December 9, 2014

The Rise of Ransomware

By Steve Prentice

Ransomware

IT security company KnowBe4 has issued a warning regarding a new strain of ransomware called VirRansom, which “utilizes both ransomware and parasitic virus features,” according to a statement released Monday, Dec. 8 by CEO Stu Sjouwerman. As a self-replicating program, this particular strain has the potential to lock up a company’s entire system, demanding a BitCoin payment to free the files.

Ransomware is a brazen, yet effective approach to sabotaging a company’s operations by placing all of its files under an encryption key. The organizations behind its deployment often hide their identities within the anonymity of Tor, and demand payment in trackless virtual currency.

The ease by which a ransomware virus can spread has become a troubling problem for IT managers, given the complete interconnectedness of employees, through a variety of personal and company-issued devices as well as across a networks, both internal and cloud-based.

A recent story, covered by NPR, highlighted a company that was presented with a 72-hour countdown clock, which pointed to a deadline at which its files would be encrypted. The business in question was not large – not a typical target for hackers, but was one that found itself at the mercy of extortionists due to a simple human error: a phishing email that resembled a PayPal payment notification appeared in an employee inbox, and once clicked, activated the ransom note and timer.

VirRansom CEO Sjouwerman points out that these types of attacks are very difficult for antivirus companies to keep up with. Quoted in a story at CBS News online, he suggests companies take the following steps to protect themselves in advance:

1. Test the restore function of your backups and make sure it works, and have a full set of backups offsite.

2. Start thinking about asynchronous real-time backups so you can restore files with a few mouse clicks.

3. Get rid of mapped drives and use UNC (universal naming convention) links for shared folders.

4. Look into Whitelisting software that only allows known-good executables to run.

5. Update or enforce security policy best practices, such as thorough security awareness training to prevent these types of infections to begin with because the infection vector is your end-user opening up an attachment or clicking on a link.

Rahul Kashyap, a researcher at the cybersecurity firm Bromium, adds that the programs inside ransomware viruses are getting better at locating high-value files, explaining to NPR that there is greater value in finding autocad files, for example, than regular memos.

Experts are divided as to whether ransoms should be paid, some believing this merely funds more sophisticated crime tools. However all of them agree that the best defence is an offline reproduction of everything a company needs to operate – and that means completely offline.

By Steve Prentice

Steve Prentice

Steve Prentice is a project manager, writer, speaker and expert on productivity in the workplace, specifically the juncture where people and technology intersect. He is a senior writer for CloudTweaks.
Surya Kant Verma

Choosing the Right Cloud Platform: A Guide to Finding Secure, Cost-Efficient Solutions

Choosing the Right Cloud Platform Cloud computing has revolutionized how organizations work, offering an increased [...]
Read more
Chris Bray

Quantum Leap: How Post-Quantum Cryptography Will Dominate 2024 Boardroom

2024 Cybersecurity Predictions As we step into 2024, the technological landscape is poised for transformative [...]
Read more
Jennifer Nwokolo

8 Useful Tools For Risk Assessment and Management

Risk Assessment and Management Risks are inevitable in every business venture. Generally, most organizations aim [...]
Read more

Leading Data Virtualization Solutions: 10 Services Transforming Data Management

10 Services Transforming Data Management Data virtualization is a technology that allows for the integration [...]
Read more
Jeff DeVerter

Charting the Course: An Interview with Rackspace’s Jeff DeVerter on AI and Cloud Innovation

Rackspace’s Jeff DeVerter on AI & Cloud Innovation In an insightful conversation with CloudTweaks, Jeff [...]
Read more
Derek Pilling

Is My Data Architecture Multi-Cloud or Multiple Cloud?

Multi-Cloud or Multiple Cloud? In the post, What is Multi-Cloud?, we defined multi-cloud in the [...]
Read more

SPONSOR PARTNER

Explore top-tier education with exclusive savings on online courses from MIT, Oxford, and Harvard through our e-learning sponsor. Elevate your career with world-class knowledge. Start now!
© 2024 CloudTweaks. All rights reserved.