what is ransomware attack

What Is a Ransomware Attack: All You Need to Know

As digital infrastructure becomes increasingly integrated into our everyday lives, the number of cyber attacks has increased. Ransomware attacks are a common form of cyber attack and can pose a major threat to growing businesses. The global volume of ransomware attacks has nearly doubled in just two years, and ransomware attacks caused over $20 billion in damages and lost revenue in 2021 alone. 

The team at Herrod Technologies is here to answer the question: What is a ransomware attack? We will tell you everything you need to know about this type of cyber attack and how you can protect your business from malicious hackers. 

Contact us today to discuss managed IT services in Arlington!

What Is Ransomware?

A ransomware attack is a type of cyber attack that involves a hacker accessing sensitive data and holding it “ransom” through encryption until the owner pays to get access. Ransomware is a type of extortion, as the hacker forces the owner to pay to regain access to sensitive information. Hackers typically set a ransom payment deadline, after which they will delete or publish the data. 

Ransomware attacks are unique among other types of cyber attacks in that the hacker explicitly notifies the victim about the hacking and gives instructions for payment. Ransomware attacks have increased in frequency in recent years thanks to the proliferation of cryptocurrencies, which give hackers a relatively untraceable method to collect payments.

There are three main types of ransomware attacks: encryption, screen lock, and doxware. Encryption ransomware attacks involve the hacker encrypting data and releasing the key upon payment. With screen lock attacks, the hacker can lock the victim out of their computer and other devices until they pay the ransom. In a doxware attack, the hacker steals private personal information for public release. 

How Do Ransomware Attacks Work?

The most common vector for ransomware attacks is phishing attempts. Hackers attempt to trick people into clicking links that will download malware, giving access to the victim’s computer and files. For example, a popular phishing method is sending fake emails that look like legitimate emails from an official organization. Spear-phishing is a sophisticated phishing method that targets specific individuals. 

Other vectors for ransomware attacks include messaging services, malicious apps, websites, and external hard drives/thumb drives. Once the hacker gets access to the victim’s files, they add an extension that encrypts the data, making it inaccessible without the proper decryption key. 

In many cases, even if the victim pays the ransom, the hacker may still delete or release the information. Hackers may also distribute a fake encryption key, so even if victims pay, there is no guarantee they will get their data back.  

Negative Effects of Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware originally began as targeted attacks against individuals. However, hackers have shifted their focus to businesses, government institutions, and public utilities as their hacking capabilities have grown. These types of organizations are prime targets for ransomware because they often deal with sensitive information and have substantial financial resources. 

What are a ransomware attack’s risks? Ransomware attacks can have several extremely negative effects on both small and large businesses, including:

  • Loss of confidential information
  • Financial and personal harm to customers, patients, and stakeholders
  • Lost revenue from IT downtimes
  • Financial losses from data recovery
  • Productivity and labor losses
  • Long-term hardware or software damage
  • Damage to business reputation and client trust

These consequences are severe, so it’s in your best interest to take as many precautions as possible against ransomware attacks

Protecting Your Business from Ransomware Attacks

Protecting your business against ransomware attacks is about more than just having the right software and antivirus technology. Follow these tips to reduce the risk of ransomware: 

  • Keep backup files of sensitive data and hard drives
  • Keep all software updated
  • Use network segmentation to prevent hackers from gaining access to administrator privileges
  • Use multi-factor authentication for logins
  • Filter malware by using secure web gateways
  • Do not use USB devices or thumb drives unless you know exactly where they come from
  • Monitor emails using secure email gateways
  • Hire a security firm to perform a cybersecurity consultation
  • Train employees on proper password management and device access management

Ransomware FAQ

Below are some of the most common questions we receive about ransomware attacks. 

What Is the Difference Between Ransomware and Malware?

Ransomware is just a specific type of malware, one that typically involves an encryption component. What makes malware ransomware is how hackers will hold victims’ sensitive data ransom to receive payment. 

Is Ransomware a Computer Virus?

Ransomware itself may not be a virus, but hackers can use viruses to spread ransomware. Very often, ransomware attacks occur when unknowing victims accidentally download malicious attachments onto their computers and networks. 

Should I Pay the Ransom?

No, if hackers steal your data and hold it ransom, you should not pay. Paying the ransom does not guarantee that hackers will decrypt the data. Very often, hackers will delete data or send a fake encryption key, even if they receive payment. Additionally, paying ransomware hackers can set a negative precedent.

Can I Decrypt Files That Have Been Stolen and Locked?

Technically yes, it is possible to break a ransomware encryption, but it may be difficult depending on the specific encryption and attack vector. The best way to manage ransomware attacks is to keep separate backup copies of sensitive data that hackers cannot access. 

Can Ransomware Affect Mobile Devices? 

Yes, many hackers create ransomware specifically to target smartphones. Android devices are more susceptible to ransomware attacks than iOS phones because the Android OS is open-source and allows more flexibility with apps and device permissions.  

Cybersecurity and IT Services

In today’s fast-paced business world, having subpar IT services can drastically affect productivity. Business owners need smart and efficient IT solutions that can grow with them. Herrod Technology can solve your IT problems with our state-of-the-art cybersecurity and IT services. 

Now that you know “What is a ransomware attack?” read our blog to learn more about frag attack vulnerability and how to protect yourself. Then fill out our contact form today to schedule a consultation call!

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