As we discussed in our previous blog “What is Ransomware”, let us look into the anatomy of ransomware attacks today.
Ransomware attacks have been very high in all fields, and many have lost so much of money. In this section, different stages of ransomware attacks are explained. There are five stages of attacks in general, they are
This is the first stage where the ransomware infiltrates the system. This is how cybercriminals will use their endeavors to take advantage of an environment. There are many ways the hacker may utilize this method, like setting up malicious websites, phishing mail, exploits on web servers, etc. In general, the most used method by hackers is a phishing email. The victim may download the contents or go to the email’s link, and the malware will easily enter the system. The number of users the organization has, as many exploits the hacker can use. Even if one user downloads the malware, it can affect the organization’s entire security.
The malware will be successfully downloaded into the system in the second stage. We can consider this the official stage where the ransomware attack has successfully gotten hold of our systems. The malware downloaded may also open back door communication with the hacker. Which, in turn, helps the hacker to install more malware. This may continue for weeks or months, without anyone knowing till the hacker decides to attack.
In this stage, the hacker will initiate the attack remotely. The already downloaded ransomware had infected many systems will start scanning across the systems to find the confidential data. It can also look for files stored in the cloud or any other backups as the hacker will not allow the victim to restore the data easily. The attacker usually will select the time when the company is less guarded and initiate the attack. Once the attack is started, then everything is racing against time. If specific plans are already devised and implemented, the attack may be mitigated in time. If not, the loss of money and the organization’s reputation will be huge.
After the data scanning is done, the encryption of the data will begin. Different ransomware strains use different encryption algorithms to encrypt data successfully. The data may be the boot files, some classified pieces of information, or the whole machine itself. When the local data files are taken care of, the cloud data will also be encrypted. The simpler way is to download the data to the local network, encrypt the data, and then upload the encrypted data to the cloud by replacing the existing data file. This is done mainly to prevent the backup from recovering the encrypted data. Decrypting the data is a difficult task unless the organization has high lever specialists in that field.
At this stage, you are a victim of a ransomware attack. The attacker would have sent a ransom note which explains the condition to decrypt the data file. In recent times the ransom demanded is in some cryptocurrency. Some hackers will delete a portion of data or corrupt the data if the time taken for ransom is not delivered exactly on time. If the organization cannot decrypt the data without crashing the file or there are no other backups available, the only option left is to pay the ransom. It is the loss of money and the loss of reputation, as this kind of attack exposes the organization is vulnerable to attacks easily.
After the attack, the malware will be identified and eliminated by the system. But it is highly recommended to check the infected systems to identify any malware that is still hidden. There are also possibilities that hackers may not decrypt the data after the ransom is paid. Having a better cybersecurity team in an organization and equipped them with knowledge and technology can prevent ransomware attacks.
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