Ransomware is a type of malware that uses encryption to hold your data hostage until a ransom, usually in the form of bitcoins, is paid. Here are four ways ransomware can infect a system.
Data and the systems that manage it have become so integral to our way of life. As a result, they have become a prime target for all kinds of unethical criminals, from rogue governments and criminal syndicates to thrill-seekers and disgruntled employees.
Once they gain access to a system, these malicious parties will encrypt those data and demand ransom payments, thereby reducing an organization’s service levels and abruptly damaging its reputation.
These “ransomware” incidents have risen to new heights in the past decade, with many data thieves banking profiting from organizational complacency and ignorance.
Before you can implement ransomware prevention best practices, it’s important to understand just where these attacks are coming from. Here are the most common entry points malicious parties may use to hijack data and systems.
4 Ways Ransomware Can Infect A System
Remote Desktop Protocol
Without getting too technical, Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is a way for systems administrators and IT personnel to remotely access computers and other devices within a network.
This is incredibly useful, as it allows experts to remotely configure devices without them needing to physically access them. However, RDP also creates opportunities for unauthorized users to cripple entire systems and hold data for ransom.
What makes things worse is that many devices that are currently connected to the internet can be readily accessed through RDP, simply because the machines have not been configured properly.
Additionally, these machines could sometimes be found on specialized search engines. Even password-protected devices are not safe, thanks to brute force attacks and the proliferation of password-cracking tools specifically designed for machines with RDP access.
Once these bad actors have gained entry into a system, they can start installing malware, deleting backups, and disabling security functions. If the organization does not have other backups, this may create a situation where the only solution is to pay the criminals a ransom.
Phishing Emails and Trojans
Hackers can also gain access to a device or a network through email links and attachments containing ransomware. This particular method of introducing malware typically relies heavily on user negligence. However, cybercriminals could also employ advanced psychological exploits that may even trick an otherwise conscientious user.
The ransomware files contained or linked to these emails (one example is trojans) can deliver the attack through a variety of means. However, the most common type of email attack involves enabling macros on a target device.
Enabling macros lets the unauthorized party install ransomware or other malware from an outside source. These, in turn, could be used to infect other devices in a network, ultimately allowing the attacker to hold the system or data hostage.
To prevent these attacks, users should always be vigilant about the origin of different emails as well as brush up on best practices for ransomware prevention. Periodic reminders and cybersecurity training may be necessary to keep organizations’ databases safe from these kinds of intrusions.
External Storage Media
USB flash drives, SD cards, phones, hard drives, and other media and hardware that could connect directly to a device on a computer network can be another entry-point for ransomware and other destructive malware. USB drives and SD cards that purport to contain legitimate apps or promotions can insert ransomware as soon as they are connected to a target computer.
Many of these ransomware apps also replicate themselves throughout the computer’s connected networks. Some also affect other connected storage media which could be used to further spread the deployed ransomware.
Avoiding this type of attack involves a combination of user education as well as the installation of security systems that are designed to counter ransomware. Banning unvetted external devices from being used in a network can also prevent ransomware attacks from being carried out this way.
Visiting compromised sites or pages, either through browsers or email links can trigger the download of ransomware applications without the end-user noticing.
These websites are often disguised as legitimate pages. The constant proliferation and increasing sophistication of these sites is a major reason why malware solutions have to be updated regularly.
A variety of methods are used by online criminals to exploit users that unwittingly visit these sites. The most common is uploading a ransomware app to the user’s device or network. Other methods are a bit more subtle, such as assessing the site visitor’s device before executing a script in the background.
To make things worse, hackers may sometimes hijack popular sites, allowing them to draw from the trust of large organizations to initiate attacks on different systems.
Keep Your Data Safe From Ransomware
There you go! The 4 ways ransomware can infect a system.
The methods above only a few methods cybercriminals use to compromise databases and systems. However, being mindful of these commonly exploited areas is a core part of ransomware prevention.
To better prevent ransomware, it is best to deploy multiple layers of security, such as privileged access management (PAM), micro-segmentation, intrusion detection, and database security, to name a few.
Deploying all of these solutions could be costly. That is why it is often times better to deploy an all-in-one data security solution, similar to what Mamori.io provides.