malicious code, install malware, and potentially steal important information from the victim’s computer. Some of the methods in which flaws may be exploited include SQL injection, buffer overflows, cross-site scripting (XSS), and the use of open-source exploit kits, which search online applications for reported vulnerabilities and security issues.

Numerous flaws have been discovered in widely used programs, placing a large number of users at risk of data loss or supply chain attack.

Best Practices for Preventing Ransomware Attacks

Foster a cybersecurity awareness culture

Train your employees to recognize malicious e-mails. A strange e-mail address, a hovering over redirecting to a strange website, grammar errors, the impersonal addressing could be signs of compromised e-mails. Invest in Security Awareness Training solutions, as employees can learn via phishing simulation to better deal with scam e-mails.

Check twice before you open links and attachments in your email

Malicious links are for sure very popular lure tools of social engineering tactics, being present in SPAM e-mails or messages. But you should never click on a link that seems dubious as the infection can happen in no time. One wrong click and ransomware payloads are deployed.

This applies to e-mail attachments too with malicious JavaScript files in the form of readme.txt.js for instance. Instead of immediately opening strange attachments, you should make some basic checks such as seeing who’s the sender and verifying the e-mail address. If you should enable a macro to see what’s inside it’s most probably a scam. That is why you should have always macros disabled as a prevention measure.

Only download files from trusted sources and if suspicious sent them to the IT Team to test them through sandboxing.

Security Training

Trying to minimize human error might be the most productive form of ransomware prevention. Inform all your employees about the possible ways a ransomware infection can happen and tell them to pay particular attention to phishing emails.

Keep software up to date

This might seem a very repetitive and trivial urge, but as simple as it might be, it is indeed the basic solution in terms of prevention. That’s because programs are not perfect and for this reason, security researchers are always improving them by releasing patches. So, organizations and individuals can only benefit from the latest patches by running updates all the time. A Patch Management Tool will set automatic patching deployment for you.

Apply the principle of least privilege

The principle of least privilege (POLP) is a core principle of zero-trust. Users are granted the minimum necessary access to applications or systems in order to successfully perform their tasks. Therefore, the limited access will make no one mistakenly or not tamper with files and other sensitive data.

Use a VPN on public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi is never secure. A hacker could, for instance, perform a Man-in-the-Middle Attack. Make sure you use a VPN to protect your actions while connected to public Wi-Fi.

Segment your network

Through network segmentation, the network is split into subnetworks, and thus you have different segments. This is useful particularly when we talk about lateral movement. If ransomware infects your systems, it would not be able to spread to other network parts if there is a delimitation. A solution of network traffic monitoring would be good too, as it goes hand in hand with networking segmentation.

Back-up and encrypt data

Back-up alone does not represent a viable option for organizations nowadays, since advanced ransomware exfiltrates the data and uses it as a double-extortion method. However, a backup should be put in place, if you manage it well. Otherwise, how would you restore your data if no decryption key is available? Information in the cloud should be stored encrypted and backups should be tested regularly for performance checks. An offline backup such as a hard drive could be useful. An immutable storage solution (WORM – Write-Once-Read-Many) will store your info in a bucket and lock it so it cannot be changed. You can also protect your backup with endpoint protection on your servers.

Assets Inventory

An IT asset “is any data, device, or another component of the environment that supports information-related activities. Assets generally include hardware (e.g. servers and switches), software (e.g. mission-critical applications and support systems), and confidential information”.

By making an inventory of your IT assets, you can identify the most vulnerable ones and think about how an attacker could infiltrate your network, which will offer you precious clues about how you can improve the prevention methods.

Use a multi-layered cybersecurity approach

Good cybersecurity protection is the key. Use reliable cybersecurity solutions that will safeguard your endpoints and network: a ransomware encryption protection tool, firewall, good antivirus, email securityDNS filterautomated software patchingPAM software, and the list can go on.

Cybersecurity Solutions to help you stay protected from Ransomware

Advanced Encryption Protection

Our Ransomware Encryption Protection solution is compatible with any Antivirus and can detect any encryption attempts without signatures or behavioral patterns. From its dashboard you will be able to view the full details of any malicious encryption incident; this includes time states, tree diagrams with process callbacks, PowerShell scrips, computed MD5 hash, enumeration of read\write operation performed during encryption attempts, command-line arguments, the signature of malicious process, owner, and many more.

Email Security

Heimdal Email Security is a spam filter and malware protection system which packs more email security vectors than any other platform. It can secure your business email agents against all types of spam emails, malicious attachments, email delivered malware and ransomware, phishing emails, malicious URLs, botnet attacks and email exploits.

Software Patching

It is of paramount importance to keep your software and systems updated. As my colleague, Ioana mentioned in one of her articles, “Two of the most devastating and serious cyber attacks examples we can think of were only possible because security updates weren’t installed in time. The Equifax data breach was caused by a security hole in the Apache Struts web application framework, which wasn’t updated. The WannaCry ransomware attack of <<unprecedented level>> also did a lot of damage, but mainly affected those computers that were unpatched and unprotected.”

We can help you with updates and patches too, since our Heimdal Patch & Asset Management solution will automatically install updates based on your configured policies, without the need for manual input. As soon as 3rd party vendors release new patches, our technology silently deploys them to your endpoints, without the need for reboots or user interruption.

Privileged Account Management

Ransomware encrypts the files that are accessible on the systems of particular users, if it doesn’t include code that allows it to elevate a user’s privilege (you can find examples of privileged accounts in one of my previous articles, Privileged Account Management 101: How Can Privileged Accounts Compromise Your Security).

Our Heimdal Privileged Access Management tool automates the hassle of granting admin rights for a limited time for every user who needs them, but also automatically de-escalates those rights on threat detection. A privileged access management tool it’s not only about managing user rights but also about the fast flow of software installs, about logs and audit trails, about achieving data protection compliance.

Unified Cybersecurity

All our cybersecurity solutions are unified into a single dashboard and agent to offer stellar endpoint protection, monitoring, and response to mitigate cyber threats. With this enhanced EDR software, you can benefit from DNS traffic filtering, smart threat hunting powered by machine learning behavioral detection, automated software patching, vulnerability management, software inventory, next-gen antivirus with a market-leading detection rate, and our privileged access management module for increased endpoint security and admin rights management.

Staying secure from ransomware is easier with the correct knowledge and habits, as well as a trustworthy portfolio of solutions. As always, Heimdal™ Security can help you with the latter. If you want to know more about which of our company products are best suited for your needs, don’t hesitate to contact us or book a demo.

When in doubt you can always check this anti-ransomware list and see if you are prepared for a potential ransomware attack.

 

How to Respond to a Ransomware Attack

All businesses should have an incident response plan in place and know it by heart. This will reduce considerably the time of response. Response time is a key factor in such incidents and a fast reaction can only be achieved by planning accordingly. In the event of a ransomware attack, your IT staff should know exactly what to do.

Isolate affected endpoints

If one or more of your endpoints got infected with ransomware, the first step is to disconnect it from the network to stop the spread.

Isolate or turn off susceptible devices that haven’t been entirely compromised. This may give you more time to clean and restore data, contain damage, and avoid things from getting worse.

Track down the attack

The most typical method for ransomware to infiltrate your system is via a malicious link or email attachment sent to your inbox.

You must track down the computer that was first infected and determine whether or not the user clicked any suspicious emails or noticed any unusual behaviour on their computer.

Identify the ransomware strain

The next step is the identification of the ransomware strain, so basically what kind of ransomware compromised your network.

If you need help with identifying what type of ransomware is affecting your system so that you know what decryption tools to use, one of the two options below can help you out:

CRYPTO SHERIFF FROM NO MORE RANSOM

ID RANSOMWARE FROM MALWAREHUNTER TEAM

Report the attack to authorities

Reach out to authorities as they specifically asked in the past to be informed whenever an attack occurs for statistics purposes and because ransomware is a crime, and when it comes to GDPR you could avoid receiving a fine.

Remove the malware

Remove the ransomware. How? If your computer is locked, then open it in Safe Mode and install an anti-malware solution in order to remove the ransomware.

Then use a ransomware decryption tool. Check those from NO MORE RANSOM or our article with a list of free decryption tools.

What is an important thing to keep in mind is: removing the malware does not automatically decrypt the files. So even if you removed the ransomware, files still remain encrypted so you will need to decrypt them with a certain tool or the decryption key.

Patch and update your security systems

Patch and update your security systems after the issue has been resolved you should perform a total security audit and update all systems. This may take some time and even perhaps money, but you should do it in order to make sure that your data is safe.

Recover your data

Restore the data from your backup and do not pay the ransom!

Typically, backup data includes all data required to execute the workloads on your server. Documents, media files, configuration files, machine images, operating systems, and registry files are all examples of this. Essentially, backup data may be maintained for any material that you want to preserve.

Utilize the 3-2-1 backup approach. This plan ensures that your data is appropriately copied and recoverable in a reliable manner. Three copies of your data are made on at least two separate storage mediums, with at least one copy saved remotely:

Three copies of data—included in your three copies are the original and two duplicates. This guarantees that a missing backup or damaged media does not jeopardize recovery.
Two distinct storage types—minimizes the chance of failures associated with a single storage media by using two distinct technologies. Internal and external hard drives, portable media, and cloud storage are all popular options.
One copy stored off-site—eliminates the danger of a single point of failure. Offsite backups are necessary for strong catastrophe and data backup recovery techniques since they enable failover during local outages.

Wrapping Up

Ransomware is one of the most common and most dangerous cyber threats of today, with possibly lethal consequences. Learning how to prevent it should be a top priority for any company interested in keeping its employees, clients, partners, assets, money, and business operations safe.

However, you choose to proceed, please remember that Heimdal™ Security always has your back and that our team is here to help you protect your home and your company and to create a cybersecurity culture to the benefit of anyone who wants to learn more about it.

In the fight against ransomware, Heimdal™ Security is offering its customers an outstanding integrated cybersecurity suite including the Ransomware Encryption Protection module, that is universally compatible with any antivirus solution, and is 100% signature-free, ensuring superior detection and remediation of any type of ransomware, whether fileless or file-based (including the most recent ones like LockFile).

Drop us a line below if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions regarding the topic of ransomware prevention – we are all ears and can’t wait to hear your opinion!

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Heimdal CyberSecurity & Threat Intelligence Report 2021

Ransomware Explained. What It Is and How It Works

Data Integrity: What It Means and How to Maintain It

Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) – The Rising Threat to Cybersecurity

A Closer Look at Ransomware Attacks: Why They Still Work

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