Everyone knows that hackers present an ever-present danger in the information age. While some are working to improve technology, others are working to exploit its flaws for criminal gain. Hacking attacks can take many forms, but today we will be focusing on the problem of ransomware and how it can affect your business. We will also look at the ways in which ransomware can be used to affect cloud computing services.
Ransomware is malware that is used to infect computers and forcibly encrypt all the data. Once the target computer is infected, the attacker can then direct the program to encrypt all of their data. This could include emails, important documents, business records, or any other important information. After doing this, the hacker sends an email informing the victim that their emails have been encrypted.
When you get an email like this, it’s always a bad experience. No one would ever encrypt your data without your knowledge unless they had criminal intentions. As soon as you see a title like this, you know that someone has compromised your system. Such an email will usually contain a cryptocurrency address where a random payment can be sent.
In essence, these people are using the same methods used by kidnappers. Instead of holding a loved one for ransom, they are holding your data for ransom. Some businesses have lost huge amounts of money to ransomware scams like this. If you want to know how much we are talking about, consider this example. The biggest known ransomware attack ever perpetrated was done using the WannaCry crypto-worm, which infected all sorts of systems around the world. By the time it was over, total losses from this piece of ransomware were totaled at about four billion dollars. Perhaps the worst thing about this attack is the fact that the data was never released, even after victims had met the ransom demands.
What Is Ransomcloud?
Ransomcloud is a term that has recently become common in the internet security industry. It refers to a certain type of ransomware attacks: Specifically, those that are aimed at cloud-based applications. In recent years, ransomware of this kind has heavily targeted Microsoft Office 365 and G Suite. Because these applications are cloud-based, normal ransomware attacks were not effective enough for hackers to get the job done. Unfortunately, they now seem to have overcome that problem.
Some cloud users choose to encrypt their data within the cloud for extra security. While this is a very handy feature, ransomcloud programs can take advantage of it as a weakness. Rather than encrypting your whole hard drive, as was often done in the past, hackers can now encrypt your data alone, even if it’s contained within someone else’s cloud. This is done through the use of XSS exploits that allow hackers to inject new scripts into trusted pages or even an entire data cloud.
In most cases, cloud-based ransomware attacks will target a cloud-based email account. They know that individuals and companies use their cloud-based email as a primary means of business communication. As such, corporate emails will often contain important data, or maybe even compromising data. The hacker will begin by sending the dummy email from within the cloud. The email will contain a link that looks normal but which directs the victim to fake pages. In the process of this, they will use many sorts of disguises to trick you into granting special email permissions. Once those permissions are accepted, the attack has succeeded.
How Does Ransomware Work?
To understand how ransomware works, you need to understand the way in which encryption works. As you might know, encryption is used to protect data from unauthorized access. It accomplishes this by scrambling all the data. A computer system basically has three levels: The UI (user interface), the source code, and the binary code.
The UI is the visual, graphical part of the computer that is used to interact with the computer. For most users, this is all they ever see. The source code is a set of instructions written in a programming language. This is what tells the computer what to do, at least for the most part. However, there is a deeper level, and that’s the binary code. At a fundamental level, all computer data is composed of ones and zeros. By mixing up these binary digits, an encryption program can scramble data and make it impossible to view.
Of course, there has to be a way to unscramble all of this, and that’s where a password comes into the picture. The password is used by the computer to generate a decryption key, which is then used as a guide with which to reassemble the data in its original form. Because the decryption key is generated by the password, the data remains scrambled until the password is entered.
While most people use this technology to keep cyber-intruders from invading their system, hackers have figured out how to use it more offensively. They use encryption to lock you out of your entire computer and/or to deny you access to certain data. Without the password to this encryption, your chances of getting your data back are slim to none.
How Do You Guard Against Ransomware Attacks?
By their very nature, computers are difficult to secure. Connect them all with the internet, and the task becomes exponentially harder. That’s why it is often very hard to guard against online threats. However, ransomware can be one of the exceptions if a person is prepared.
The easiest way to defeat ransomware is to do frequent backups of all your important data. When the hacker sends you the ransom demand, you can simply use your backups to restore the lost data. Before you do this, make sure that you create a new backup in case the attacker decides to repeat the attack.
Because it is natural for humans to forget about things like backing up their data, it’s a good idea to use some kind of automatic backup system. Any computer can be configured to do this, and it’s usually pretty easy. If you are using Windows, you can go to the control panel and click the icon that says “system and security.” Here, you should be able to find the panel that allows you to create an automatic backup schedule. This is a good idea because it takes the human element out of the picture.
It is vitally important that you educate yourself (and any employees you might have) about the threat of email phishing. The first thing they need to know is that entering passwords at the wrong time can be dangerous. Even for those with no computer skills, this concept is easy to understand. Any email that directs you to input a password should be regarded with the highest level of suspicion. The same is true of any email that directs you to give special permissions to anyone.
A vigilant person can often detect a phishing attack before it becomes a problem. These attacks nearly always involve spoofed (forged) emails, but they usually aren’t perfect copies. If you open up a certain web page, and it doesn’t look quite right, you might be looking at a dummy page. As a general rule, you should simply direct your employees to avoid clicking on any links received through email.
You might even consider the use of an MSSP (managed security service provider). This is an internet service provider that takes responsibility for the security of the network, something that normal ISP’s don’t usually do. You see, there is only one sure way to guard against these kinds of threats, and that is constant vigilance. In many cases, hiring an MSSP is more cost-effective than hiring your own in-house IT staff. For small and medium-sized companies, these are very appealing options.
How To Deal With A Ransomware Infection
If you should find yourself in this position, your options are limited. You can pay the ransom and hope to get your data back, but that may or may not work. Besides, no one wants to capitulate to a bunch of cyber-thugs. However, you might be surprised at how often companies will pay the ransom.
This is mostly a matter of posterity, as the company doesn’t want its customers or investors to know that it was hacked and extorted. Thus, there is a temptation to pay off the hackers and bury the story. That’s what happened with the Uber hack of 2017. It’s worth noting that Uber was fined millions of dollars for their failure to notify their drivers of the breach. That’s just one example of how a ransomware attack can expose a company to huge liabilities.
Your other option is to cut your losses and try to go on without your stolen data. However, the cost of fixing that problem could end up being greater than the price of the ransom. In the end, you can’t do much about this situation except pay the price or lose your data. That’s why it’s so important to do regular backups of all your important data. This is a problem that has to be handled proactively or not at all.
How Does This Happen?
To guard against ransomware attacks, you need to understand how they happen in the first place. The vast majority of ransomware attacks are carried out using a tactic known as “phishing.” In fact, phishing is the number one most common type of cyberattack. These attacks are not that difficult to carry out and do not require a particularly high level of skill. They also require relatively little effort on the part of the hacker. Some of the less-than-savory parts of the internet will even offer phishing kits for sale.
So, why do they call it “phishing?” Because of the way in which it works. The hacker is essentially baiting a hook and waiting for you to take the bait. They will create a fake email that is designed to look like something respectable and legitimate. They might make this email appear to come from a major website, a payment provider, your bank, your school, or any other trusted source.
Once you open the email, they will direct you to click on a link or follow other instructions. By doing this, you inadvertently allow malware to be installed on your computer. When that malware is ransomware, it infects your system and begins forcibly encrypting all the files. The victim will be able to see this process if they happen to be sitting in front of a computer at the time.
When that happens, your first instinct might be shutting down the computer. However, that will not necessarily stop the attack. Once the malware has been installed, it can simply resume its work as soon as the computer is turned on again. This kind of thing is very hard to stop once it has begun. As we said earlier, this issue must be handled proactively.
Now that we have clearly outlined this threat, let’s talk about the good news: If you do regular backups of your important data, you can probably tell these hackers to go pound sand (or whatever other colorful invectives you might choose). They cannot hold the data for ransom if you have an extra copy. At the most, you might lose a few days or weeks worth of records, but that’s a much easier problem to handle.
We hope that this article has given you a better idea of how this kind of attack works. By understanding the attack, you can be ready to dodge that fatal blow when and if it comes. Also, you need a vigilant network monitoring system, whether in-house or outsourced. We hope that the concepts outlined here will help to keep you from being victimized. We also hope that you will fill out the contact form to receive more of our work.