Watch out for these early signs of a ransomware attack

Watch out for these early signs of a ransomware attack

A ransomware infection is not something victims usually discover until they’re confronted with a notice demanding payment in return for being granted access to their encrypted files. While ransomware isn’t as prevalent as it was a few years ago, it remains a serious threat. To make matters worse, attacks are becoming more sophisticated as they target critical infrastructure like industry, government, and healthcare.

How does ransomware work?

Ransomware comes in many different forms, but as a form of cyber extortion, it all has much the same goal — to get money from victims. When ransomware infects a computer, it encrypts all the files before displaying a notice demanding payment in return for the decryption key. A lot of ransomware is also designed to spread between computers connected to the same network like many common malware. Most payments are demanded in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, since they’re untraceable.

As is always the case when it comes to information security, it’s much better to take a proactive approach. Maintaining up-to-date backups of your data, including multiple copies stored in an off-site location, is crucial, just in case your security measures fail. You should also watch over your network to detect any early signs of a possible ransomware infection or other threat.

This will help you remediate before it’s too late. Here are five early signs of a ransomware infection that you should keep an eye on:

1. Suspicious emails

Nearly all cyberattacks include a social engineering element, and ransomware is no exception. To have any hope of extorting money out of their victims, purveyors of ransomware first need to get their malicious software installed on your computer. Usually, the simplest way to do this is to dupe a victim into downloading a malicious email attachment or clicking on a harmful link. Phishing scams often rely on impersonations to make them look more believable.

2. Unusual filenames

Contrary to common belief, ransomware attacks don’t always happen immediately. An attack can happen over an extended period, with the idea being to evade detection. You might not see a ransomware notice right away, but that doesn’t mean an attack isn’t already in progress. For example, if you start noticing unusual filenames and file extensions, ransomware could be quietly encrypting your files in the background.

3. Unpatched operating systems

Less sophisticated forms of ransomware often work by exploiting known vulnerabilities in your operating system. For example, some ransomware can only attack outdated and unsupported versions of Windows that no longer receive critical security patches. If you have any unpatched operating systems, software, or device firmware, then it’s likely just a matter of time before an attack, such as cyber extortion makes it through. This is why it’s so crucial to install the latest software and firmware updates as soon as possible.

4. Failed login attempts

Some of the more advanced ransomware attacks involve criminals trying to break into systems to install malicious software directly. Advanced repeated threat (APT) attacks may involve the installation of ransomware and other malware, for example. You should always monitor your event logs to see who has been logging into your devices and user accounts. Numerous failed login attempts may point to a sustained attack, in which case you should step up your security.

5. Unauthorized remote access

Another common way for cyber extortionists to install ransomware on a company network is to exploit the remote desktop protocol (RDP). This lets attackers access and control computers remotely. With many employees working from home in accordance with the pandemic-related rules and recommendations, there’s an even higher risk of unauthorized access to your remote desktop environments. That’s why you always need external monitoring and logging for every login attempt and all traffic across your network.

Complete Technology helps organizations defend against a wide array of ransomware attacks with proactive IT management and maintenance. We’ll monitor your networks for any signs of threats and remediate quickly to give you peace of mind. Contact us today to get started.


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