Ransomware is a type of malicious software that blocks users from gaining access to their files or even entire devices until a ransom is paid. A ransomware infection accomplishes this by encrypting files on the device or seizing the operating system. The most problematic part about this kind of cyberattack is that even if you send a ransom payment, there’s no guarantee the malware will be removed.
The Danger of Ransomware
Ransomware is a growing problem, with consequences costing victims up to $2.3 million in 2017, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. Keep in mind that this statistic only represents the number of incidents that were reported to the ICCC. Security researchers expect the actual number could be much higher. Since the first ransomware attack in 1989, malware has only continued to become more sophisticated as hackers hone their craft.
The Evolution of Ransomware
The first ransomware attack was rudimentary at best; however, it provided a foundation for hackers to build on. This kind of cyberattack remained rare until the mid-2000s, when we began to see the rise of new malware that used tougher encryption algorithms. Since then, ransomware has evolved to the point where the most advanced hackers are monetizing their malware as ransomware as a service (RaaS). RaaS allows cybercriminals to purchase types of ransomware—such as TorrentLocker or CryptoWall—eliminating the need for cybercriminals to write their own malicious code.
The Worst Ransomware Attacks in Recent History
As ransomware becomes increasingly difficult to deal with, it should come as no surprise that the worst cases of ransomware infections have happened recently. In 2017, two major ransomware attacks shook the business world—WannaCry and NotPetya.
- WannaCry: WannaCry is considered the worst ransomware attack in history—not only because of the number of systems it was able to infect worldwide, but also because it was the first wave of attacks that maliciously used hacking tools leaked by the National Security Agency (NSA).
- NotPetya: Petya is a ransomware package that has existed since 2016. However, in 2017, it was updated with the same leaked NSA hacking tools as WannaCry and released only a few weeks after the WannaCry outbreak. The updated version was dubbed NotPetya as the malware had advanced far beyond its former limitations.
An honorable, or maybe dishonorable, mention goes to the ransomware known as CryptoLocker. Infecting over 500,000 devices while active, this ransomware spawned the creation of many commonly used variants including CryptoWall and TorrentLocker.
How to Protect Your Company
Ransomware is indeed troublesome, but that doesn’t mean your organization can’t protect itself. Here are a few steps your company can take to greatly reduce your chances of becoming a victim.
- Frequently back up crucial files and systems
- Regularly update your software
- Create sensible device usage rules for your employees
- Train your employees on malware prevention tactics
SNC Can Help Protect Your Infrastructure
At Strategic Network Consulting, we offer a number of cybersecurity services to protect your network infrastructure from intrusions. Our team of experts will take a proactive approach by performing a risk assessment, monitoring your network for threats, helping you install vital security software, and backing up your data. If you’d like to learn more about our services, please give us a call today!