Ransomware – What Investors Need to Know

Ransomware – What Investors Need to Know

Think of ransomware like bribing a victim online, but forcefully. Ransomware is basically malware-disruptive software that allows an attacker to gain access to a user’s computer without permission- but with a financial twist. Said twist is that the attacker keeps denying the user access to their data (on the user’s computer) until a ransom is paid. Ransomware is dominantly utilized for monetary gain. 


How Do Attackers Deploy Ransomware? 

  • Email Attachments [upon opening the content, ransomware may start file encryption]
  • Malicious Links
  • Drive-By Downloads
  • Malvertising
  • Pirated Software
  • Removable Media [ie: USB]
  • Network Propagation
  • Remote Desktop Protocol [allows an attacker to remotely access a user’s desktop]

Common Types Of Ransomware Strains: 

Common ransomware strains include but are not limited to: 

  • CryptoWall
    • Started distribution via exploitation kits and email
      • Recently has been connected with compromised websites
    • CryptoWall encrypts files and deletes any VSS (volume shadow copy) so that data recovery becomes inhibited
    • Seen as the most destructive form of ransomware
    • Attackers start by identifying networks that have unpatched servers running JBoss enterprise products
      • Once attackers gain access, they move laterally from the entry point to identify additional hosts
      • Once enough systems have been compromised and breached, the ransomware is deployed
      • Payment is typically demanded in BitCoin
  • Locky
    • On the newer side of ransomware strains
    • Works the similarly to CryptoWall
      • Distinguishable because when Locky encrypts files during the attack, it renames all files with the .locky extension when it’s encrypting them
      • The computers desktop wallpaper becomes a ransom message
  • CryptoLocker
    • Considered to be the first modern strain of software
    • CryptoLocker was taken down by government officials in 2014
    • Distributed through email attachments and botnets
    • Caveat:
      • Removing CryptoLocker from devices was easy but the files remain encrypted


How Can Ransomware Attacks Be Prevented? 

  • User Training [since ransomware attacks are based on whether a user engages with malware the attacker is trying to impose, training the user to be able to spot phishing or malicious content would be the first place to start]
  • Creating email authentication filters [implementing spam filters so that a user can confirm if an email is coming from a valid email server is crucial to protecting oneself. This can be done by utilizing SPF, DKIM, and DMARC to improve email security.]
  • Download antivirus software 
  • Internal Network Hardening 
  • Invest in advanced ransomware protection software 
  • Keep your browser up-to-date 
  • Utilize strong wireless security 


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More about the author: Harry Sherdil

As a fiduciary financial advisor at an independent firm, Harry strives to offer the same resources, tools, and research as bigger firms while serving new and existing clients' best interests.