Ransomware is a malicious software designed to block access to computer until a sum of money is paid to the attacker. Some of the most notable examples of ransomware are CryptoLocker, CryptoWall, WannaCry and Petya.
Usually, in case of encrypting ransomware, local files are encrypted using a randomly generated key pair that’s associated with the infected computer. While the public key is copied on the infected computer, the private key can only be obtained by paying for it within an allocated amount of time. If the payment is not delivered, the private key is threatened to be deleted, leaving no possible unencrypting method for recovering the locked files.
One of the most common infection vectors relies on drive-by-attacks through infected ads on legitimate websites, but it has also been known to infect via infected downloaded apps.
Ransomware infection can be limited and sometimes prevented with a few best practices:
• Use an antivirus solution that is constantly updated and able to perform active scanning
• Schedule file backups (either locally on in the cloud), so data can be recovered in case of corruption
• Follow safe internet practices by not visiting questionable websites, not clicking links or opening attachments in emails from uncertain sources, and not providing personally identifiable information on public chats rooms or forums
• Implement / enable ad-blocking capacities and anti-spam filters
• Virtualize or completely disable Flash, as it has been repeatedly used as an infection vector
• Train employees in identifying social engineering attempts and spear-phishing emails
• Enable software restriction policies. System administrators need to enforce group policy objects into the registry to block executables from specific locations.
This can only be achieved when running a Windows Professional or Windows Server edition. The Software Restriction Policies option can be found in the Local Security Policy editor. After clicking the New Software Restriction Policies button under Additional Rules, the following Path Rules should be used with Disallowed Security Level:
• “%appdata%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup\\.*exe”
• “%userprofile%\\Start Menu\\Programs\\Startup\\*.exe”
• “%username%\\Application Data\\*.exe”
• “%username%\\Application Data\\Microsoft\\*.exe”
• “%username%\\Local Settings\\Application Data\\*.exe”