Ransomware is a type of malware that demands to be paid a ransom by threatening to expose a person’s personal data or block access to it. This type of attack can cause a loss of important data, including business data as well as personal data, and it has been targeting individuals, businesses, and even governments for decades now. Due to its increasing threat, awareness of ransomware has increased, and people have tried to take action to prevent it.

As an increasing problem, it’s argued that more people should be made aware of this type of attack to keep data safe from ransomware.

Will you know if you have ransomware?

Usually, people will know straight away if they have ransomware. Ransomware cuts off any access to the affected device, encrypting the files. It’ll be easy to recognise this as ransomware because people won’t be able to open crucial data, whether this is work-related or personal.

So, how does an attack scenario usually work?

It’ll be useful to set out a scenario of what usually happens in a ransomware attack so that people will know what they’re up against. Firstly, as mentioned above, the ransomware will encrypt your files – this will change the files, meaning you’ll only be able to access them properly again when you change them back to their original structure and state by decrypting them. As this often isn’t simple to do, the ransomware criminal demands payment to carry out this action.

When the type of malware has completed the encryption, the victim will receive a ransom note on screen, telling them what the payment will be (usually in Bitcoin) to carry out the decryption. It will instruct on how to transfer the ransom money, and it will give a deadline to do so. If victims don’t make a payment before the deadline, the cybercriminal may delete the important data and files, or else increase the ransom.

How does a ransomware attack work?

By this point, you may be wondering how ransomware attackers actually carry out this criminal action. There are different ways to execute this type of attack, with some intercepting a device without any action on the victim’s part, whilst others rely on different, more traditional methods.

Social engineering is one of the most common ways that cyber criminals work around any attack – and ransomware is no different. Using more traditional methods in tricking and manipulating their victims, attackers can often fool people in this way to get them to download ransomware from an attachment.

This leads us to a method called phishing. The cyber attacker will create a trustworthy persona, sending a legitimate-looking link or attachment in an email. These types of attachments usually have file extensions to make them look like legitimate PDFs or documents. When the file is downloaded and opened, the attack will be in place.

Drive-by downloads are another common method of a ransomware attack, with malware being put onto specific websites. Once someone visits that website, it downloads the malware onto their computer or whatever device they’re using at the time.

Next, people should be on the lookout for exploit kits. Exploit kits are developed by cyber attackers, containing a code that can take advantage of weaknesses in devices. This can affect devices connected to networks running out of date software, so it might be worth keeping all your devices up to date to prevent these types of ransomware attacks.

Malicious advertising can also be a way to lure people into being attacked by ransomware. People will download ransomware onto their device by clicking on an advert that has malware on it. Therefore, people should avoid clicking on internet advertisements, especially as attackers can place these types of adverts onto many different websites.

The increase in ransomware attacks

After learning a little more about ransomware attacks, it may be slightly worrying that these types of attacks are on the rise, especially as we are becoming reliant on the online world in this modern age. Adding to the pressure of the global pandemic crisis, companies are becoming threatened by ransomware. They could lose important business functions at an untimely crisis period. Data leaking also adds many pressures – companies want to avoid their capability to protect employee and customer data being questioned, meaning that this type of cyberattack could be devastating for a lot of businesses.

This worrying increase in ransomware and the difficulties that go with it in dealing with the attacks projects the need for something to be done to target this problem. Companies can develop incident response plans to ransomware, educating employees on looking out for these kinds of breaches so that more harmful downloads can be avoided. Free software tools to reduce ransomware can also be used, minimising the negative impact on businesses and the risks that go with it.

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