The Frightening Evolution of Ransomware

The evolution of ransomware is a frightening thought for businesses, as it remains one of the most dangerous forms of targeted cyberattacks today.

The financial ramifications of a ransomware attack are far from trivial. In fact, IBM’s 2022 report on the cost of data breaches puts the price tag at $4.54 million for each successful attack in the U.S. Needless to say, you want to avoid being impacted by ransomware.

While the costs of an attack have grown, so too has the amount of destruction caused by ransomware. In a case of offense vs. defense, cybercriminals have evolved, addressing newer security measures implemented by concerned organizations.

Let’s take a look at what’s happening, and how the evolution of ransomware could impact your business.

How Ransomware Attacks Work

Most ransomware is delivered via the following multi-step procedure.

  • A distribution campaign is initiated against a viable target. Generally, it occurs through phishing and other methods to gain access to your computing environment.

  • After obtaining access, infection is carried out by downloading an executable file to the target system.

  • In the staging phase of the attack, ransomware is embedded into the system, so it persists after a restart.

  • Next, the ransomware scans for the specific files it will encrypt, and searches for additional valuable data it can attack.

  • Files are then encrypted, making them unavailable to the victim.

  • Extortion is the final step, where ransom demands are delivered to the victim with instructions on how to pay the criminals.
An intentionally grainy image of a hooded figure with cat's eyes for blackcat ransomware
Related: Why BlackCat Ransomware Should Concern You (click image to learn more)

Original Ransomware Variants

The first ransomware attack was perpetrated in 1989.

At the time, the malware was spread using infected floppy disks, which had to be manually loaded into an unsuspecting user’s computer.

It remained dormant on the machine until the system was turned on 90 times. Then, the malware began encrypting files, and displayed a ransom note demanding that sums of between $189 and $378 be mailed to a P.O. box.

As time went on, the evolution of ransomware meant criminals began to demand that victims pay higher sums. However, the general form of an attack remained the same.

Files were simply encrypted with no further damage to the environment.

Proactive companies developed resilient backup and recovery plans that allowed them to restore access to their data, without paying the ransom.

Evolution of Ransomware Leads to Backup Destruction

As time went on, cybercriminals ramped up the carnage of ransomware, by identifying and destroying the data backups that could be used to thwart the attack.

The goal was to make it impossible to recover the targeted systems, giving the victims additional incentive to pay the ransom. In many cases, victimized organizations had no choice but to give in to the criminals’ demands.

And so, it was the defenders’ turn to step up their game. The next defensive measure was to create immutable backups, which could not be corrupted or destroyed during a ransomware attack.

While that defense worked, it also spurred the evolution of ransomware to develop a new and much more dangerous form…

Ransomware with Data Exfiltration

Today, many ransomware attacks perform data exfiltration before ever encrypting a victim’s files.

With the data in hand, criminals then threaten to release the information on the dark web if their demands are not met. This strategy puts sensitive data at risk, and sometimes forces the victims to pay the ransom.

Unfortunately, in some cases, data is released even after payment is made.

An image of a shadowy figure at a computer, with text that reads "What to know about Lockbit Ransomware"
Related: What You Need to Know About LockBit Ransomware (click image to learn more)

So, What Can You Do?

So, with the evolution of ransomware continuing at a dangerous pace, what can you do?

Well, the best defense against ransomware is to keep it out of your environment altogether. Once infected, your data resources may be held hostage, with no assurances that you can recover them safely.

You’ll need to implement robust security measures to minimize the risk of an attack.

Fortunately, it’s not something you need to do alone.

Blue Bastion, with the help of our partner IT division, Ideal Integrations, has the cybersecurity expertise to help you protect your environment from ransomware attacks.

Our managed detection and response service provides 24/7 security monitoring of your infrastructure, applications, and data. We can detect intrusions and data breaches in real time, so they can be addressed promptly to reduce the risk to your infrastructure.

Simply contact our team at 412-349-6680, or fill out the form, below and our team of cybersecurity experts will create and execute the ultimate security plan to protect your organization.

And, as always, stay vigilant.

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