A virus that takes your critical data hostage with a key and only returns it for ransom, this is the principle of ransomware- a practice that is developing and targeting all types of businesses. What are the real risks for them, and what are the remedies?

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is malicious computer software that encrypts the data using a key, blocking access to all files and their contents. It is a type of malicious application used by cybercriminals. If a computer or network has been infected with ransomware, it blocks access to the system or figures its data. Cybercriminals demand ransom from their victims in exchange for their data. To protect against ransomware infection, it is recommended to be vigilant and use security software. Victims of these malware attacks have three options after infection: either pay the ransom or remove the malicious application or restart the device. Common attack vectors used by extortion Trojans include the Remote Desktop protocol, phishing emails, and software vulnerabilities. A ransomware attack can therefore target both individuals and businesses.

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Recognizing ransomware: a basic distinction is in order

Two types of ransomware are particularly popular:

Locker ransomware- This type of malicious application blocks the basic functions of the computer. For example, you may be denied access to the desktop while the mouse and keyboard are partially disabled. In this situation, you can continue to interact with the window containing the ransom note in order to complete the payment. Other than these features, the computer is unusable. However, we have good news: The malicious Locker app typically doesn’t target critical files; it just seeks to lock your computer. It is, therefore, unlikely that your data will be completely destroyed.

Crypto ransomware- The goal of Crypto ransomware is to encrypt your important data, such as documents, photos, and videos, but not to interfere with basic computer functions. This action creates panic because users can see their files but cannot access them. Crypto ransomware designers often add a countdown to their ransom note: “If you don’t pay the ransom by the deadline, all your files will be deleted.” However, given the number of users who are unaware of the need to perform backups to the cloud or to external physical storage devices, Crypto ransomware can have devastating effects. Hence, many victims pay the ransom for the sole purpose of getting their files back.

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How does an attack happen?

In most cases, the virus infiltrates a company’s computer network via a single computer, through attachments that can be downloaded in an e-mail and then spread to the computers of the company and other network users, going further to the company’s backup servers. Having encrypted all the data, the attacker orders a ransom (often by virtual currency to avoid any tracing) in exchange for a decryption key.

The first phase of the attack is that of the audit. During this phase, teams of hackers have already entered the network, but the company does not know it yet. They can stay there for months (it depends on the size of the company and the volume of data to be encrypted) to analyze all security systems and safeguards or “backups”, cross the security barriers in place, and turn them off. It’s not that ‘from the moment the user can no longer access his files and he finds the ransom message, he can know that it has been the subject of a ransomware attack and that its data has been encrypted.

Suppose it is not possible to know in advance who will be affected and when certain behavioral trends of hackers must be taken into account. While these attacks generally cannot be predicted, it should be noted that they occur regularly on weekends. They also often occur during the holiday season, when there is a potential absence of supervision. This leaves more time for the attacker to encrypt a larger volume of data, especially for large structures in which there is large field data to make it inaccessible.

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Let’s see how to decrypt ransomware and recover data

Decrypting ransomware, i.e. decrypting data locked by ransomware, is a vital issue for affected organizations, companies, administrations, or communities. Although ransomware attacks are an ever-evolving cybercrime, your organization can protect itself and respond to them.

1- Protect yourself and anticipate ransomware attacks

Best practices in digital security will help you to manage, or at best to anticipate the crises caused by the encryption of your data:

  • Regularly back up your data in cloud computing or on independent storage media (NAS servers, RAID systems, etc.);
  • Regularly update your operating systems, software (including antivirus software), web browsers, and plugins;
  • Avoid risky behavior: opening emails or attachments of dubious origin, visiting non-certified or risky websites, etc.

2- Have the right reflexes during a ransomware attack

The success of subsequent ransomware decryption/ransomware decryption operations will depend on your first reflexes:

  • Isolate the computer or system infected by the attack: cut off internet access, disconnect from the network, quarantine;
  • Take a screenshot of the ransom note message, which may contain information about the ransomware version;
  • Do not pay the ransom! This does not guarantee the recovery of your data and will encourage further ransomware attacks.

3- Decrypt files encrypted by a ransomware virus

Decrypting files encrypted by ransomware or ransomware requires identifying the latter to implement the appropriate procedures:

  • Try to trace the source of the attack: fraudulent email or infected attachment, website hacked by web exploit or malvertising, etc. ;
  • Collect any clue that identifies the ransomware: screenshots ( see above ), behavior, an extension of encrypted files, etc.;
  • Identify the ransomware and implement known procedures when they exist; you have several resources for this:

What to do if you have been affected by ransomware?

Avoid trying to decipher the affected data on your own. This could make future recovery attempts impossible. Contact a professional like Recoverysquad.com.au as soon as possible. The team of professionals has exclusive proprietary tools to recover data from a ransomware attack on all systems: virtual machines, backup files, magnetic tapes, and other storage media. With laboratories around the world, the experts are available 24/7 to assist you in any data loss situation.