How Does Ransomware Spread in a Network?

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Did you know that ransomware is one of the most rapidly spreading forms of malware? In fact, it can often spread faster than a computer user can even realize what’s happening.

Read on to know more about how ransomware propagates and some prevention tips.

What is Ransomware Attack?

The ransomware is malware that encrypts a victim’s files and then demands a ransom to be paid to decrypt them. It can spread quickly throughout an entire network, often without being detected until it’s too late.

The ransomware attack is often sent by cybercriminals who want to make money. They typically target organizations because they know the company will be more likely to pay the ransom to get their files back. Some experts believe that nation-states conduct ransomware attacks as part of cyber warfare. Others claim that these attacks are made by individuals who grudge against a person or organization.

Ransomware can spread very quickly. Often within minutes or hours – depending on the size and security of the network it’s targeting. This makes it especially difficult to prevent because there’s often insufficient time to react and stop the spread.

How Ransomware Spreads in a Network?

There are many ways to spread and deploy ransomware, including:


1. Email Attachments

Ransomware can spread in many ways, but one of the most common is phishing emails. These look like they come from a legitimate source but contain malicious code.

When you open these malicious email attachments, the ransomware is automatically downloaded and executed, encrypting your files.

To avoid falling victim to ransomware, be cautious when opening email attachments. Don’t open it if you’re not expecting an attachment from someone. And if you’re not sure whether an attachment is safe, you can always scan it with your anti-virus software before opening it.

2. Malicious Links

Another way to distribute ransomware infection is through malicious links. These links can be sent to you via email or social media platforms.

The link will download and deliver ransomware onto your computer when you click on the link. It can be in the form of malicious software masked as a legitimate program or even a seemingly innocuous image file.

It is essential to be careful when browsing the web. Only click on links from trusted sources, especially in internet cafes. These computers are more vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

If you’re doubtful whether a link is safe, you can hover over it with your mouse to check where it will take you before clicking on it.

3. Drive-by Downloads

Drive-by downloads are another way that ransomware can spread. This happens when you visit a website that has been infected with malware.

When you visit the site, the malware is automatically downloaded and installed onto your computer without your knowledge. Once again, this can lead to your encrypted files being held for ransom.

To protect yourself from drive-by downloads. It’s essential to have an anti-virus program installed on your computer and to keep it up-to-date. You should also avoid visiting websites that you don’t trust.

In addition, you can install a plugin like NoScript, which will block scripts from running on websites unless you trust them.

4. Malvertising

Malvertising(malicious advertising) is another method that hackers use to spread ransomware. This happens when malicious ads are placed on legitimate websites.

Once a user clicks on an infected ad, they may be redirected to an infected website containing harmful code or malicious software.

Malvertising can also spread advanced ransomware variants. Some are particularly damaging because they can encrypt backups and live data to demand a ransom for the decryption key.

While Malvertising is a relatively new phenomenon, it has significantly impacted Internet users and businesses.

Luckily, there are steps that both individuals and organizations can take to protect themselves. But we will talk more about that later.

5. Pirated Software

In many cases, the ransomware spread through the use of pirated software. When people download free software from the internet, they are often inadvertently downloading malware along with it. This malware can then be used to infect their computers and encrypt their files. Ransomware can also spread through the use of their exploit kit. These are tools that hackers use to take advantage of vulnerabilities in software to install ransomware directly on a victim’s computer.

Once a computer is contaminated with ransomware, the attacker will usually demand a ransom in order to restore access to the files. In some cases, the attacker may also threaten to release the victims’ personal data if the ransom is not paid. This becomes effective as many people are unwilling to risk their personal data being public.

While there are steps that people can take to protect themselves from ransomware, such as installing security patches and using anti-malware software, the best defense is always prevention. That’s why it’s essential to be careful when downloading pirated software. It’s best to get the free version from their source website, and if you need a premium version, It’s recommended one should pay for it.

6. Removable Media

This ransomware will often come in the form of a zip file that, when opened, will start to encrypt the files on the local machine. Another way that ransomware can spread is through autorun. When autorun is enabled on a system, any infected USB drive plugged in will automatically execute any files on the drive. This can lead to the ransomware being executed without the user realizing it.

You should disable autorun on your computer to protect yourself from this attack. You can do this by opening the Control Panel and going to the AutoPlay settings. From here, you can select the option to “Turn off autoplay” or “Disable autoplay.”

You should also be careful about what USB drives you to plug into your computer. If possible, you should avoid using USB drives you don’t trust. In addition, you can install an anti-virus program that will scan any USB drive plugged in for malware before it’s used.

7. Network Propagation

Network propagation is a ransomware attack that uses a network connection to spread malicious content and breach perimeter defenses.

In a network propagation attack, the attacker first scans the network for open ports and vulnerable systems. Once a vulnerable system is found, the attacker then lateral spread the ransomware to other devices on the network.

As it moves, it will start to encrypt data, making it inaccessible to users. Eventually, the ransomware will find its way to a server or workstation that contains critical data. At this point, the attacker will demand a ransom in exchange for the decryption key.

Network Propagation attacks are challenging to detect and can cause extensive damage to an organization’s network. One can prevent this by implementing firewalls and intrusion detection systems.

8. Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)

Ransomware can spread via operating system vulnerabilities, exploit kits, computer networks, and communications protocols. One common way that ransomware spreads are via Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) brute-forcing. RDP is a communications protocol that allows users to connect to a remote computer over a network. Businesses often use it to allow employees to work from home or remotely access a work computer.

Attackers can gain access to a remote computer by brute-forcing their way through the RDP login process once they have gained access. They can install ransomware on the remote computer and encrypt the victim’s files. The target will then receive a ransom note to decrypt their files.

To protect your RDP against this type of cyber attack, ensure your RDP is adequately configured and secure. Having a complex password that can make brute-forcing RDP login much more difficult is also crucial. Also, up-to-date anti-virus software can help to protect against ransomware.

Prevention Methods

Prevention is always the best form of defense when it comes to ransomware. However, there are few things one can do to mitigate the risk:

  • Keep your operating system and software up to date with the latest security patches.
  • Use strong passwords, and don’t use the same password at multiple sites.
  • Avoid clicking on attachments or web links in emails unless you are sure they are safe.
  • Install an anti-virus program and keep it up to date.
  • Back up your data regularly so that you can recover if your files are encrypted.
  • Implement the principle of least permissions – users should only have access to the resources they need to do their job.
  • Use a whitelisting solution only to allow trusted applications to run on endpoint devices.
  • Use application control solutions to prevent malicious or unauthorized applications from running on endpoint devices.
  • Implement network segmentation so that if one part of your network is compromised, the rest will not be affected.
  • Educate employees about ransomware and how it can spread to avoid falling for it.

Ransomware can have devastating consequences for individuals and businesses alike. In order to protect, it is essential to be aware of the different ways ransomware can spread. Additionally, implementing security measures such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems can help to prevent ransomware from spreading on your network.

Finally, If you’re concerned regarding the security of your network and want to ensure that you’re protected against ransomware attacks, consider scheduling a cyber security audit.

Our cyber security audit will evaluate your current security posture and recommend how to improve your security.

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