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Malware is an umbrella term for any form of malicious software. Viruses are the most common, but malware also includes spyware, ransomware/hostageware, malvertising, worms, and Trojans. Many businesses are unaware that malware has been installed on one or more of their devices, or even on their entire network. 

The trojan virus disguises itself as legitimate software. Ransomware blocks access to the network’s key components, whereas Spyware is software that steals all your confidential data without your knowledge. Adware is software that displays advertising content such as banners on a user’s screen. 

Gartner defines ransomware as “cyber extortion that occurs when malicious software infiltrates computer systems and encrypts data, holding it hostage until the victim pays a ransom.”

How does ransomware spread?

Ransomware is often spread through email phishing messages that contain malicious links or through drive-by downloading. Drive-by downloading happens when a user unintentionally visits a contaminated site, and malware is downloaded onto the user’s computer or mobile device. A drive-by download usually exploits a browser, application, or operating system that is out of date or has a security flaw. Ransomware then uses these vulnerabilities to find other systems in which to spread.

organizations need to understand that 75 percent of ransomware breaches begin with either a phishing email or a Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) compromise, according to Coveware’s quarterly ransomware reports for the fourth quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021. In addition, it appears that in 60 percent of ransomware cases, the malware ends up installed directly or via desktop-sharing apps, according to Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR).

Is there any solution for ransomware?

-Use reputable endpoint protection solutions.
-Frequently back up important files. Try to isolate them from open and local networks.
-Have offline backups of data stored in devices not connected to a potentially infected computer or cloud, thus keeping them away from ransomware.
-Deploy security software to secure email servers, network systems and protect endpoints.

Companies are finding success with the following tactics:

  • Securing all RDP. COVID-19 saw workforces shift to work from home—and home networks are often rife with poor security. Solid basic hygiene would include strong passwords, multi­factor authentication, software updates, restricted access, and network-level authentication.
  • Multifactor authentication (MFA). MFA for critical assets and high-risk users is strongly recommended. This tactic can be a strong barrier for attacks that leverage credential-based access or privilege escalation like ransomware.
  • Patch management. Legacy systems, be it OT or IT, chug along on old software with security gaps. After RDP and phishing attacks, vulnerable software is the next largest attack vector, which is why securing communication channels and patching Windows operating system exploits remain vital.
  • Disabling user-level command-line capabilities and blocking Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) port 445. Ransomware threat actors run free or low-cost software and scanning tools, searching for things like credential harvesting and internal unsecured port discovery from command-line prompts. If command-line capa­bilities end up disabled, the company becomes a more difficult target. Additionally, blocking port TCP 445 on external-facing infrastructure and internal firewalls also helps reduce the attack surface.
  • Protect Active Directory. Active Directory is a database and set of services that connects users with the network resources they need to get their work done. The database (or directory) contains critical information about your environment, including what users and computers there are and who’s allowed to do what.
  • Education and training. Cyber awareness training and education should be mandatory. You don’t need to be a highly trained and skilled cybersecurity professional, but basic changes in behavior and awareness of where and how threats can enter your organization can further reduce risks.
  • Research shows that small businesses received 94% of their detected malware by email

Let’s now look at how we can prevent a malware attack:

-Use antivirus software. It can protect your computer against malware. Avast Antivirus, Norton Antivirus, and McAfee Antivirus are a few of the popular antivirus software.
-Use firewalls. Firewalls filter the traffic that may enter your device. Windows and Mac OS X have their default built-in firewalls, named Windows Firewall and Mac Firewall.
-Stay alert and avoid clicking on suspicious links.
-Update your OS and browsers, regularly.