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Ransomware: 5 Threats To Watch

Cyber criminals have kicked it up a notch with nasty malware that locks you out of your machine and holds it for ransom.
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As Windows software vulnerabilities have gradually decreased in the wake of Microsoft's secure development lifecycle approach to writing code, the bad guys have been forced to raise the bar and get more creative. Enter ransomware, a nasty form of malware that not only infects your machine but also locks you out of it -- and in many cases, encrypts the data so you can't retrieve it.

The most infamous of these malware families is CryptoLocker, which uses a strong encryption algorithm to lock a victim's files on local drives and network shares. Some victims have paid $300 or more to get their data decrypted and returned to them -- but even paying ransom doesn't guarantee you'll get your data back, or that the bad guys don't still sell it for profit.

[A Black Hat USA speaker will give the backstory on how he and others helped disrupt the infamous CyptoLocker operation, and what they learned about it. Read How Researchers Helped Cripple CryptoLocker.]

But CryptoLocker's head was lopped off in early June after a massive global initiative by the FBI, international law enforcement agencies, and security firms, which seized its key command and control servers. CryptoLocker remains out of action at this point, but there are plenty of other ransomware families circulating and waiting in the wings to fill the void. One such family, Cryptowall, is being blamed for a recent breach at brokerage house Benjamin F. Edwards & Co

"Ransomware, because of its high-margin profits and the rather simple chain of people that need to be involved, will likely surge in the near-term for PC users," says John Bambenek, chief forensic examiner at Bambenek Consulting and a ransomware expert. "Unlike typical credit card fraud and the like that require money mules, reshippers, and card cloners… all you need to make money with ransomware is a tool and access to Bitcoin or a means to cash in moneypak or similar cards. The trick is a good delivery mechanism." 

Here's a look at the top ransomware threats to watch out for:

Source: Perspecsys
Source: Perspecsys

 

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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Robert McDougal
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Robert McDougal,
User Rank: Ninja
7/24/2014 | 2:50:53 PM
Re: good overview
I think you are exactly correct.  Sometimes I lose track that I see this stuff on a daily basis and I take being able to spot it for granted.  The normal user isn't naturally cautious and as such prone to falling for scams.  I have to tell myself that if I didn't know better, it would be very scary to receive a receipt for $2500 in furniture and I would want to know right away what was going on.

Constant education is the answer.
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
7/24/2014 | 2:03:43 PM
Re: good overview
I have heard a similar version of that story from enterprise security pro many, many times! I guess the takeaway is that you need to give that presentation every couple of months... 
Robert McDougal
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Robert McDougal,
User Rank: Ninja
7/24/2014 | 1:58:15 PM
Re: good overview
I was asked to give a presentation on how to spot malicious and phishing emails shortly afterwards.   I gave a 30 minute presentation that included several hard examples including the email that caught the President.

Things seemed great for a while but less than 6 months later, another employee(who was in the presentation) fell for another email.  Sometimes I just don't know what to do...
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
7/24/2014 | 1:37:40 PM
Re: good overview
But did it change the security culture at the non-profit ? Any impact on practices, user ed, etc? 
Robert McDougal
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Robert McDougal,
User Rank: Ninja
7/24/2014 | 11:50:00 AM
Re: good overview
Very much so a nightmare...

However, other than costing a little over $500 it served as a valuable lesson for the President.
Kelly Jackson Higgins
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Kelly Jackson Higgins,
User Rank: Strategist
7/24/2014 | 11:14:36 AM
Re: good overview
Wow--that's a nightmare scenario with a relatively good ending.
Robert McDougal
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Robert McDougal,
User Rank: Ninja
7/24/2014 | 10:59:06 AM
Re: good overview
The attack vector was an email pretending to contain a receipt for a large purchase.

This time the ransom was not paid.  However, when cryptolocker was brand new the President of one of these non-profits fell victim.  She had a bad habit of not storing her data on the server (which was backed up) and instead stored the data locally.  As such, she had 10 years worth of data encrypted and no way to recover it.

Long story short, we paid the ransom and were able to decrypt the files.
Kelly Jackson Higgins
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Kelly Jackson Higgins,
User Rank: Strategist
7/24/2014 | 10:45:40 AM
Re: good overview
Were you able to determine how they were infected? Did any of them actually pay the ransom?
Robert McDougal
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Robert McDougal,
User Rank: Ninja
7/22/2014 | 9:37:56 AM
Re: good overview
I volunteer with a few non-profits in my area and unfortunately one of them was completely crippled by the Cryptowall ransomware.  We were able to restore most of the data from backup but not all.  
chriscinfosec
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chriscinfosec,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/22/2014 | 9:26:49 AM
Ransomware a growing threat
We see a lot of blocked ransomware attempts at Invincea, increasingly being spread through malicious ad networks ("malvertising").  Most small-to-medium sized businesses have much less risk from the theft of IP or click-fraud bots if they get infected -- ransomware on the other hand encrypts your files making them inaccessible.  This can jeopardize your business very quickly and is almost impossible to recover from.  Paying the ransom doesn't always work...
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