Imagine you just try to login into your enterprise system only to find that you can’t access it anymore. All your company data, sales data, customer information, product data, and research data, everything has been encrypted, and a backhanded hacker sends you a mail demanding a hefty sum to get back access to your data. You try all you can and are left with no choice but to pay up or lose all your important data.
If you think such a terrifying situation will happen to only big enterprises, you couldn’t be more wrong. Ransomware attacks or cryptolockers is one of the most popular malicious attacks that has been affecting every internet user, be it a big company, small business, or even an individual.
Hackers are opportunists who will target everyone and every business out there if it can bring them some form of monetary benefit. You have to be cautious and take the right security measures to ensure you never fall into a ransomware trap.
Cryptolockers – What Is It And How Does It Work?
Cryptolockers are a type of ransomware attack that usually happens via insecure email attachments that contain a botnet. The infected file could also be part of an email message, pop-ups, or downloadable files from unverified sites. When you click on such infected attachments inadvertently or without proper caution, the botnet gets activated and encrypts your file system making it unreadable and inaccessible for use.
You will then be shown a malware message asking you to transfer a certain amount of money either through the bitcoin transfer or pre-paid cash voucher on the promise of getting the private key required to decrypt your file system again.
Cryptolocker attacks are dangerous because even if you remove them from your system, the data remains encrypted as long as you don’t get the private key required to decrypt it. And victims of ransomware attacks do not necessarily get their data back even if they make the payment the attacker has asked for.
Who Are The Targets For Cryptolockers?
Every internet user could be a target for cryptolocker. Cryptolocker attacks are targeted at SMBs, enterprises, and individuals all alike since their inception in the mid-2000s. In 2017 alone, the FBI received around 1783 cryptolocker attack complaints that amounted to a loss of over $2.3 million. The number of unreported incidents could be a lot higher, with a right estimate that puts the total number of ransomware attacks at 188 million in 2019.
The average demand price cited by ransomware attacks now stands at around $84,000, and the number has actually grown by 14 times in the last five years. And about one third affected victims end up paying a ransom given the importance of data. But for most common attacks aimed at individuals and small businesses, the amount can get as low as $700 to $1300.
The latest observations have also shown that these attacks are evolving and attacking many small businesses, given their lack of strong security policies and backup solutions. Unlike big enterprises, small companies allocate a tiny part of their budget towards IT security, making them an easy target for hackers. And in some cases, small businesses are used as entry points to make way into bigger companies where the ransom payout can be a lot bigger.
For instance, in 2013, Target fell victim to a ransomware attack. And it was later found that hackers gained entry to Target’s database through their HVAC vendor. The attack cost around $39 million to Target and also a severe backlash to their reputation.
Enterprises that hold sensitive data and are most likely to pay up are heavily targeted. These can include finance and health care companies like pharma companies, hospitals, government agencies, research centers, banks, and so on. For instance, pharma companies would hold a lot of competitive research data on new drugs, and they would be keener to pay up if ever caught in a ransomware attack.
As mentioned earlier, attackers stroke wherever there is an opportunity, and sometimes these infections are spread across the internet arbitrarily.
How To Protect Yourself From Cryptolockers
Cryptolockers do not spare anyone from their attack list. If they find a way to infect your system, you can be sure they will. So taking the right security precautions and educating your team on the dangers of phishing emails and unverified attachments would be the first step you take into fighting cryptolockers. Here are some ways you can solidify your IT security and ensure safety from such malicious attacks.
- Do a risk audit of your system and identify your possible security holes and vulnerabilities. Take the necessary remedial action to help deal with your vulnerabilities.
- Make sure you regularly backup your important data and store it in a secure remote server or secure cloud storage solution.
- Employ multi-factor authentication methods to strengthen your user authentication process further
- Keep your systems and software up-to-date with all the latest security patches applied
- Do not install unverified software that requires admin rights.
- Ensure you have a proper anti-virus and threat detection system installed to prevent downloading on possible infected files.
- Educate your team and staff on best security practices and discourage them from opening phishing emails or unverified downloads.
Remember that malware is continuously evolving with several tweaks and enhancements made to bypass your security features. For expert help, consultation, and guidance on dealing with cryptolockers, contact iSectra.
iSectra is a specialized IT consultant who can tailor IT support and security services to your flexible needs. Call us today for any of your IT needs and guidance.