April 30, 2019
Methods and Tools for Ransomware Detection
In the modern business world, data is an extremely valuable asset. When organizations lose access to their data, the possible repercussions are often unpredictable. The number of ransomware attacks directed at businesses has grown significantly over the last decade with cybercriminals coming up with ever more intricate and sophisticated ways of infecting a system.
In order to reduce your chances of becoming the victim of a ransomware attack, we have created a list of the best ransomware detection tools, which can scan your infrastructure for any signs of malware, detect any malicious activities in the system, and block viruses from further infecting your computer. Here’s our top 5 ransomware detection tools that are worthy of your attention:
- Bitdefender Anti-Ransomware Tool
- Cybersight RansomStopper
- Trend Micro RansomBuster
- Check Point ZoneAlarm
Moreover, this blog post provides a list of best practices which can help you promptly detect ransomware activities and mitigate their impact on your system. Here’s our 11-point list of best approaches to ransomware detection, mitigation, and protection:
- Check e-mail addresses
- Do not open attachments
- Constantly update your system
- Do not install any third-party software
- Regularly scan your infrastructure
- Create honeypots
- Educate your employees
- Restrict access to critical systems and applications
- Follow the 3-2-1 backup rule
- Consider cyber-insurance
- Notify authorities
In this blog post, you can also learn how NAKIVO Backup & Replication can help you protect your virtual infrastructure and put your anti-ransomware protection plan into action.
What Is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a type of malicious attack which aims at accessing, corrupting, or destroying the victim’s data by using malware. The intention behind the ransomware attack is to demand a ransom payment from the victim in exchange for restoring access to the encrypted data.
Since attackers generally pursue monetary gain from their exploits, it is no surprise that the main target of ransomware attacks has switched from individual users to business operations. Modern organizations generally prefer to pay out the ransom and gain back access to the affected files in short order because, in most cases, the repercussions of such data loss are highly detrimental and can be extremely difficult to repair.
Businesses generally discover that they are the victim of the ransomware attack only after the crime has already taken place. Once cybercriminals have invaded the system, they are not afraid of ransomware detection. Instead, they notify business owners that their system has been penetrated, and threaten to destroy or leak mission-critical data unless a ransom is paid.
Some cybercriminals will go as far as posing as a law enforcement agency and threatening to prosecute the owner for having illegal content. The victim, in such case, is more likely to cooperate and comply with the demands of the criminal who is acting under the guise of a law enforcement agent.
Currently, cybercriminals typically demand the money to be paid out in a virtual currency like bitcoin. This is due to the fact that cryptocurrencies are extremely difficult to be traced, thus allowing attackers to hide their identity and get away with the committed crime.
How You Become the Victim of Ransomware
A ransomware attack can only take place if your computer has been infected with the virus. As such, it is extremely important to be aware of the most common ways of contracting malware. This way, you can learn which system components are more exposed and vulnerable to ransomware attacks and how to promptly detect ransomware activities in your infrastructure.
So, let’s discuss how you can become the victim of ransomware. The most prevalent ways of contracting malware are:
- Suspicious emails or text messages, which prompt you to click the link or download the attachment containing malware.
- Malicious websites, which have been purposely built to trick people into browsing their pages and, eventually, becoming infected with the virus.
- Social media, which are often seen as trustworthy and legitimate platforms, thus making individuals immediately trust them. Generally, malware is spread through malicious applications, advertisements, plug-ins, and links on social media platforms that can convince users to download cryptomining software and other malicious content.
- Malvertising, which is a form of online advertising containing malicious code. By clicking the link on the seemingly legitimate website, your computer can automatically get infected with the virus.
- Mobile ransomware, which is executed through mobile apps injected with malicious code. By downloading such apps, your mobile phone can be infected with malware in a matter of seconds, then sharing the virus with your computer the next time you connect to it.
Top 5 Ransomware Detection Tools
There are multiple antivirus anti-malware software vendors currently competing in the market. Each of them provides a unique set of features, making it extremely difficult to determine the correct choice among all the available options.
Here’s a short list of ransomware detection tools which can help you detect ransomware activities and protect your system against malicious attacks:
- Bitdefender Anti-Ransomware Tool is an add-on component of Bitdefender Antivirus Plus. It was designed to stop ransomware from infecting your computer or, at least, spreading within your system. For this purpose, it uses machine learning which allows you to detect ransomware patterns and identify in real time when the attack is taking place. Moreover, the Bitdefender Anti-Ransomware Tool can make your computer files appear as though they have already been infected. This way, ransomware attackers believe that they have succeeded, whereas you get the opportunity to prevent the malware from further encrypting your data.
- Cybersight RansomStopper is a free stand-alone product that can help you detect existing and new ransomware viruses and stop them from further infecting the system.
- Trend Micro RansomBuster is a free lightweight ransomware tool which allows you to protect your computer from various types of ransomware and prevents unknown programs from modifying protected files stored in specific folders.
- Check Point ZoneAlarm is a security tool designed for detection of any suspicious activities in your system and prevention of ransomware attacks before any serious damage is done. If your files become encrypted, the product can decrypt affected files and rapidly restore them to their original state.
- CryptoDrop is an anti-ransomware tool which can scan your entire infrastructure, remember the system’s state prior to a ransomware attack, and put your system into lockdown in case you have detected ransomware. After all possible threats have been suspended, you can easily restore encrypted files.
As you can see, there are multiple ransomware detection tools available which can use different mechanisms to detect ransomware, show different performance results, and charge different prices. Thus, when it comes to choosing the right ransomware detection tool, it is recommended that you consider your business needs, system capabilities, possible threats and vulnerabilities, as well as your level of exposure to outside attacks.
Best Practices for Ransomware Detection, Mitigation, and Protection
If you are still unsure about which solution to go with, we recommend that you adopt the following practices to build the best anti-ransomware protection system against malicious attacks:
Check e-mail addresses
In order to confuse individuals, cybercriminals sometimes make their email addresses look similar to the actual email accounts. Thus, you should always carefully check the address of incoming emails and ensure that your employees do so as well.
On the other hand, you can configure your email box settings to filter your incoming mail, automatically detecting spam and suspicious email addresses, and preventing such email from entering your inbox.
Do not open attachments
It is recommended that you do not click on any links or download any file attachments until you verify that the email account is authentic and belongs to an actual person or institution. The most common way of infecting your computer with malware is through sending an encrypted zip file. This way, an unaware user won’t be able to see the file’s content until it is downloaded and opened.
Moreover, pay attention to email attachments with file extensions such as .exe, .vbs, or .scr, which are executable files. This is the type of files which most often become injected with viruses and can easily infect your computer once downloaded and installed.
Constantly update your system
You should keep your operating system and critical applications patched and up-to-date. Be aware of future updates, installing them as soon as they are released. System updates and security patches are generally intended to fix the issues of the past releases and reduce potential vulnerabilities of your system. This way, you can reduce the possibility of ransomware attacks.
Do not install any third-party software
Sometimes, you need to install third-party software on your computer. However, you should first verify that the software vendor is authentic and can be trusted. For this purpose, you should install whitelisting software (e.g. Bit9, Velox, McAfee, and Lumension, etc.), which can identify whether the new application is safe enough to be installed and run in your system. Using whitelisting software along with antivirus software can be considered one of the most effective methods of ransomware detection.
Regularly scan your infrastructure
It is recommended that you install anti-malware software which will notify you of any possible threats, identify potential vulnerabilities, and detect ransomware activities in your infrastructure. Modern anti-ransomware tools allow you to scan your entire system for existing viruses and active malware threats. Moreover, such computer scans can be run either on demand or on the schedule you set up, thus minimizing the input on your part.
A honeypot is one of the most effective security measures which can be used to confuse cybercriminals and take their attention away from the actual mission-critical files. By setting up a honeypot, you create a fake file repository or a server which looks like a legitimate target to an outsider and appear especially enticing to ransomware attackers. This way, you can not only protect your files and rapidly detect a ransomware attack, but also learn how cybercriminals operate and how to protect your system against any future attacks.
Educate your employees
When it comes to ransomware attacks, knowledge is power. You should train yourself, your employees and your user base on the threats and dangers of malware and on the most common signs of malware and security attacks. Moreover, educate them on the importance of creating a strong password, always checking the authenticity of email addresses, and examining the links and file attachments before clicking them. Also, you should provide each employee with a list of actions to undertake in case they have detected ransomware on their computer. This way, you will be able to minimize the negative impacts of a ransomware attack and deal with the issue without serious repercussions.
Restrict access to critical systems and applications
You need to limit the number of individuals granted local administrative rights to your critical files and system resources. The greater number of users who have access to administrative rights, the higher the possibility that one of those individuals will mistakenly download the infected file and, as a result, put the entire infrastructure at risk. To avoid such issues from occurring, you need to apply the principle of least privilege, meaning that the user can be granted access to only those files and system resources which are required to perform their work.
Follow the 3-2-1 backup rule
Constantly back up your data using the 3-2-1 rule, which implies that you have to create 3 copies of your data, store them on 2 different media, with 1 of them being stored off-site. This way, you can ensure that your critical data is securely protected and can be rapidly recovered, even if your files have become encrypted.
After creating data backups, run tests to make sure that your backups are functional and verify their recoverability. Thus, you can prevent failures which otherwise might have happened during the system recovery.
If you are worried about how a ransomware attack can affect your business, you should consider cyber-insurance, which will take care of your financial losses in case of system breach or other malicious activities. An insurance company will help you identify the most common threats to your organization, and conduct an audit of the organization’s processes in order to detect vulnerabilities within your system. As a result, the insurance company can provide you with a list of effective measures for ransomware detection, prevention, and response that your organization should follow.
In case a ransomware attack on your system occurs, you should immediately inform all relevant authorities about it. If the attack was successful and the attackers managed to get hold of the ransom, authorities may be able to help you track down criminals and force them to return your money. If the ransomware attack failed, law-enforcement agencies might learn a lot from your experience (e.g. which methods cybercriminals used to invade your system, which prevention and mitigation measures helped you overcome the attack etc.).