Enterprise-grade Ransomware Attacks, Types & Mitigation Strategies

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Enterprise systems are at constant threat to various types of cyberattacks and malware infections. Among all the malicious threats & cyberattacks, ransomware attacks have developed as a formidable risk to enterprise systems. Ransomware attacks on enterprises lead to financial losses and significant disruption to the organization’s day-to-day workflow. Ransomware developers and attack teams primarily target large corporations, government agencies, financial institutions, critical servers & infrastructures, cloud storage, etc. This article will delve into the world of enterprise-grade ransomware, what it causes after infecting a system, its types, and mitigation strategies. 

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is exceptional malware (malicious software) that attackers deploy to a target system or network. By doing so, the attacker locks the users out of their system & encrypts all file types available. It asks for a ransom, & if the user/owner pays the mentioned amount, the ransomware decrypts the files. These malware infections utilize encryption algorithms to hold valuable information and disrupt the workflow of all systems fibbing within the enterprise network. Over the past 4 to 5 years, the terror of ransomware took all the new headlines. Some well-known malware names are WannaCry, Bad Rabbit, Shade/Troldesh, Maze, Ryuk, NotPetya, Jigsaw, CryptoLocker, etc. 

How does Ransomware Work?

Ransomware has various design approaches. However, the fundamental workflow runs on the principle of encrypting the files within the system & asking for a ransom. The attackers first introduce the ransomware into the target enterprise’s system or network. There are countless ways to deploy the ransomware. Amongst them, the well-known techniques are phishing emails, redirecting to malicious sites, attachments, binding with other files, and drive-by downloading. Attackers also use tools and techniques that use Remote Desktop Protocols (RDP) to push the ransomware into a target system. Once the ransomware sneaks into the target computer, it constantly upgrades its privilege to encrypt all files within the background. 

Types of Ransomware Attacks

We can divide the Ransomware types based on the different tactics and the level of extortions implemented on the target victim. These extortion techniques put and increase pressure on the victims. It maximizes the chances of receiving ransom payments. There are three different types of extortion techniques used in a ransomware attack. These are: 

  1. Single extortion Ransomware: Traditional ransomware that encrypts the victim’s data and file systems and locks the system is single extortion ransomware. They use encryption as a single extortion technique to yank money. The ransomware mechanism locks the system & demands a ransom in exchange for the decryption key. Single extortion ransomware also tries to extort money by threatening the victim to delete the files it encrypts. They are also called encrypters and lockers. 
  2. Double extortion ransomware: As the name suggests, it performs two distinct attack techniques to grab the money. Other than encrypting data and files, it also performs data theft. Double extortion ransomware stealthily copies the data to its creator’s server just before encrypting & locking the system. With double extortion ransomware attacks, the attackers exfiltrate sensitive data from the target’s system or network. It then threatens to sell or publish them on the dark web or other web portals. That raises the pressure on the victim, and they pay the ransom. They are also called doxware or leakware ransomware. 
  3. Triple extortion ransomware: These are highly tactical, terrifying, and sophisticated ransomware attacks. Apart from encrypting all data and stealing them behind the scenes to threaten the victim, the attacker or the malware also threatens to launch a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. The attack targets all the major systems of the victim’s network infrastructure. The DDoS remains active until the victim disburses the ransom. File encryption, sensitive data leakage, and system downtime because of DDoS creates tremendous pressure on the victim to pay the ransom. Due to their scaring and threatening mechanisms, they are also called scareware ransomware. 
  4. Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS): Cybercriminals also build nefarious businesses out of ransomware by selling it as a service model. These services run well in the cybercriminal underworld under the dark web. Here, the cybercriminals offer malicious software as a service to other black-hat hackers and cybercriminals. RaaS services enable other cybercriminals to subscribe to their service to attack ransomware on targeted victims against a fee. These services generally accept cryptocurrencies as a standard mode of payment. These ransomware services offer customization & cloud support to store victim’s sensitive data. They also deliver technical support & 24×7 accessibility & availability.

Ransomware Detection Techniques

Taking security-related decisions early and preparing your enterprise for detecting ransomware threats is critical. It will help carry forward a smooth workflow within the enterprise. Here are the three well-known techniques enterprise security professionals use to detect ransomware. 

  1. Signature-Based Detection: Malware signatures are one of the most common attributes used by antivirus, firewalls, and other threat monitoring tools to detect malware. In this technique, the ransomware anti-malware tool will check heuristically the system against a database filled with known malware signatures. If the signature matches the one in the database, it will indicate a red flag, considering the file or data malicious. This method works well for known ransomware variants but is not the best option for detecting modified or newly evolved ones. 
  2. Behavior-Based Detection: In this method, the security tool uses an algorithm to monitor and identify malicious system behavior. Some detection techniques involve advanced persistent threats, exfiltrating data (transfer in bulk), excessive outbound bandwidth usage, encryption of large amounts of folders or files, or enterprise network redirecting to suspicious domains or servers. 
  3. Traffic-Based Detection: It is a specific vertical of ransomware threat detection where the monitoring tool tries to detect abnormal network outgoing volume or traffic. That sudden hike in outgoing traffic is a clear indicator that activates other data recovery methods within the enterprise systems. Traffic-based detection can also trace the ransomware’s route connecting to external command and control servers. However, to make this more effective, enterprises should deploy robust network and system monitoring tools for faster detection and response.

Preventive Measures Against Ransomware

Enterprises have to leverage various techniques to stay vigilant and prevent enterprise systems from ransomware attacks. Let us discuss some potent principles and security measures to prevent such damage. 

  • Isolated data backup: Enterprises should keep an hourly backup of the enterprise data in an isolated storage. Cloud-based backups and multi-cloud storage are effective ways to do so. So, even if your entire system gets infected with ransomware, you can revive it from the backup without paying the ransom. 
  • Multi-layer encryption for data: Ransomware that steals sensitive data for additional extortion can create pressure on the business owner. That is why enterprises should leverage multi-layer encryption for every outgoing traffic and data at rest. That way, cybercriminals cannot use those sensitive data for blackmailing. Also, multiple data backups should remain encrypted for better security. 
  • Minimizing attack surface: Another excellent way to reduce ransomware attacks on enterprise networks is by minimizing the attack surface. Enterprises can restrict the number of third-party apps used. Internet-facing and not well-researched apps often contain misconfigurations & vulnerabilities. Also, enterprises containing IoT devices and sensors should provide security measures on hardware to reduce the attack surface. Proper security awareness through campaigns can also help in the same. 
  • Periodic security audits: Another way to prevent or reduce the chance of ransomware attacks is by periodic security checks across all parameters. Enterprises can deploy cloud DLP (data loss prevention) tools to help analyze the content & context of outbound traffic. Deploying Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) tools can provide real-time security and AI-powered signature analysis on ransomware attacks. 
  • Network segmentation: Another preventive measure against ransomware is to implement network segregation. It helps to divide a network into multiple independently-run segments or sub-networks. That way, each segment will remain isolated from the other. Network segmentation reduces the impact of security breaches & prevents only a portion of the network from getting ransomware attacks. 

Conclusion

We hope this article has highlighted an all-inclusive on enterprise-grade ransomware and its types. It has also dug deep into the various detection techniques and preventive measures enterprises can take to tackle such threats. Multi-layer static and dynamic detection and constant monitoring are proven ways to prevent ransomware attacks. Enterprises should block access to malicious or phishing links and prevent malicious file downloads. Implementing advanced email security solutions & Zero Trust Principles are also well-known ways to limit privilege access for ransomware. Here’s where VE3 can help, by providing comprehensive cybersecurity solutions tailored to mitigate ransomware threats, including advanced threat detection, email security, and Zero Trust Principles implementation. To know more, explore our innovative digital solutions or contact us directly. 

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