Ransomware Services

Ransomware Attack: Threats, and Countermeasures

When you combine cryptography with malware, you get a very dangerous mix of problems. This is a type of computer virus that goes by another name, “ransomware”. This type of virus is part of a field of study called “cryptovirology”. Through the use of techniques called phishing, a threat actor sends the ransomware file to an unknowing victim. If the file is opened it will execute the virus payload, which is malicious code. The ransomware runs the code that encrypts user data on the infected computer or host. The data are user files like documents, spreadsheets, photos, multimedia files and even confidential records. The ransomware targets your personal computer files and applies an encryption algorithm like RSA which makes the file inaccessible. The only way to access them is if the user pays a ransom to the threat actor by following instructions which appear encoded into the encrypted files. Thus it is called ransomware, because a form of payment is demanded in order to fix the problem.

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Once they have all publicly available email addresses, the fun starts. The more of your email addresses that are floating out there, the bigger your attack footprint is, and the higher the risk is. It’s often a surprise how many addresses are actually out there. Now they can send all employees an email supposedly coming from Accounting, Human Resources, the CEO or perhaps the mail room, and social engineer your users to click on a link. almost 90 percent of attack are done via the internet, based on the new software model, and yes the bad guys are also moving to the cloud. Software is shifting away from locally-installed apps to Software as a Service web applications that run in the cloud. Criminals are cashing in on this trend, which has led to the creation of Ransomware as a Service (RaaS), a growing threat to business.

RaaS refers to various online malware exploits that bad actors can use to attack the IT assets of businesses and individuals. These attack programs are created by criminal entrepreneurs who sell their services to other criminals. The people who buy these programs then extort or blackmail their victims by holding computer systems to ransom.

How does Ransomware spread?

Ransomware is typically spread through phishing emails that contain malicious attachments. These emails appear to come from a legitimate source and give a compelling reason that the document is important. Malicious attachments are often PDF,  ZIP, DOC, XLS, PPT files that appear as invoices, legitimate business documents, or other work-related files.  In some cases, Ransonware may end up on your computer by visiting infected web sites. To avoid malicious drive-by downloads, ensure that antivirus and all installed software is up-to-date.

How to Mitigate the Risk of Ransomware Infections

These recommendations are not comprehensive but provide general best practices.

Securing Networks and Systems

  • Have an incident response plan that includes what to do during a ransomware event.

  • Backups are critical. Use a backup system that allows multiple iterations of the backups to be saved, in case a copy of the backups includes encrypted or infected files. Routinely test backups for data integrity and to ensure it is operational.

  • Use antivirus and anti-spam solutions. Enable regular system and network scans with antivirus programs enabled to automatically update signatures. Implement an anti-spam solution to stop phishing emails from reaching the network. Consider adding a warning banner to all emails from external sources that reminds users of the dangers of clicking on links and opening attachments.

  • Disable macros scripts. Consider using Office Viewer software to open Microsoft Office files transmitted via e-mail instead of full office suite applications.

  • Keep all systems patched, including all hardware, including mobile devices, operating systems, software, and applications, including cloud locations and content management systems (CMS), patched and up-to-date. Use a centralized patch management system if possible. Implement application white-listing and software restriction policies (SRP) to prevent the execution of programs in common ransomware locations, such as temporary folders.

  • Restrict Internet access. Use a proxy server for Internet access and consider ad-blocking software. Restrict access to common ransomware entry points, such as personal email accounts and social networking websites.

  • Apply the principles of least privilege and network segmentation. Categorize and separate data based on organizational value and where possible, implement virtual environments and the physical and logical separation of networks and data. Apply the principle of least privilege.

  • Vet and monitor third parties that have remote access to the organization’s network and/or your connections to third parties, to ensure they are diligent with cybersecurity best practices.

  • Participate in cybersecurity information sharing programs and organizations, such as MS-ISAC and InfraGard.

Securing the End User

  • Provide social engineering and phishing training to employees. Urge them not to open suspicious emails, not to click on links or open attachments contained in such emails, and to be cautious before visiting unknown websites.

  • Remind users to close their browser when not in use.

  • Have a reporting plan that ensures staff knows where and how to report suspicious activity.

Responding to a Compromise/Attack

  • Immediately disconnect the infected system from the network to prevent infection propagation.

  • Call CyberSecOp.com Ransomware Response Team: They provide remediation and bitcoin payment services.

  • Determine the affected data as some sensitive data, such as electronic protected health information (ePHI) may require additional reporting and/or mitigation measures.

  • Determine if a decryptor is available. Online resources such as No More Ransom! can help.

  • Restore files from regularly maintained backups.

  • Report the infection. It is highly recommended that SLTT government agencies report ransomware incidents to MS-ISAC. Other sectors and home users may report to infections to local Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) field offices or to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Ransomware Checker & Removal Tools

Are Users Your Weakest Link - To Your Cybersecurity Posture

Humans remain the weak link in corporate data protection

Humans remain the weak link in corporate data protection, but you might be surprised that it isn't only rank-and-file employees duped by phishing scams who pose risks. Some companies are lulled into a false sense of cybersecurity by vendors. You read that right, Some enterprises believe the shiny new technologies they've acquired will protect them from anything.

As we continue to build defense in depth and deploy security appliances utilizing AI and other emerging technologies, attackers will continue to pivot to the perennial weak spot: the users. Recently I hosted the Social Engineering Capture The Flag competition at Hackfest in Quebec, and similar to last year, the results were sobering. Every single targeted company had employees that gave detailed information over the phone on their OS and service pack level, and 88 percent gave detailed information on the browser they were using. Three quarters went to a URL that they were given over the phone. The information that the companies bled was disheartening but not shocking. Until we train employees to trust their instincts and tell them it's okay to say no to a customer, things won't change. In the current environment where companies ask their customers to leave a positive review online, employees increasingly feel less empowered to terminate a call they feel is suspicious. Your friendly neighborhood hacker is happy to exploit this weakness.

Billions being send on security tools

The threat of cyber crime has created a significant increase in interest on the topic of cyber security, with organizations spending billions of dollars to protect themselves against a fast evolving array of current and potential future threats. Many spend heavily on monitoring, surveillance and software; however, they often neglect the risk exposure created by their own people – and, in this digital age, by their customers.

Businesses are losing the fight, pay ransom, or lose their lively hood

Businesses are forced to make exceedingly difficult decisions. On one hand, it feels wrong to negotiate with the cybercriminals and give them what they want. On the other hand, the looming financial hit and business interruption is typically far more detrimental than the payoff amount. If business owners don’t engage with the ransomers, they face the prospect that they, and their employees, may lose their livelihood. I see ransomware as a continuing cyber threat in 2019 and beyond. It’s up to business owners to implement the best security practices and ensure that their employees are properly trained to identify and avoid potential threats.

MSSP Cybersecurity & Managed Detection and Response

MSSP Cybersecurity & Managed Detection and Response

Managed detection and response enables a proactive approach to security with its ability to detect and fully analyze threats and promptly respond to incidents.  CyberSecOp Threat intelligence is one of the key aspects our security consultants used to help organizations make decisions on how to combat threats. Through managed detection and response, organizations can take advantage of the threat intelligence capabilities of security experts.

How Managed Detection and Response Provides Effective Threat Intelligence

  • Capture full visibility across your entire IT environment

  • Detect the most advanced threats (known and unknown) designed to bypass your traditional perimeter security controls, even when no malware is used

  • Expose threat actors currently hiding in your environment

  • Gain 24x7 monitoring by an advanced team of security experts that are specially trained to analyze advanced threats, determine the severity of any incidents and provide actionable guidance to remediate

  • Quickly elevate the alerts that matter most so you can focus limited resources where it matters most

Managed Detection and Response Service

Managed Detection and Response (MDR) is an all-encompassing cybersecurity service used to detect and respond to cyber-attacks. Using the best of signature, behavioral and anomaly detection capabilities, along with forensic investigation tools and threat intelligence, human analysts hunt, investigate and respond to known and unknown cyber threats in real time 24x7x365. Get Managed Detection and Response Services for your business www.cybersecop.com.

Ransomware Cyberattack - 92% of MSSPs Expect Ongoing Attacks

Ransomware is the leading cyberattack experienced by small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), according to a survey of more than 2,400 managed service providers (MSSPs) conducted by data protection company Datto.

Datto’s State of the Channel Ransomware Report provides unique visibility into the ransomware epidemic from the perspective of the IT Channel and the SMB clients who are dealing with these infections on a daily basis. The report provides a wealth of detail on ransomware, including year-over-year trends, frequency, targets, impact, and recommendations for ensuring recovery and continuity in the face of the growing threat.

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Key findings from Datto’s “State of the Channel Ransomware Report” included:

  • 79 percent of MSSPs reported ransomware attacks against customers.

  • 85 percent indicated that victims had antivirus software installed, 65 percent reported victims had email/spam filters installed and 29 percent reported victims used pop-up blockers.

  • 89 percent are “highly concerned” about ransomware attacks.

  • 92 percent predict the number of ransomware attacks will continue at current, or worse, rates.

  • MSPs ranked phishing emails as the top ransomware delivery method, followed by malicious websites, web ads and clickbait.

  • The average requested ransom for SMBs is roughly $4,300, while the average cost of downtime related to such an attack is approximately $46,800.

  • The number of MSPs reporting OS/iOS attacks increased by nearly 500 percent year over year in the first six months of 2018.

No single solution is guaranteed to prevent such attacks, Datto indicated. Conversely, SMBs require a multilayered approach to identify and stop ransomware attacks before they cause brand reputation damage, revenue loss and other problems.

How Can SMBs Address Ransomware Attacks?

CyberSecop offered the following recommendations to help SMBs safeguard their data and assets against such attacks:

  • Leverage business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) technologyBCDR technology won’t stop ransomware attacks; instead, it helps an SMB determine how to limit downtime and maintain operations despite a ransomware attack.

  • Provide cybersecurity training. By offering regular and mandatory cybersecurity training, an SMB can ensure all of its employees can identify and avoid potential phishing scams that otherwise lead to such an attack.

  • Employ a dedicated cybersecurity professional. It may be difficult for an SMB to hire a full-time cybersecurity professional. Fortunately, working with an MSSP allows an SMB to receive cybersecurity monitoring and other security services.

Ransomware Business Impacts, Ransomware Business Cost

Projecting the overall cost of a ransomware attack can be tricky for security executives considering the many factors that can come into play when responding to and recovering from one. Information from numerous previous incidents show the costs go well beyond any demanded ransom amount and the costs associated with cleaning infected systems.

Ransomware is defined as a form of malicious software that is designed to restrict users from accessing their computers or files stored on computers till they pay a ransom to cybercriminals. Ransomware typically operates via the crypto virology mechanism, using symmetric as well as asymmetric encryption to prevent users from performing managed file transfer or accessing particular files or directories. Cybercriminals use ransomware to lock files from being used assuming that those files have extremely crucial information stored in them and the users are compelled to pay the ransom in order to regain access.

Ransomware History

It’s been said that Ransomware was introduced as an AIDS Trojan in 1989 when Harvard-educated biologist Joseph L. Popp sent 20,000 compromised diskettes named “AIDS Information – Introductory Diskettes” to attendees of the internal AIDS conference organized by the World Health Organization. The Trojan worked by encrypting the file names on the customers’ computer and hiding directories. The victims were asked to pay $189 to PC Cyborg Corp. at a mailbox in Panama.

From 2006 and on, cybercriminals have become more active and started using asymmetric RSA encryption. They launched the Archiveus Trojan that encrypted the files of the My Documents directory. Victims were promised access to the 30-digit password only if they decided to purchase from an online pharmacy.

After 2012, ransomware started spreading worldwide, infecting systems and transforming into more sophisticated forms to promote easier attack delivery as the years rolled by. In Q3, about 60,000 new ransomware was discovered, which doubled to over 200,000 in Q3 of 2012.

The first version of CryptoLocker appeared in September 2013 and the first copycat software called Locker was introduced in December of that year.

Ransomware has been creatively defined by the U.S. Department of Justice as a new model of cybercrime with a potential to cause impacts on a global scale. Stats indicate that the use of ransomware is on a steady rise and according to Veeam, businesses had to pay $11.7 on average in 2017 due to ransomware attacks. Alarmingly, the annual ransomware-induced costs, including the ransom and the damages caused by ransomware attacks, are most likely to shoot beyond $11.5 billion by 2019.


Ransomware Business Impacts Can Be Worrisome

Ransomware can cause tremendous impacts that can disrupt business operations and lead to data loss. The impacts of ransomware attacks include:

  • Loss or destruction of crucial information

  • Business downtime

  • Productivity loss

  • Business disruption in the post-attack period

  • Damage of hostage systems, data, and files

  • Loss of reputation of the victimized company

You will be surprised to know that apart from the ransom, the cost of downtime due to restricted system access can bring major consequences. As a matter of fact, losses due to downtime may cost tens of thousands of dollars daily.

As ransomware continues to become more and more widespread, companies will need to revise their annual cybersecurity goals and focus on the appropriate implementation of ransomware resilience and recovery plans and commit adequate funds for cybersecurity resources in their IT budgets.

Consider the following examples. The Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) in Buffalo, NY, last July estimated it spent $10 million responding to an attack involving a $30,000 ransom demand. About half the amount went toward IT services, software, and other recovery-related costs. The other half stemmed from staff overtime, costs related to lost revenues, and other indirect costs. ECMC officials estimated the medical center would need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars more on upgrading technology and employee awareness training.

Public records show that the City of Atlanta spent almost $5 million just in procuring emergency IT services following a March 2018 ransomware attack that crippled essential city services for days. The costs included those associated with third-party incident response services, crisis communication, augmenting support staff and subject matter expert consulting services.

In Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper had to set aside $2 million from the state disaster emergency fund after ransomware infected some 2,000 Windows systems at CDOT, the state department of transportation, this February. In less than eight weeks, CDOT officials spent more than half that amount just returning systems to normal from the attack.

Not surprisingly, industry estimates relating to ransomware damages have soared recently. Cybersecurity Ventures, which pegged ransomware costs at $325 million in 2015, last year estimated damages at $5 billion in 2017 and predicted it would exceed $11.5 billion in 2019.

For security executives trying to prepare a total ransomware cost estimate, the key is not to get fixated on the ransom amount itself. Even if you end up paying it to recover your data—something that most security analysts advocate against—the actual costs of the attack in most cases will end up being greater.


FBI: Protecting Your Networks from Ransomware

Protecting Your Networks from Ransomware

Ransomware is the fastest growing malware threat, targeting users of all types—from the home user to the corporate network. On average, more than 4,000 ransomware attacks have occurred daily since January 1, 2016. This is a 300-percent increase over the approximately 1,000 attacks per day seen in 2015. There are very effective prevention and response actions that can significantly mitigate the risk posed to your organization.

Ransomware targets home users, businesses, and government networks and can lead to temporary or permanent loss of sensitive or proprietary information, disruption to regular operations, financial losses incurred to restore systems and files, and potential harm to an organization’s reputation. 

 Ransomware may direct a user to click on a link to pay a ransom; however, the link may be malicious and could lead to additional malware infections. Some ransomware variants display intimidating messages, such as: 

 “Your computer was used to visit websites with illegal content. To unlock your computer, you must pay a $100 fine.”

 “You only have 96 hours to submit the payment. If you do not send money within provided time, all your files will be permanently encrypted and no one will be able to recover them.”

 What is Ransomware”

Ransomware is a form of malware that targets your critical data and systems for the purpose of extortion. Ransomware is frequently

delivered through spearphishing emails. After the user has been locked out of the data or system, the cyber actor demands a ransom payment. After receiving payment, the cyber actor will purportedly provide an avenue to the victim to regain access to the system or data. Recent iterations target enterprise end users, making awareness and training a critical preventive measure.

             

Protecting Your Networks

Educate Your Personnel

Attackers often enter the organization by tricking a user to disclose a password or click on a virus-laden email attachment. Remind employees to never click unsolicited links or open unsolicited attachments in emails. To improve workforce awareness, the internal security team may test the training of an organization’s workforce with simulated phishing emails. For additional information on Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks.

 Ransomware Proactive Prevention is the Best Defense

Prevention is the most effective defense against ransomware and it is critical to take precautions for protection. Infections can be devastating to an individual or organization, and recovery may be a difficult process requiring the services of a reputable data recovery specialist.

The U.S. Government (USG) recommends that users and administrators take the following preventive measures to protect their computer networks from falling victim to a ransomware infection:

Ransomware Preventive Measures

• Implement an awareness and training program. Because end users are targets, employees and individuals should be aware of the threat of ransomware and how it is delivered.

• Enable strong spam filters to prevent phishing emails from reaching the end users and authenticate inbound email using technologies like Sender Policy Framework (SPF), Domain Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance (DMARC), and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) to prevent email spoofing.

• Scan all incoming and outgoing emails to detect threats and filter executable files from reaching end users.

• Configure firewalls to block access to known malicious IP addresses.

• Patch operating systems, software, and firmware on devices. Consider using a centralized patch management system.

• Set anti-virus and anti-malware programs to conduct regular scans automatically.

• Manage the use of privileged accounts based on the principle of least privilege: no users should be assigned administrative access unless absolutely needed; and those with a need for administrator accounts should only use them when necessary.

• Configure access controls—including file, directory, and network share permissions— with least privilege in mind. If a user only needs to read specific files, the user should not have write access to those files, directories, or shares.

• Disable macro scripts from office files transmitted via email. Consider using Office Viewer software to open Microsoft Office files transmitted via email instead of full office suite applications.

• Implement Software Restriction Policies (SRP) or other controls to prevent programs from executing from common ransomware locations, such as temporary folders supporting popular Internet browsers or compression/decompression programs, including the AppData/LocalAppData folder.

• Consider disabling Remote Desktop protocol (RDP) if it is not being used.

• Use application whitelisting, which only allows systems to execute programs known and permitted by security policy.

• Execute operating system environments or specific programs in a virtualized environment.

• Categorize data based on organizational value and implement physical and logical separation of networks and data for different organizational units. Business Continuity Considerations

• Back up data regularly. Verify the integrity of those backups and test the restoration process to ensure it is working.

• Conduct an annual penetration test and vulnerability assessment.

• Secure your backups. Ensure backups are not connected permanently to the computers and networks they are backing up. Examples are securing backups in the cloud or physically storing backups offline. Some instances of ransomware have the capability to lock cloud-based backups when systems continuously back up in real time, also known as persistent synchronization. Backups are critical in ransomware recovery and response; if you are infected, a backup may be the best way to recover your critical data.

What to Do If Infected with Ransomware

Should preventive measures fail, the USG recommends that organizations consider taking the following steps upon an infection with ransomware:

• Isolate the infected computer immediately. Infected systems should be removed from the network as soon as possible to prevent ransomware from attacking network or share drives.

• Isolate or power-off affected devices that have not yet been completely corrupted. This may afford more time to clean and recover data, contain damage, and prevent worsening conditions.

• Immediately secure backup data or systems by taking them offline. Ensure backups are free of malware.

• Contact law enforcement immediately. We strongly encourage you to contact a local field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or U.S. Secret Service immediately upon discovery to report a ransomware event and request assistance.

• If available, collect and secure partial portions of the ransomed data that might exist.

• If possible, change all online account passwords and network passwords after removing the system from the network. Furthermore, change all system passwords once the malware is removed from the system.

• Delete Registry values and files to stop the program from loading.

Implement your security incident response and business continuity plan. Ideally, organizations will ensure they have appropriate backups, so their response to an attack will simply be to restore the data from a known clean backup. Having a data backup can eliminate the need to pay a ransom to recover data.

There are serious risks to consider before paying the ransom. USG does not encourage paying a ransom to criminal actors. However, after systems have been compromised, whether to pay a ransom is a serious decision, requiring the evaluation of all options to protect shareholders, employees, and customers. Victims will want to evaluate the technical feasibility, timeliness, and cost of restarting systems from backup. Ransomware victims may also wish to consider the following factors:

• Paying a ransom does not guarantee an organization will regain access to their data; in fact, some individuals or organizations were never provided with decryption keys after paying a ransom.

• Some victims who paid the demand were targeted again by cyber actors.

• After paying the originally demanded ransom, some victims were asked to pay more to get the promised decryption key.

• Paying could inadvertently encourage this criminal business model.

How Law Enforcement Can Help

Any entity infected with ransomware should contact law enforcement immediately. Law enforcement may be able to use legal authorities and tools that are unavailable to most organizations. Law enforcement can enlist the assistance of international law enforcement partners to locate the stolen or encrypted data or identify the perpetrator. These tools and relationships can greatly increase the odds of successfully apprehending the criminal, thereby preventing future losses.

Federal law enforcement places a priority on conducting cyber investigations in a manner that causes minor disruption to a victim entity’s normal operations and seeks to work cooperatively and discreetly with that entity. Federal law enforcement uses investigative measures that avoid unnecessary downtime or displacement of a company’s employees. Federal law enforcement closely coordinates its activities with the affected organization to avoid unwarranted disclosure of information.

As an affected entity recovers from a cybersecurity incident, the entity should initiate measures to prevent similar incidents. Law enforcement agencies and the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center can assist organizations in implementing countermeasures and provide information and best practices for avoiding similar incidents in the future. Additionally, the affected organization should conduct a post-incident review of their response to the incident and assess the strengths and weaknesses of its incident response plan.

Ransomware Variants

Ransomware is a growing criminal activity involving numerous variants. Since 2012 when police locker ransomware variants first emerged, ransomware variants have become more sophisticated and destructive. Some variants encrypt not just the files on the infected device, but also the contents of shared or networked drives, externally attached storage media devices, and cloud storage services that are mapped to infected computers. These variants are considered destructive because they encrypt users’ and organizations’ files, and render those files useless until a ransom is paid.

Recent federal investigations by the FBI reveal that ransomware authors continue to improve ransomware code by using anonymizing services like “Tor ” for end-to-end communication to infected systems and Bitcoin virtual currency to collect ransom payments. Currently, the top five ransomware variants targeting U.S. companies and individuals are CryptoWall, CTBLocker, TeslaCrypt, MSIL/Samas, and Locky. New ransomware variants are continually emerging.

CryptoWall

CryptoWall and its variants have been actively used to target U.S. victims since April 2014.

CryptoWall was the first ransomware variant that only accepted ransom payments in Bitcoin.

The ransom amounts associated with CryptoWall are typically between $200 and $10,000. Following the takedown of the CryptoLocker botnet, CryptoWall has become the most successful ransomware variant with victims all over the world. Between April 2014 and June 2015, IC3 received 992 CryptoWall-related complaints, with victims reporting losses totaling over $18 million. CryptoWall is primarily spread via spam email but also infects victims through drive-by downloads and malvertising .

CTB-Locker

CTB-Locker emerged in June 2014 and is one of the first ransomware variants to use Tor for its C2 infrastructure. CTB-Locker uses Tor exclusively for its C2 servers and only connects to the C2 after encrypting victims’ files. Additionally, unlike other ransomware variants that utilize the Tor network for some communication, the Tor components are embedded in the CTBLocker malware, making it more efficient and harder to detect. CTB-Locker is spread through drive-by downloads and spam emails.

TeslaCrypt

TeslaCrypt emerged in February 2015, initially targeting the video game community by encrypting gaming files. These files were targeted in addition to the files typically targeted by ransomware (documents, images, and database files). Once the data was encrypted, TeslaCrypt attempted to delete all Shadow Volume Copies and system restore points to prevent file recovery. TeslaCrypt was distributed through the Angler, Sweet Orange, and Nuclear exploit kits.

MSIL or Samas (SAMSAM)

MSIL or Samas (SAMSAM) was used to compromise the networks of multiple U.S. victims, including 2016 attacks on healthcare facilities that were running outdated versions of the JBoss content management application. SAMSAM exploits vulnerable Java-based Web servers. SAMSAM uses open-source tools to identify and compile a list of hosts reporting to the victim’s active directory. The actors then use psexec.exe to distribute the malware to each host on the network and encrypt most of the files on the system. The actors charge varying amounts in Bitcoin to provide the decryption keys to the victim.

Locky

In early 2016, a destructive ransomware variant, Locky, was observed infecting computers belonging to businesses globally, including those in the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom. Locky propagates through spam emails that include malicious Microsoft Office documents or compressed attachments (e.g., .rar, .zip) that were previously associated with banking Trojans such as Dridex and Pony. The malicious attachments contain macros or JavaScript files to download the Locky files. Recently, this ransomware has also been distributed using the Nuclear Exploit Kit.

Links to Other Types of Malware

Systems infected with ransomware are also often infected with other malware. In the case of

CryptoLocker, a user typically was infected by opening a malicious attachment from an email.

This malicious attachment contained Upatre, a downloader, which infected the user with GameOver Zeus. GameOver Zeus was a variant of the Zeus Trojan used to steal banking information and other types of data. After a system became infected with GameOver Zeus, Upatre would also download CryptoLocker. Finally, CryptoLocker encrypted files on the infected system and demanded a ransom payment.

The disruption operation against the GameOver Zeus botnet also affected CryptoLocker, demonstrating the close ties between ransomware and other types of malware. In June 2014,

an international law enforcement operation successfully weakened the infrastructure of both

GameOverZeus and CryptoLocker.

HOW DOES RANSOMWARE WORK?

HOW DOES RANSOMWARE WORK?

  1. Ransomware infections occur when a user opens a malicious email attachment, clicks on a malicious link, or visits a website infected with malicious code, known as a drive-by download.

  2. Once a system is infected, the ransomware contacts a command and control (C2) server to generate an encryption key and begins encrypting files on the victim’s machine.

  3. The ransomware runs quietly in the background performing in-depth searches of all disk folders, including removable drives and network shares, and encrypts as many files as it can.

  • Ransomware may also delete Shadow Volume Copies, destroy restore points, and overwrite free disk space to prevent victims from recovering their files and systems without paying the ransom.

  • If a system is powered off as files are being encrypted, some ransomware variants resume where they left off when the system or device is powered on again.

After files are encrypted, a ransom note is displayed on the screen with instructions on how and where to pay the ransom and the length of time before the hacker or software destroys the decryption key.

  • Some recent variants offer victims a ‘second chance’ to pay after the initial timer expires; however, the ‘second chance’ is often at least double the original ransom amount.

  1. If the victim pays the ransom, the malware is supposed to contact the C2 server for the decryption key and begin decrypting the victim’s files; however, in many cases, the files are never decrypted.

  • Some ransomware files can delete themselves in order to avoid detection and analysis by security researchers or law enforcement.

CyberSecOP: Ransomware Remediation and Prevention Service

RANSOMWARE MITIGATION STRATEGIES

For many organizations, preventing ransomware entirely is nearly impossible, however, the impact of a successful infection can be greatly reduced if a robust data backup process is in place. Comprehensive data backups should be scheduled as often as possible and must be kept offline in a separate and secure location. The most effective method to prevent ransomware infections is to conduct regular training and awareness exercises with all employees to ensure users are proficient in safe Internet-browsing techniques and the ability to identify phishing emails. For specific recommendations for data protection, systems management, network management, mobile device management, and post-infection remediation.

5 steps for preventing ransomware

5 steps for preventing ransomware

Hardening Your Environment Against Ransomware

To avoid ransomware infection, follow these steps:

1.    Back up your computers and servers regularly.

Regularly back up the files on both the client computers and servers. Either back up the files when the computers are offline or use a system that networked computers and servers cannot write to. If you do not have dedicated backup software, you can also copy the important files to removable media. Then eject and unplug the removable media; do not leave the removable media plugged in.

2.    Lock down mapped network drives by securing them with a password and access control restrictions.

Use read-only access for files on network drives, unless it is absolutely necessary to have write access for these files. Restricting user permissions limits which files the threats can encrypt.

3.    Deploy and enable the following Endpoint Protection:

Implement and managed endpoint antivirus on all endpoint to prevent ransomware, most ransomware can be detected by popular antivirus.

4.    IPS/IDS

IPS blocks some threats that traditional virus definitions alone cannot stop. IPS is the best defense against drive-by downloads, which occurs when software is unintentionally downloaded from the Internet. Attackers often use exploit kits to deliver a web-based attack like CryptoLocker through a drive-by download.

See Enabling network intrusion prevention or browser intrusion prevention.

5.    Download the latest patches for web application frameworks, web browsers, and web browser plug-ins.

Attacking exploit kits cannot deliver drive-by downloads unless there is an old version of a plug-in to exploit, such as Flash. Historically, attacks were delivered through phishing and web browsers. Recently, more attacks are delivered through vulnerable web applications, such as JBOSS, WordPress, and Joomla.

6.    Use an email security product to handle email safely.

CryptoLocker is often spread through spam emails that contain malicious attachments. Scanning inbound emails for threats with a dedicated mail security product or service is critical to keep ransomware and other malware out of your organization. For important advice and recommendations, see:

How to remove ransomware

There is no ransomware removal tool or CryptoLocker removal tool. Instead, if your client computers do get infected with ransomware and your data is encrypted, follow these steps:

1.    Do not pay the ransom.

If you pay the ransom:

·         There is no guarantee that the attacker will supply a method to unlock your computer or decrypt your files.

·         The attacker uses the ransom money to fund additional attacks against other users.

2.    Isolate the infected computer before the ransomware can attack network drives to which it has access.

3.     Update the virus definitions and scan the client computers.

New definitions are likely to detect and remediate the ransomware. Configure Endpoint Protection to automatically downloads virus definitions to the client, as long as the client is managed and connected to the Symantec Endpoint Protection Manager.

4.    Restore damaged files from a known good backup.

No security Endpoint Protection cannot decrypt the files that ransom lockers have sabotaged.

  1. Submit the malware to antivirus provider.

If you can identify the malicious email or executable, submit it to antivirus provider.