Ransomware is a type of malicious software that encrypts a victim’s files. The attackers then demand a ransom from the victim to restore access to the files; hence the name “ransomware.”
There are several ways that ransomware can be delivered to a victim, including through phishing emails, drive-by downloads, or through the exploitation of vulnerabilities on a victim’s computer. Once a victim’s system has been infected with ransomware, the attacker will typically display a ransom note on the victim’s computer, explaining that the victim’s files have been encrypted and demanding payment in exchange for the decryption key.
Ransomware attacks can be especially dangerous for companies, as they can result in significant downtime and financial losses. If a company’s critical systems and data are encrypted, it may be unable to conduct business until the ransom is paid and the files are decrypted. Additionally, even if the ransom is paid, there is no guarantee that the attackers will actually provide the decryption key, and some variants of ransomware have been designed to be particularly difficult or impossible to decrypt.
To protect against ransomware attacks, it is important for companies to implement robust security measures, such as regularly updating software and applications, using antivirus software, and educating employees about the risks of ransomware and how to identify and avoid it. It is also important for companies to have robust backup and recovery systems in place, so that they can restore their systems and data in the event of an attack.
In recent years, some ransomware attacks have not only encrypted victims’ files and demanded a ransom for their decryption, but have also exfiltrated sensitive information from the victim’s systems. This means that the attackers not only disrupted the victim’s operations, but also obtained potentially valuable data such as intellectual property, customer information, or proprietary business information.
The exfiltration of sensitive information can significantly increase the impact of a ransomware attack, as it can not only result in financial losses, but also damage a company’s reputation and expose it to regulatory fines and legal liabilities. In some cases, the threat of sensitive information being exfiltrated or made public has been used by attackers as leverage to demand a larger ransom payment from the victim.
One of the most famous examples of ransomware is WannaCry, which was a global cyber attack that occurred in May 2017. The attack affected more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries, and affected a wide range of organizations, including hospitals, schools, and government agencies.
WannaCry was spread through a zero-day vulnerability in the Microsoft Windows operating system, and used a combination of encryption and ransom demands to disrupt the operations of its victims. The attackers demanded payment in the form of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin in exchange for the decryption key, and threatened to double the ransom if it was not paid within three days.
The WannaCry attack received widespread media attention and was considered one of the most significant cyber attacks in recent history. It highlighted the importance of keeping software and systems up to date with the latest patches and security updates, as well as the importance of having robust backup and recovery systems in place.