The Anatomy of a Ransomware Attack

Ransomware attacks are a serious threat to data security, and can cause significant damage to organizations. They are a type of cyber attack in which an attacker gains access to a victim’s computer or network, encrypts the victim’s files or data, and then demands payment, usually in the form of cryptocurrency, in exchange for the decryption key.

Cyber attackers that breach IT networks and databases of organisations often use ransomware, a sort of virus assault, to demand payment in exchange for access to the data they have stolen. These attacks, which first appeared as lone cyberthreat actors in the early days of the digital transformation era, have since developed into a widespread and indiscriminate Ransomware as a Service (RaaS) model that may target businesses in a variety of industries.

Attacks on facilities that store vital personal data, such as hospitals and healthcare facilities, frequently involve this cyberthreat. By taking advantage of access security flaws, cybercriminals aim to make as much money as possible from their cybercrime. They do this by capitalising on the assumption that a ransomware assault may steal vast amounts of data from these firms.

The information in Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report is effective in illuminating the considerable lengths that ransomware criminals have recently gone to. The report claims that there have been 13% more ransomware assaults this year than there were last. This rise is nearly equal to the sum of the previous five years. Additionally, ransomware assaults account for around 70% of malware-related data breaches.

Ransomware Attack Stages

Ransomware attack stages

1. Campaign

It describes how a cyberattacker launches a ransomware campaign. These techniques include remote web server attacks, website weaponization, and malicious emails. One of the most popular techniques is the use of fraudulent emails, which has evolved into a systematic social engineering campaign. With this technique, the attacker coerces victims into unintentionally downloading dangerous software.

2. Infection

At this point, the targeted IT network begins to experience the spread of the malicious code or code block that the cyber attacker has prepared. The malware propagates throughout the IT network, but if it is discovered and the required steps are quickly followed, there may be a chance to recover the credentials.

3. Staging

By making modest adjustments to the established cyber attack vector, the attacker tries to integrate the ransomware into the system he is breaking into during the staging step. In contrast to the infection stage, the ransomware and C2 server communicate during the staging phase, protecting the encryption key.

4. Scanning

As the ransomware begins searching the IT network for files to encrypt, it starts to encrypt those files. It is crucial for the cyber attacker to succeed at this point. Because the path an attacker can travel after scanning is determined by the permission levels and allowed access definitions in your system.

5. Encryption

The process of encryption is started after the scanning is finished. Within seconds, local data on your IT network are encrypted by ransomware, which subsequently spreads to shared network files and the cloud. The network copies and encrypts data. In order to replace the original files on the network, the duplicated and encrypted data is then once more uploaded.

6. Remuneration

Once the hacker has obtained crucial data, he sends ransom notes to the accounts of network users outlining the terms of the payment. Attackers will occasionally set a timer, and the ransom will rise over time. For their victims to debate the payment arrangements, hackers would occasionally even provide a customer service number. Even if you use the payment mechanism to pay the ransom, there is no assurance that the data will be recovered.

Approach for Ransomware Attack

  1. Disconnect from the network: To stop ransomware from infecting more devices, disconnect from the network as soon as you think that your computer or network has been compromised.
  2. Determine the attack’s scope: Make an effort to ascertain the extent of the ransomware attack. What systems or files have been impacted? Is it limited to one area or widespread? This will assist you in planning your answer and comprehending the scope of the issue.
  3. Identify the type of ransomware: Determine the sort of ransomware you are dealing with. By doing this, you can better comprehend its possible effects and decide what course of action to take. Some ransomware can be cracked, but not all of it.
  4. Do not pay the ransom: Paying the ransom is not advised because there is no assurance that you will be able to access your files or that the attackers won’t demand additional payments.
  5. Inform Law Enforcement Agency: Make a call to your neighborhood police department to report the attack. They might be able to offer suggestions on how to handle the circumstance.
  6. Restore from backup: After eradicating the ransomware, if you have a backup of your data, you should restore your files from that backup.
  7. Seek professional help: Consider hiring a security company that specialises in ransomware recovery to help with the cleanup and recovery process if you need professional assistance.
  8. Educate yourself and take preventative measures: Take proactive steps to establish security measures including frequent software upgrades, strong passwords, and security software. Train yourself and your staff on how to recognise and avoid ransomware attacks in the future.

Defensive Measures Against Ransomware Attacks

1. Restrict privileged access

Based on the zero trust principle, create the privileged access mechanism. Reduce the number of members in the domain administrator group and regulate their IT network usage.

2. Protect privileged accounts

Privileged accounts are the most critical component of your protection against ransomware assaults. You can guarantee a high level of protection for privileged account credentials by utilising privileged access management (PAM) solutions with sophisticated password protection and auditing components.

3. Secure Active Directory

Delete domains with suspect security, even if companies deem them to be such. To guarantee that necessary domain actions are carried out in compliance with cyber security rules, establish a sophisticated auditing framework.

4. Eliminate lateral movement paths

By segmenting the SMB, RPC, and RDP networks, lateral movement channels can be removed.

5. Prevent phishing threats

Create a system that can identify and stop phishing emails before they reach users. Your work will be made easier if you use sophisticated email security software that can identify such emails.

6. Use patch management

Implement a patch management solution to prioritise the patches that are vulnerable to assaults on your IT network.