What is ransomware?
Ransomware is a form of malicious software that is used to extort money from victims by locking their computer systems or files and demanding a ransom in exchange for access. It is one of the most serious cyber security threats today, as it can cause significant disruption and financial loss. This paper will provide an overview of ransomware, including its history, how it works, and strategies for prevention and mitigation.
History of Ransomware
Ransomware first appeared in 1989 with the AIDS Trojan, which was developed by an unknown author and distributed through pirated software. The AIDS Trojan encrypted files on the victim’s computer and demanded payment of a fee in order to regain access to the files. In 2005, ransomware shifted from targeting individuals to targeting businesses, with the emergence of the GpCode ransomware. GpCode was distributed via email and used strong encryption to lock files on the victim’s computer, demanding payment to decrypt them.
Since then, ransomware has become increasingly sophisticated and advanced, with criminals using new tactics to spread their malware. The most common tactics include phishing emails, malicious websites, and drive-by downloads.
How Ransomware Works
Ransomware works by encrypting files on the victim’s computer and demanding a ransom in exchange for a decryption key. The key is usually stored on a remote server and is released to the victim only when the ransom has been paid.
Once the ransomware is installed on the computer, it typically begins to encrypt files in the background. The encryption process is usually very quick and the victim will not be aware of it until the ransomware has finished encrypting their files. The ransomware will then display a message on the victim’s screen, informing them that their files have been encrypted and demanding payment in return for the decryption key.
The ransom amount is typically a few hundred dollars, and the payment is usually demanded in the form of cryptocurrency. The victim is given a limited amount of time to pay the ransom, and failure to do so can result in the loss of their files.
Prevention and Mitigation Strategies
The best way to protect against ransomware is to implement a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that includes both preventive measures and mitigation strategies.
Prevention strategies include the following:
- Educating users about the risks of ransomware and how to identify suspicious emails, websites, and downloads.
- Implementing effective patch management and keeping all systems and software up-to-date.
- Enabling strong authentication measures, such as two-factor authentication.
- Implementing an effective backup and recovery strategy.
- Using endpoint security solutions to detect and block malicious activities.
Mitigation strategies include the following:
- Developing an incident response plan and ensuring that all staff members are aware of it.
- Disabling macros in Microsoft Office applications.
- Restricting user privileges to prevent users from making changes to system settings.
- Disabling remote desktop access and other services that can be used to gain access to the system.
Ransomware is a serious and growing threat to cyber security. To protect against it, organizations should implement a comprehensive security strategy that includes both preventive measures and mitigation strategies. By doing so, organizations can reduce the risk of becoming a victim of ransomware and the disruption and financial losses that can result.