While phishing emails and malicious software can wreak havoc on an enterprise’s system, ransomware is gaining ground as a more dangerous weapon in the cybercriminal arsenal that can have costly consequences.

Ransomware operators are earning reputations for targeting large-scale businesses and encrypting their sensitive company data, only providing a decryption key when the requested ransom is delivered. In other cases, groups like Maze Ransomware steal private data and, following its encryption, threaten to publish it on forums and new sites on the dark web accessible by the public if ransoms are not paid.

By examining ransomware and learning how it works and why its methods are effective, IT security professionals can work towards developing protective solutions and preventative measures to safeguard company networks and the confidential data they keep on file.

Defining ransomware

Ransomware is, in essence, software designed with malicious intentions, developed specifically to infect a device, network or service, thereby restricting user access until a ransom is supplied by victims. Multiple variants of ransomware have been identified and observed by security professionals in recent years, attempting to extort payments from targets via a digital ransom note. These notifications commonly alert users that their systems are locked, and important files are encrypted. They also inform users that unless the ransom is fully paid, the data will either be destroyed or remain locked. While amounts demanded vary greatly, payments are usually requested in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, which are difficult for law enforcement agencies to trace.

How are devices infected by ransomware?

A variant of malware that can encrypt files, crypto ransomware works by spreading through methods including phishing emails and the infiltration of enterprises systems with hacked credentials. It is not unknown for it to be released via social media channels, such as chat messaging applications on the web. Online servers without significant security measures in place can also be vulnerable to such attacks.

What makes ransomware effective?

Ransomware works by using the key tools of cyber terrorists: threat, fear and panic. Threat actors who create ransomware have designed it to scare users into clicking on malicious links, infecting systems or into paying up requested ransoms.

While ransomware groups do target home users, enterprises of all sizes are regular victims, with many large companies making headlines with damaging data breaches. The negative effects on companies can be numerous and have a wide-reaching impact. Disruption to services, total or temporary loss of access to vital information and exposure of sensitive Personally Identifiable Information are just some of the issues faced following an attack. On top of this, companies may incur financial losses from expensive forensic testing, service downtime, lawsuits from unhappy clients with exposed data and fines from data regulators if a breach is identified to be the firm’s fault.

Comprehensive protection from ransomware

At Galaxkey, we have built a secure platform that is designed to provide user-friendly assistance against cybercriminal attacks, including ransomware. With no passwords stored, our system has zero backdoors and features end-to-end encryption for emails and files. Our secure service allows users to verify an email’s origin and avoid malicious messages. Contact our team today to test-drive our complete solution.