Ransomware is one of the most devastating pieces of malware you can encounter. It can ruin your personal and business reputation, as well as cost you money. Luckily, there are some ways to detect ransomware activity before it gets a chance to do any damage.
You can’t afford to be caught off-guard with ransomware infection. Fortunately, this article discusses what ransomware is, the common ways one can get attacked by it, and the ultimate guide to ransomware detection. Read on!
What Is Ransomware?
Ransomware is malware that encrypts files on your computer, making them inaccessible. That means you can’t open them, copy them, or even see the names of the files. To get your files back, you must pay the hackers.
Hackers will typically offer you a way to decrypt your files for free if you agree to install their software on your computer. If you do this, they’ll be able to access and steal all of your data. The term ‘ransomware’ comes from the idea that your files are held hostage by the malware until you pay up.
The first known ransomware appeared in 1989, when a Harvard-trained biologist released AIDS Trojan onto the internet. The program encrypted files on infected computers and demanded USD$189 from its victims in exchange for decryption instructions. The virus affected at least 16,000 systems before it was discovered and removed from the Internet by authorities.
The most common form of ransomware is crypto-ransomware, which encrypts your files using an encryption algorithm. Crypto-ransomware is usually spread as a Trojan horse or through phishing emails masquerading as official emails from payment companies. Ransomware can be delivered through email attachments or infected websites; many people don’t even know they have it until it’s too late.
Ransomware infections can destroy the data on a computer or network. Also, it doesn’t discriminate—it infects both home users and businesses alike. It targets everyone from individual computers to entire networks and even entire countries. Some ransomware variants encrypt files on the affected machine and demand payment for the victim to receive a decryption key that’ll unlock their files. Other variants lock down the device until the victim pays for their release.
Common Ways To Get A Ransomware Infection
Ransomware infections are common in this era. While you want to protect your data from ransomware infection, it’s crucial to know the most common ways to get infected by this malware. There are as follows:
- Phishing And Spam Emails: Phishing and spam emails are the most common ways to get a ransomware infection. If you get an email from someone you don’t know, it’s always best to be suspicious. It’s best not to click on any links or attachments in the email. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Malicious Websites: Another common way to get a ransomware infection is visiting a malicious website. Malicious websites trick you into downloading malware into your computer when you visit them. They often include links that appear legitimate, but direct you to a page that looks like it’s from your bank or another financial institution. These pages may ask you to enter personal information, such as your bank account number or other sensitive information, which criminals can use to steal your money and other assets.
- Malicious Applications: Malicious applications are another common way to get a ransomware infection. Malicious applications are programs that can cause harm to your computer. These applications can be distributed through downloads from untrusted websites or email attachments. If you have doubts about whether an application is safe, don’t download it.
- Infected Removable Drive: One of the most common ways to get a ransomware infection is through infected removable drives. This can happen when you plug an infected drive into your computer, such as a USB thumb drive or external hard drive. Some people may be more likely to use these drives because they’re portable and convenient. However, if you don’t have up-to-date anti-virus protection, you could end up with ransomware in your system.
- Malicious Pop-Ups: A common way to get infected by ransomware is through malicious pop-ups. These are typically designed to look like something you need to see, like an important message or a warning. The reality is that they’re fake, and they’ll install malware on your computer if you click them.
How To Detect Ransomware Activity
Now that you know what ransomware is, you may want to know how to detect ransomware activity on your computer. Here are some ways you can do so successfully:
- Use Anti-Ransomware Software Solution
One sophisticated method for ransomware detection is by using anti-ransomware software and other machine learning solutions. This tool can monitor your computer for signs of ransomware attacks, and can take immediate action if it detects any suspicious activity. Some anti-ransomware solutions also enable you to customize how they work. If you’re concerned about specific files being encrypted, you can set them up so that the software will only block those files from being encrypted by ransomware.
- Check For Strange Files
Another way to detect ransomware activity is to check for strange or unfamiliar files. If you find a file that you don’t recognize, it could be a sign of malicious intent. Upon infection, the malware can leave behind many unfamiliar files you don’t usually see on your computer.
If you see a new file in an unexpected place, or if a file that’s usually stored in one location has suddenly appeared somewhere else, that could be a sign of infection. For example, if you see a new file in a folder that contains other files associated with your browsers, like bookmarks or caches, and it’s not a backup of any kind, that’s probably suspicious. Or, if you see a new folder labeled ‘backup’ appear in the exact location as all your photos, it’s something you need to investigate further.
- Watch Out For Changes In File Size
You can detect ransomware activity by watching out for changes in file size since many types of ransomware cause documents and photos to grow larger than they should. If you notice a change in file size, make sure you don’t open the file or attempt to save it until you know precisely what happened to the original version. You should also ensure that your computer has been thoroughly scanned for viruses and malware to ensure there aren’t any other issues affecting your files. For instance, if you receive an email with a .zip attachment, but when you open the attachment, it’s only a few kilobytes, this could be a sign of malware.
- Check For Unusual Access Patterns.
If you notice that your computer is behaving strangely and you haven’t installed any new software or made any changes to your system, someone has likely installed malware. You can usually tell if something like this has happened by looking at how often programs are trying to access the Internet, how often they’re trying to access other computers on the network, and what kind of files are being accessed.
If you notice these activities happening more often than usual, you may want to consider taking action immediately before any damage gets done.
- Monitor Audit Trails
Another way to detect ransomware activity is by monitoring audit trails. Such trails record all system activities that have occurred in a given time and can be used to identify suspicious activities. A good example is when an employee deletes a file from their computer, but it’s still stored on the server. This is an example of suspicious behavior because an employee shouldn’t have access to deleted files from the server.
If you notice that a user has done something out of the ordinary, such as installing software from an unknown source, it could be a sign that they’ve been compromised by ransomware. To monitor audit trails, you must configure your system to log all events and write them to an external storage device. When you do this, you’ll have a record of everything that’s happened on your computer since the last time you logged in.
- Look For An Unusual Amount Of Traffic
When looking for ransomware, you want to be guided by the adage, “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.” When it comes to hacking and malware, there’s no better way to prove that something is happening and protect your devices than using the tools you have at your disposal. And, if you’re trying to detect ransomware activity, there are two things to keep an eye on: CPU load and network activity.
The first thing you’ll want to check is whether or not your computer is running any more slowly than usual. If it is, this could indicate that your machine has been compromised and is being used as part of a botnet. The second thing you should look for is unusual network activity. This can include things like unexplained spikes in bandwidth usage or strange traffic patterns that don’t match up with what you’d expect from your typical workday (like streaming video from home). For instance, if you see a large amount of traffic coming from a single IP address, this is a good sign that you may have been compromised by ransomware.
Ransomware attacks are on the rise. They’re becoming increasingly common, causing massive damage to companies and individuals alike. Knowing how they work is the first step in protecting yourself against these cyberthreats.