Ransomware can be defined as any kind of software used for encrypting or locking your files so that you cannot access them unless you pay ransom money. It comes in various forms such as CryptoLocker, Cryptowall, etc., but all of these have one thing in common: they're designed to either lock up your data permanently until you cough up some cash - or even worse - destroy your entire system!
The problem with this form of malware is that there is no easy way to prevent it from infiltrating into your computer without creating an expensive security barrier between you and the internet. This means that if you want to use Windows on the go then you need to take measures to protect yourself against Ransomware because if left unsecured, your PC could become infected within minutes.
However, while many people would prefer to remove Ransomware manually (which takes time), it’s also possible to buy anti-ransomware protection which prevents Ransomware from infecting your machine at all.
In addition, it may not always be necessary to spend hundreds of pounds on protecting yourself because you might already own a tool that will do just as well – although we suggest using antivirus software since it’ll catch 99% of threats before they ever get inside your PC.
But why exactly do hackers develop new variants of Ransomware? And how does this affect us when buying anti-virus solutions? The answer lies in Affiliate Based Ransomware (ABR).
When talking about different kinds of Ransomware, one of the first things to consider is whether you’re looking for something serious enough to cause long term damage to your PC or business. While it’s true that the ‘bigger’ names like CryptoLocker and Crypowall are capable of causing significant harm to your systems, smaller versions of the same virus still pose a threat. So how big should you expect a particular Ransomware variant to be?
Well, the best way to find out is to look around online. Many websites sell fake copies of the most popular viruses which allow you to test drive them before purchasing the real deal. In fact, some sites offer free trials where you can download and run the virus themselves. As long as you don't mind risking complete destruction of your personal information and documents, this can give you a good idea of the extent of the damage caused by each individual strain.
If you're interested in reading further, here are some of the biggest names in the world of Ransomware and their respective virulence levels:
AESCryptor/VBS/WannaCry – Moderate
Sofacy – High
Locky – High
Petya / Notefighter – Extremely high
Kaspersky Lab – Medium
Brenntag – Low
While AESCryptor was considered extremely harmful due to its ability to spread quickly through networks via USB sticks, other strains were less damaging or didn't exist altogether. But even though Petya isn't particularly threatening today, it did manage to shut down Russia's national railway network during 2015. It wasn't the only incident involving trains either, with several countries being affected including Ukraine, India, China, France and Germany. Thankfully, none of these incidents resulted in fatalities.
And while ransomware doesn’t necessarily result in death, it can certainly lead to financial loss. According to KPMG, in 2014 alone, 2 million businesses suffered losses totalling $1 billion thanks to Ransomware attacks.
There are five main types of Ransomware available on the market today: Encryptors, Lockers, Keyloggers, DDoS Attacks and Distributed Denial Of Service (DDS) Attacks. Let's explore each of these in turn...
Encryptors block users' access to their files by encrypting them with a password protected key. Once encrypted, a user must pay a certain amount of money in order to regain access to their files again.
Keyloggers record every activity performed on a targeted device, often resulting in screenshots of the screen or audio recordings. These recordings are sent to the attacker who uses them to blackmail victims into paying the ransom.
Distributed denial of services (DDoS) attacks flood a victim’s server with traffic making it impossible for legitimate connections to reach the target. For example, someone trying to visit a website might receive messages saying "Your site is under attack!"
Lockers simply put, hold onto your data hostage until you pay the required fee. They usually work by rendering inaccessible any file on your hard disk containing sensitive information including emails, photos, videos, music, documents and anything else deemed relevant.
DDoS attacks involve flooding computers connected to a single IP address with useless data making it difficult for anyone attempting to connect. If successful, a DDoS attack renders a specific web page unusable and forces visitors to search elsewhere.
All of the above methods are relatively simple compared to the latest breed of Ransomware known as Raas.
As mentioned earlier, Ransomware is nothing new. However, the recent proliferation of ABR has created a whole new generation of malicious programs offering criminals new ways to extort their victims. One of the most infamous varieties of this new breed is called Raas.
Raas stands for Remote Access Assault System and is essentially an advanced version of the traditional Locker. A Raas infection targets both PCs and Macs and works by locking up important files stored on the local storage media, preventing them from being accessed by the user. Meanwhile, the malware sends requests to servers located outside of the LAN environment, meaning that it remains undetected until the owner pays the ransom.
Once payment is received, the hacker gets control over the compromised computer allowing them to remotely monitor everything that happens on the device. At this point, the Raas operator can perform whatever tasks they please, including taking screenshots, recording conversations or sending email attachments.
One of the easiest Ransomware infections imaginable involves clicking on a link or opening an attachment sent to you via email. All of the following steps happen automatically once the malware enters your machine.
First, the program installs itself into the Windows Registry. Next, it attempts to gain administrative privileges by changing the permissions of critical Windows directories. Then the malware scans the computer searching for any unused space on your hard drive. Any newly found empty spots are filled with additional code. Finally, the Ransomware creates a hidden folder named after the current date and then starts writing random numbers to it.
After this process is completed, the malware begins to encrypt files on your computer. Every hour, the number increases exponentially as it continues to write data to the folder. Eventually, it stops working entirely leaving you unable to open any file and forcing you to pay the ransom.
This scenario is very similar to the previously described Raas. Yet, unlike Raas, once the encryption process is finished, the Ransomware displays a message informing the user that he or she can unlock the locked files by paying the demanded sum.
With this method, Ransomware operators can easily generate thousands of dollars worth of revenue per day. To keep up with this demand, they've developed a range of services allowing them to provide their products to third party affiliates.
How Ransomware affects our daily lives
Nowadays, it seems almost inevitable that sooner or later you'll come across a nasty piece of malware lurking somewhere on your PC. After all, with so much technology available, the chances of encountering a potentially unwanted application are greater than ever.
Yet, despite this increased risk, millions of people worldwide continue to ignore basic precautions such as installing effective anti-malware software and keeping the operating system updated. When combined with the rise of ABR, this makes it increasingly likely that you’ll end up becoming the next victim of Ransomware.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options available to help prevent this from happening to you. So, if you’ve been thinking about investing in some extra protection, now is definitely the right time to start doing so.
If you're familiar with cyber-attacks that use ransomware then you've probably heard of CryptoLocker. The same company behind this malware also sells an alternative called Ransom32, which was released in 2013 but hasn't been seen much since. However, if you haven't heard about it before, here's why you should be worried.
On July 6th 2016, the world saw one of the largest ransomware outbreaks ever when over 200K devices were hit with Cryptolocker. While some people have gotten rid of the virus through various methods, others still don't know how they got infected or even whether their device had been affected at all. For example, on January 30th 2017, a massive ransomware outbreak hit hundreds of thousands of businesses across Europe. In fact, according to security firm Avast, the majority of these companies weren’t aware that their systems had been compromised until after the damage was done.
This means that ransomware isn’t just something that affects your personal computer anymore - it can affect any business too! If you own a small shop or a large corporation, it doesn't matter because every single person who uses your system could potentially get locked out forever unless you pay up big time. This makes it incredibly important for you to understand exactly what kind of threat ransomware really is. Here we'll go into detail about what is crypto locker and its different forms so you can learn everything you need to know about this type of malicious software.
The first thing you want to know about is where does crypto locker come from? Well, it comes either directly from hackers or sometimes indirectly via a network of "affiliates" (third party distributors). Affiliate based ransomware allows them to spread faster than traditional ransomware viruses due to their ability to quickly infect new networks.
In other words, instead of having to find someone and convince them to hand over files containing data, they can simply send out a link allowing anyone within their network to download the trojan onto their hard drive. Once installed, it will encrypt all the files on a target machine and demand payment in order to retrieve those files again. It's basically like a modern version of ransom notes.
With affiliate based programs, attackers only need to reach 5% of their potential customers to make millions each year. To put things into perspective, imagine if you owned a chain of retail stores that sold products online. You'd obviously want to advertise on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc., right? But wouldn't you be happy if you reached 100 million users without spending anything extra? That would mean you made 10 times more money than you did previously!
And while this sounds great, it can actually cause major issues. Because unlike regular ads, affiliate marketing requires you to give away access to sensitive information in exchange for revenue. Hackers exploit this loophole and sell your private info to other criminals, spammers, identity thieves, and scammers.
So now that you know where it comes from, let's talk about its four basic modes of operation...
There are two primary ways that ransomware operates:
1) Self propagating – These are usually the ones that start off as simple infections of a few computers, and once they gain enough momentum, they self propagate throughout entire networks. They usually require no user interaction whatsoever.
2) User initiated – These rely heavily on human intervention and often include social engineering techniques. When a victim receives a message saying “Your account password has recently changed, click here to update”, they do so thinking it’s safe, unknowingly handing over valuable credentials.
Now that you know the basics, let's move onto the next question…
It may seem weird, but the number 1 reason a ransomware infection takes place is because victims choose not to follow instructions. There are three reasons why people ignore warnings:
1) People think they already paid the price – Some believe they already bought the freedom back, so they won’t bother paying another fee.
2) They aren’t sure it applies to them – Sometimes, they feel like they didn’t break a law or act illegally, so they assume nothing bad will happen to them.
3) It seems expensive – Not everyone understands that paying money gets them their files back. So they think that paying $50-$100 is worth losing their work.
So yes, ignoring warnings is definitely one of the biggest mistakes that leads to a ransomware infection. However, it does take planning ahead, understanding what happens during the process, and knowing how to avoid getting caught.
Another huge problem faced by ransomware victims is the inability to remove or decrypt the encrypted files without paying the ransom. This forces victims to either deal with a loss or risk being permanently stuck with no way to recover their file(s). Even worse, they run the risk of seeing their financial records stolen, losing their job, or facing criminal charges.
Finally, there are also cases where the attacker sends out fake messages claiming that the victim needs to perform certain actions in order to fix a problem. These messages look very official and convincing, making it difficult to realize that they’re completely false. In fact, some even contain threats against family members.
While there are several variants and subtypes of ransomware available today, the following five tend to dominate the market:
1) CryptoLocker/CrytoLocker 2.0
Let's briefly explain each of these below:
1) CryptoLocker / CrytoLocker 2.0
Also known as CryptoWall or BitCoinLock, this variant mainly targets Windows XP machines using AES encryption technology. It works by locking a PC’s files and demanding a Bitcoin ransom in return.
As the name suggests, this ransomware focuses primarily on Microsoft Exchange servers. It spreads by sending emails to employees looking to install updates, which includes links to a malicious attachment. After installation, the malware automatically encrypts all files inside the targeted server.
This popular ransomware tends to focus on home PCs running Windows 7, 8 or Vista operating systems. Its code is designed to detect specific versions of Office 2007, 2010, 2013, 2015, and 2016. As soon as it detects these older editions, it starts encrypting the contents of the hard disk. Victims must pay a hefty sum ($500+ per hour!) in order to regain control of their files.
Cerber is considered one of the best ransomware strains because it offers protection against antivirus solutions and contains advanced anti-detection mechanisms. It also supports multiple languages and runs under both 32bit and 64bit environments.
GandCrab is similar to CrytoLocker in terms of functionality. Like CrytoLocker, GandCrab locks a user’s documents and demands payment in Bitcoin in exchange for the decryption key. Unlike the previous strain however, GandCrab also encrypts photos stored on the hard drive.
CryptoLocker and CryotoLocker 2.0 are among the most notorious strains of ransomware around, but there are plenty of other options you should be concerned about. Below we’ve listed seven of the worst offenders currently floating around the internet:
7) SAVY Ransomware
39) Bad Rabbit
48) Qihoo 360 Network Security
51) AEGIS Trojan Horse
It's no secret that cybercriminals have been making money from ransomware for some time now. However, there was an interesting development in this field recently. Ransomware developers made their products even more dangerous by allowing them to be distributed through other mediums such as affiliates or as part of a subscription model. This allows the attackers to spread their wares quickly across multiple platforms while also being able to generate additional revenue streams.
In particular, we're talking about CryptoLocker, which is one of the most popular forms of ransomware out there today. There are many variations on the basic premise but they all share the same goal - to encrypt your files so you can't access them until you pay up. The problem is that CryptoLocker isn’t just ransomware; it’s not limited to encrypting only documents and photos. It will do anything its creator wants it to – including encrypting entire hard drives and deleting everything inside! So how does someone get infected with ransomware if they don’t download any malicious attachments or open up any suspicious emails? You guessed it – an affiliate program. Let’s take a look at what exactly an affiliate program is and how it works.
An affiliate program basically involves anyone who agrees to promote another company’s products/services without receiving compensation. In return, these people receive commissions when others purchase those services/products using their link (or “affiliate code”). This means anyone promoting a certain brand could potentially earn significant amounts of income each month depending on the popularity of said brand and the number of customers purchasing goods and services using that link. For example, let’s say you found a great deal online selling a new TV set for $100. If you agreed to promote that sale via Facebook ads or Google AdWords advertising campaigns, then you would be paid a portion of the total sales generated.
The main reason why companies use affiliates is because they know that people trust recommendations from friends and family more than they do advertisements. Therefore, having your name attached to something makes consumers feel like the recommendation came directly from you rather than a random stranger. And since you aren’t getting paid for generating referrals, you end up doing more work for less reward. That doesn’t sound very appealing, does it?
You may wonder how you can stay safe from becoming involved in an affiliate scheme. Unfortunately, there really isn’t much you can do except avoid sending traffic to sites offering freebies or signing up for offers that require personal information. As long as you keep your marketing efforts focused on legitimate brands, you should be okay. But unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Many marketers simply want to help consumers find deals online and therefore see nothing wrong with recommending shady businesses. To combat this issue, we recommend sticking to reputable sources whenever possible. These include major retailers, well-known websites, and trusted media outlets.
There are several different types of ransomware available on the market today, ranging from simple file encryption tools to highly complex viruses that target specific operating systems. While some variants focus solely on data loss, others go further and delete sensitive files too. Here’s a brief overview of each type:
1) File Encryption Ransomware
File encryption ransomware attacks typically involve malware that targets Windows computers. Once installed, these programs lock down important system folders and prevent the user from accessing them unless a ransom payment is made. Examples include Cryptolocker, Locky, and Cerber.
2) Data Destruction Ransomware
Data destruction ransomware is similar to file encryption ransomware in that it locks users out of their computer after installing itself. Instead of targeting individual files though, data destruction ransomware usually deletes all content stored on the device. Some common examples include Crysis, Wiper, and Dridex.
3) System Lockdown Ransomware
System lockdown ransomware is a bit different from the previously mentioned threats. Rather than locking down the system folder, this type of virus often disables critical processes within the OS before encrypting files. Typical symptoms include system freezes, inability to boot into Safe Mode, and constant rebooting. Examples include Petya and Mischief.
4) Full Disk Encryption Ransomware
Full disk encryption ransomware uses advanced techniques to encrypt every single file on the victim’s drive. Unlike traditional ransomware, the attacker never leaves behind a decoy copy of the encrypted data. As far as the average consumer knows, the only thing missing is access to their precious digital assets. Examples include TrueCrypt, Bitlocker, and Cylcon.
If you've ever seen the movie "Hackers", then you already know that there are three primary varieties of ransomware out there. Each category varies slightly in terms of features and capabilities, but here's a quick breakdown:
1) Generic Ransomware
Generic ransomware comes in many shapes and sizes but generally falls under one of two categories:
a) Self Destructive Ransomware
These types of programs rely upon the fact that once executed, they automatically destroy themselves. When the threat expires, victims won't be able to recover deleted files, and they'll need to reinstall the affected software.
b) Non-Self Desctructive Ransomeware
Unlike self destructive ransomware, non-self destructive ransomware requires human intervention to remove the infection. After installation, it either prevents users from accessing important system folders or displays fake messages demanding payments.
2) Banking Trojan Ransomware
Banking Trojans come in various flavors, but the general idea remains the same: hackers install malware onto your PC and wait patiently for you to enter your bank account credentials. Once entered, the hackers transfer funds from your account to their own pockets. Examples include Zeus, Netcher, and GandCrab.
3) Botnet Ransomware
Botnets are networks of compromised PCs used to send spam email, distribute malware, commit DDoS attacks, and perform other illicit activities. Victims can become caught up in botnet operations due to poor security practices, phishing scams, and accidental downloading of malware. In order to protect against these kinds of infections, it's recommended that everyone maintain strong antivirus protection, update regularly, and always practice good cybersecurity habits.
Like I discussed earlier, ransomware comes in many different formats and styles. One of the most recent trends in the industry revolves around subscription models where users can sign up for monthly subscriptions ranging anywhere between $5-$50 per year. Although this sounds extremely attractive, there are plenty of risks associated with this tactic. Here's a list of the top five reasons why:
1) Fraudulent Monetization Scheme
Many ransomware distributors offer subscriptions for as little as $10 per month, then charge significantly higher prices for premium memberships. Since this kind of business model relies heavily upon false promises and misleading tactics, the odds are stacked firmly in favor of scammers.
2) Lack of Transparency
When subscribing to a ransomware solution, you're essentially giving away control over your private data. No matter how secure the provider claims their platform is, you still risk losing access to your valuable files if you cancel your subscription plan early. Not to mention, you might find yourself paying exorbitant fees just to regain access to your files.
3) Lack of Security Features
Most of the biggest players in the space offer robust anti-malware solutions built right into their packages. By contrast, many smaller vendors opt to sell their services separately instead of bundling them together. Because they lack the resources needed to develop cutting edge technology, they inevitably fall prey to hackers sooner rather than later.
4) Poor Customer Service
As soon as you start paying a recurring fee, you lose access to customer support. This means that when problems arise, you're stuck trying to figure things out alone. Fortunately, many providers provide 24 hour live chat assistance to assist subscribers during emergencies. Unfortunately, this feature can only be accessed through a special login page. Furthermore, if you decide to switch providers, you'll likely encounter numerous technical difficulties along the way.
5) Risk of Identity Theft
Subscribing to a ransomware solution poses serious privacy concerns. With the rise of identity theft and credit card fraud, many experts believe that criminals are increasingly looking to infiltrate subscription services in order to steal identities.
Unfortunately, there's no foolproof method to protecting yourself from ransomware. Even if you run a tight ship and follow best practices at home, you could still become a victim. Thankfully, there are ways to mitigate these risks. First off, you should always back up your important files to external storage devices. Secondly, make sure you have solid antivirus software running on your machine. Thirdly, ensure that your home network is protected with adequate firewall rules. Finally, educate yourself on the latest developments regarding ransomware. Knowledge truly is power, especially when it comes to staying ahead of the curve.
For more information on combating crypto-ransomware, check out our article detailing how to restore your files from a backup.
Become CEO of your own lead generation software company, just follow our battle-tested guidelines and rake in the profits.