The objective of Crypto-ransomware attacks is to encrypt your critical data, such as documents, images, and videos, but not to obstruct fundamental computer operations.
Crypto-ransomware attacks have developed into a serious menace over the past few years, involving top-secret spy organizations and global intrigues.
Around the end of 2010, a new trend among cybercriminals emerged. This was done to take advantage of the anonymity and non-traceability of payments. The preferred form of payment for online extortion became Bitcoin.
In 2021, the average cost of recovering from a ransomware attack was $1.85 million. Even when a business had a backup, it still had an impact on its operations and resulted in a loss of revenue.
In 2021, 32% of the impacted businesses determined that paying the ransom was the better option. Although, there is no assurance that cybercriminals will keep their end of the bargain.
What is Crypto-Ransomware?
Crypto-Ransomware is a malicious application that encrypts files on a computer or mobile device to demand payment. A victim of a crypto-ransomware assault will have their data encrypted, and the attacker will then leave a ransom note with payment instructions on the victim’s desktop.
A file’s contents are “scrambled” by encryption, making them unintelligible. A decryption key is required to “unscramble” the file and make it usable again.
In essence, crypto-ransomware holds the contents hostage and demands a ransom in exchange for the decryption key required to unlock the files.
Cybercriminals scramble the victim’s data using AES (Advanced Encryption Algorithm), RSA (Rivest, Shamir, Adleman), or a mix of the two.
It is nearly impossible to decrypt files without a key once encrypted. The user’s options are limited to nonexistent as a result. If they had already backed up their data, they can either pay to receive the key, restore the data, or accept the loss of their data.
Crypto-ransomware, in contrast to other dangers, is neither covert nor subtle. Instead, it loudly advertises itself with gory messages and blatantly manipulates your fear and outrage to force you to pay the ransom.
Some so-called crypto-ransomware only threaten to encrypt data to demand money from victims. However, the threat is typically carried out in most instances.
How do attacks using Crypto-Ransomware work?
There are two typical ways to come across crypto-ransomware:
• By downloading or opening files or links sent over emails, instant messaging, or other networks
• Downloaded onto your system by additional dangers, such as trojan downloaders or exploit kits
When a device downloads and runs the crypto-ransomware, it searches for and encrypts specific files.
Some crypto-ransomware only encrypts particular file formats, such as older TeslaCrypt variations. Others like Cryptolocker, for instance, are less selective and will encrypt a wide variety of data. The Master Boot Record (MBR), a unique area of a computer’s hard disk that runs first and launches (boots) its operating system while preventing the execution of any other programs, is encrypted by one of the crypto-ransomware attacks called Petya.
The ransom demand will be shown by the crypto-ransomware after the encryption process is finished. Payment is frequently only accepted in Bitcoins or other comparable digital currencies, and the amount will vary depending on the ransomware in question. Also included are detailed instructions.
By giving the victims only a short amount of time to satisfy the demand, the attackers in some situations increase the pressure on the victims to pay the ransom. The decryption key may be removed or the ransom demand may go up after the predetermined period.
List of popular crypto-ransomware attacks
One of the greatest cyber threats of the present is crypto-ransomware attacks. The scenario has over 1,000 variations that are aimed at businesses, organizations, and individual users. The number of victims keeps growing, and the ransomware’s underlying technologies get more and more advanced. The most dangerous crypto-ransomware in recent years is listed here.
- Petya and NotPetya
In September 2013, CryptoLocker made its debut, ushering in a new era of ransomware attacks. It propagated through hacked websites and email attachments to Windows-based devices.
Social engineering techniques are used by cybercriminals to get staff members to download ransomware onto their computers and infiltrate a network. Once downloaded, CryptoLocker would show a ransom notice promising to unlock the data in exchange for money or bitcoins paid before the specified time.
On local and shared disks, CryptoLocker would encrypt particular files once it was launched. The user would then be prompted to pay the ransom using Bitcoin or pre-paid cash cards.
In 2014, authorities were able to stop the CryptoLocker operation by taking down the Gameover ZeuS botnet server that was responsible for disseminating the malware. Additionally, they acquired a set of database keys for file decryption, which they eventually used to make a decryption tool.
Although the CryptoLocker ransomware has already been eliminated, this malicious software is thought to have been used to extort more than $3 million from its victims.
TeslaCrypt was a CryptoLocker variant that employed the same techniques to access the devices of its victims: phishing emails and website flaws. It targeted popular gaming files from World of Warcraft and other games in addition to encrypting personal files. TeslaCrypt’s developers issued a global master key for file decryption in 2016.
This malware’s modularity provided many attack vectors, albeit the attackers usually used phishing emails. There is still no publicly accessible decryption for it.
Crypto ransomware called REvil, also known as Sodinokibi, was developed by the Russian-based REvil cybercriminal organization. Although the gang is known to have carried out brute force operations against prominent targets, phishing remains its primary method of dissemination. It avoided attacking firms from former Soviet Union member nations, focusing mostly on US and European firms.
The company Travelex, which specializes in foreign exchange and travel insurance, was one of its targets. The hackers gained access to the company’s servers and extracted 5 GB of client data from them by taking advantage of a flaw in a VPN service that is frequently used in business environments. They requested a $6 million ransom but ultimately agreed to pay only $2.3 million.
The Russian Federal Security Service announced in January 2022 that it had destroyed the REvil gang with the aid of US intelligence.
In a recent ransomware attack on the oil pipeline system Colonial Pipeline, a hacking group going by the name of DarkSide employed a REvil malware variant.
The 5,500-mile-long East Coast pipeline operated by Colonial Pipeline had to be temporarily shut down. The business transferred $4.4 million in Bitcoin in a matter of hours. Later, the FBI was able to locate and retrieve some of the ransom money.
The cybercriminal organization WIZARD SPIDER created and deployed Ryuk, a ransomware that targets businesses.
Ryuk targets high-ranking personnel within an organization using spear-phishing techniques, in contrast to conventional ransomware attack methods.
Organizations that have been infected will get a note called RyukReadMe.txt containing information on the ransom demands and where to deliver the payment. From this malware since 2018, WIZARD SPIDER has received about $3.7 million in Bitcoin payments.
SamSam, a ransomware attack that first surfaced at the end of 2015 but gained strength just a few years later, brought high-profile targets, mainly in the United States, to their knees.
Rather than being supported by a technical structure, SamSam has a strong organizational model. This ransomware mostly targeted the JBoss vulnerabilities in 2015 and 2016. Then, in 2018, SamSam forced weak passwords on RDP, Java-based servers, and FTP servers to exploit vulnerabilities to enter the victim’s network.
It appears that SamSam assaults are manually managed, i.e., there is a person behind the keyboard who targets a particular network and encrypts the data with RSA-2048 to make them unavailable.
By examining the SamSam group’s Bitcoin wallet, it was discovered, for instance, that the US hospital Hancock Health paid a ransom of 4 bitcoins worth around € 51,000 on January 13, 2018, at 2:31 am. The medical facility’s systems were recovered in two hours.
One of the most harmful ransomware programs ever created and one of the largest cyberattacks ever, WannaCry truly caused hundreds of people to want to cry.
WannaCry makes use of the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol fault introduced by Microsoft and the EternalBlue vulnerability. 200,000 users, including significant businesses, organizations, and government entities, were infected in about 150 different countries in May 2017.
Many PCs had not yet received the security update that Microsoft had provided. WannaCry actively spread across all networked devices to take advantage of this security flaw.
The fact that the malware requires no action makes it one of its harmful characteristics. Your computer automatically installs WannaCry, which encrypts files with the extension. WCRY. Within three days, the ransom of $300 in bitcoin must be paid; if it isn’t, it will double to $600.
All of the files will be lost if the payment is not made within a week. It is said that two million machines are still vulnerable to the attack two years after WannaCry was made available worldwide.
Petya and NotPetya
In 2016 and the time, Petya initially debuted as a ransomware package. Only a few weeks had passed since the WannaCry outbreak in the spring of 2017 when Petya started to spread in an updated form, utilizing EternalBlue to follow the well-known WannaCry ransomware.
The most recent and harmful versions were given the name NotPetya as a result of their progression over time. 80% of the ransomware cases that were reported on June 28th, 2017, according to ESET statistics, were in Ukraine. With 9%, Germany came in second.
NotPetya is distributed primarily through email attachments of.doc,.xls,.ppt, or.pdf files. Although the file can be easily accessed, a dropper is run without the user’s awareness and downloads the actual virus from the Internet. After the files are encrypted, the PC is rendered useless and a $300 bitcoin ransom is demanded.
The primary distinction between Petya/NotPetya and other ransomware families, such as WannaCry, is in the file that it targets: rather than encrypting every file, this ransomware directs users to the PC’s boot loader.
How to avoid being attacked by crypto-ransomware
Cybercriminals infect a victim’s systems using a variety of techniques such as phishing scams, malicious websites, exploits for system and remote desktop protocol flaws.
Individuals and organizations must act to guard against crypto-ransomware attacks as they are not going away soon.
You must learn how to defend yourself if you don’t want to join the disgraceful phishing statistics. Here are some pointers to assist you in doing that.
- Ensure that your software and operating system are current.
- Never open emails from senders you don’t know.
- Using unknown USB sticks or other portable media devices is best avoided.
- Only download files from reliable websites.
- Avoid utilizing public WiFi.
- Install malware protection software.
- Back up your data using an external hard drive or the cloud.
All ransomware attackers have the same objective: to collect money from their victims through blackmail.
Given that ransomware assaults increased by 92% in 2021 compared to 2020 and that the trend is anticipated to continue in 2022, the best course of action for the majority of firms would likely be to increase their investment in staff education and prevention.
Regardless of the type of crypto-ransomware attack, properly using security tools and storing up data beforehand can dramatically lessen the severity of an attack.