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5 Ransomware Threats Canadians Need to Know

Every day you place your personal information in the hands of companies and trust that it will remain safe. However, what happens when external threats jeopardize your personal data security, especially while working remotely? 

The transition to remote work environments and consumers’ online habits have made it more difficult for Canadian employees and consumers to protect their personal information. This challenge is primarily due to ransomware. To protect yourself, you need to first understand how cybercriminals take advantage of users’ online behaviors to launch strategic attacks against employees and consumers through the information they glean from stolen company data. 

How Your Personal Actions Can Impact Corporate Systems 

Ransomware has been on the rise this past year with attacks increasing 62% in 2020 according to Statista. In fact, 78% of Canadian cybersecurity professionals said that attacks increased due to employees working remotely in a recent VMware report. Cybercriminals target remote workers primarily through malicious links sent through phishing emails — in fact, over one third of Canadian respondents in a recent survey said they experienced at least one phishing attempt in the last year.   

Hackers pose as legitimate organizations and prompt individuals to take action: say you decide to check your personal email on your work laptop during your lunch break. You open a message that claims to be from one of your favorite retailers claiming that you just won $500 in shopping credit – all you need to do is click on the link and fill out your banking information. This is an example of a phishing attack that could not only wreak havoc on your personal security, but your company’s as well. If the link in the message downloads a credential-stealing malware on your work laptop, there is a good chance that your organization’s private data or network could be compromised.  

Knowing that many employees will be communicating virtually instead of face-to-face, hackers can take advantage of the remote work environment by posing as employees from finance departments and sending fake invoices for products or services. The goal of these fake invoices is for employees to call a support phone number to investigate, whereby hackers attain credit card numbers or other information they can leverage in spear-phishing scams. Hackers can also spoof phone calls to make it look like it is coming from a legitimate number within the organization. Revealing too much information to an unverified contact is a risk that remote workers must learn to identify and avoid. 

Ransomware is always evolving, making it critical to understand the nature of these threats so you can better avoid them.  

The 5 Most Dangerous Ransomware Scams  

Cybercriminals are constantly finding new ways to automate their attacks and increase their profits. Here is a look at five active ransomware variants cybercriminals use today—and how they deploy them. 

1. CryptoDefense 

By the end of 2020, McAfee Labs observed a 69% increase in new ransomware, which Cryptodefense largely drove. This virus is similar to CryptoLocker, a trojan virus that spreads through email phishing to infiltrate hard drives and files. Both spread ransomware, use high levels of encryption to compromise users’ files, and claim that these files cannot be decrypted without a decryption key.  

2. Maze 

Maze ransomware has been active since November of 2019 and is operated by hackers notorious for leaking victim data upon non-payment. Maze operators first gain access to a network by using valid credentials. It will then scan the network for user devices, check these devices for additional credentials, and compromise user files.  

3. REvil/Sodinokibi 

In a Ransomware Task Force interview with an affiliate of the REvil/Sodinokibi syndicate, the interviewee revealed that companies with cyber insurance are prime targets since the chances of a payout are high. This ransomware spreads through software vulnerabilities, phishing scams, and exploit kits. Once it infiltrates a device, it spreads through escalated privilege to compromise user files and systems.  

4. Ryuk 

Ryuk has been around since August of 2018 and targets large companies, critical infrastructure, and hospitals. This ransomware is almost always spread through a banking trojan called Trickbot, used by hackers to steal financial and banking credentials. The operators behind this ransomware demand higher ransoms compared to other groups. They also use opensource tools and manual hacking techniques to bypass detection and infiltrate private networks. 

5. SamSam 

The operators behind SamSam ransomware gain access through Windows servers using a Microsoft protocol that allows remote connections to other computers. Operators will then elevate their privilege to include admin rights once inside a network to infect servers with malware, requiring no action or authorization on the victim’s part. 

How to Reduce the Risk and Impact of Ransomware 

Ransomware can affect anyone, regardless of whether you are an employee or a customer of a targeted company. Keep these tips in mind to reduce your risk of a ransomware attack and know what steps to take if you fall victim.   

1. Don’t click on malicious links 

Phishing emails are one of the most common methods a hacker will use to infect devices and spread ransomware. They will send links through seemingly legitimate emails to trick users into clicking on them and downloading malicious files. Knowing how to spot one is the first step to prevent infection. If you receive an email you suspect is a phishing scam, start by analyzing its structure: common indicators of a phishing scam may include: 

  • Grammatical errors with poorly written wording 
  • Pressure to take immediate action or confirm personal information 
  • Link addresses that do not match the anchor text in the email body 
  • Inconsistent sender name and email address 
  • Suspicious attachments  

Once you identify a phishing email, don’t click on any links or download attachments. Simply delete it and carry on with your day.  

2. Use multi-factor authentication and strong passwords 

Keep in mind that the cybercriminals behind Maze ransomware gained access to private networks through valid credentials. Hackers typically obtain these credentials through a “password spray” technique where they attempt to log in to accounts using a list of commonly used passwords. However, hackers have a higher chance of guessing valid passwords if they are too short or not complex enough. Additionally, a hacker is more likely to infiltrate multiple accounts if they share the same password. 

Strong passwords help ensure that a hacker cannot access your private network, gain administrative rights to your device, or infect another device you are connected to. Create a password that is strong enough to withstand simple guess-and-check attempts by making them long, difficult, and unique. Multi-phrased passwords or passphrases also help to prevent hackers from breaking into your accounts, such as “P3anutbutter&J3lly.” Avoid reusing passwords across multiple accounts and change them periodically, especially after an account has been breached. Even if a hacker does steal your credentials, multi-factor authentication adds an extra validation layer to prohibit unauthorized sign-in attempts.  

3. Use security software to monitor threats 

Your device is more susceptible to ransomware and viruses without the right security tools to help mitigate the chances of infection. Avoid the risk of a ransomware attack by employing a quality security solution like McAfee Total Protection. A holistic security solution can help you stay vigilant of cyber threats by monitoring for ransomware viruses in addition to malware and spyware. Security software can also monitor your internet connection and network traffic through regular scans to flag malicious activity and provide guidance on how to sidestep these threats. If a hacker attempts to launch an attack on your device, you can rest assured your security software will promptly alert you of the intrusion. 

 4. Regularly update devices 

In addition to social engineering tactics, hackers will leverage vulnerabilities in software to create a back door through which they can infiltrate user devices. A way to keep cyber criminals out is to keep your software applications and devices up to date. This includes the apps on your mobile device as well as apps on your desktop. Regular updates ensure that the proper security patches are implemented, the right bugs are fixed and that hackers cannot exploit these vulnerabilities. 

5. Remediate and restore files and systems 

If worse comes to worst and your device is infected with ransomware, the first thing to do is isolate the device and disconnect from shared networks. Disconnecting the infected device ensures that ransomware cannot spread to other devices on that same network.  

Immediately gather evidence on what type of malware you are dealing with so you can accurately report it to authorities and determine what your options are for remediation. You can then choose to remove it or wipe your system completely which is the most assured way to eliminate ransomware from your device. Afterwards you can reinstall your operating system and, provided you perform regular backups, restore your files to a previous version.  

Defeat Ransomware Threats    

No one is truly out of the danger zone when hackers strike. Ransomware is on the rise, and online users must understand how to bypass these viruses to avoid the ramifications of a compromised device. By understanding online security best practices, users can safeguard their online presence and defend against ransomware threats.  

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