The Rise of Ransomware

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

Move bot migration

MoveBot – New Data Transfer Platform

Data Transfer Platform Branded post by Movebot As cloud computing and storage continue to provide enhanced ROI to organizations, businesses are storing their data on the cloud– instead of on-premise servers. Storage migration is an ...
Marty

How cloud technologies improve innovation in the healthcare industry?

How cloud technologies improve innovation in the healthcare industry? The uptake of VPS hosting in the cloud within the heavily regulated healthcare industry has until recently been perceived as relatively slow. There is little doubt ...
Mark Rochester

Why Remote Migrations are Essential for Business Continuity

Remote Business Continuity We are approaching a banner year for the cloud. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of cloud technology to enable resilience and business continuity, and it will be a critical time ...
Employees Digital

A Winning Data Strategy Series Part 1: Off to a Faulty Start

A Winning Data Strategy Series This is the first piece of a 5-part series on plugging the obvious but overlooked gaps in achieving digital success through a refined data strategy. Everyone is aiming for stellar ...
Torsten

Five Ways to Secure Access to Web Workloads

Secure Access to Cloud Workloads Organizations are increasingly moving their workloads to the cloud to achieve greater agility, flexibility, and cost savings. That’s a major reason why worldwide spending on public cloud services and infrastructure ...
Martin Mendelsohn

The Growth of Third Party Risk Management (TPRM) Firms

Cybersecurity and the Continued Risks Back in the day, we played cops and robbers with sticks and plastic squirt guns.  Sometimes you were pursued, at other times you were the pursuer.  There wasn’t much more ...