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How Do Cybercriminals Distribute Ransomware?

Ransomware attacks are all over the news. Numerous organizations of various sizes and even private individuals are left in shock when their data is held hostage by gangs of cybercriminals. Ransomware can encrypt or corrupt critical files, folders, computers, or entire networks until the target pays a fee, usually through cryptocurrency. Often, the money is hard to recover because the cryptocurrency is challenging to trace. 

Cybercriminals Distribute Ransomware

So, how do cybercriminals infect their targets with ransomware? Gangs have multiple options at their disposal. Here are some common methods: 

1. Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) Attacks: 

Many companies chose to adopt remote working measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While some organizations are returning to the office, others are making the shift permanent. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the situation by launching brute force RDP attacks against Internet-connected computers. 

With brute force RDP attacks, hackers can launch ransomware like Egregor and REvil and hold data captive. That’s why many organizations are using Brute Force attack prevention tools to stay one step ahead of ransomware gangs. The right tools block unsafe IP addresses, issue fast alerts, offer cloud-based control, and are fully automated. 

2. Social Engineering Attacks 

Hackers know they can't simply walk into a large organization like an oil refinery, hospital, or bank and install malware. It's much easier for them to trick employees into downloading ransomware on company computers. Psychology is their most valuable weapon. 

Spear-phishing attacks are the method of choice for hackers. They identify weak links in an organization through social media pages and then send them fraudulent emails that carry malware. The fake email may be from a colleague, boss, or client. 

Some cybercriminals also launch Trojan horse attacks by hiding ransomware in authentic software. For example, an accountant may receive accounting software loaded with ransomware. Bolder hackers may leave a USB drive loaded with ransomware lying around in an office, hoping that a curious employee connects it to a company computer.

Other crooks are also known to create fake online profiles to execute a honey trap. For example, they may befriend an employee and develop a romantic relationship to deceive them into installing ransomware. 

3. Fraudulent Website

It’s a good idea to avoid shady websites because they can carry malware infections like ransomware. Some fraudulent websites use clickjacking to spread malicious software. Clickjacking usually uses an invisible layer on a website element to initiate a malicious action. For example, while clicking the play button on an entertainment website, you may be clicking a concealed malicious hyperlink that installs malware on your computer. 

4. Corrupt Downloads

Nowadays, it’s critical to download software from trusted sources as hackers often infect free downloads with malware. Pirated websites and bit torrent platforms are host to many kinds of malware, including ransomware. Even mobile phone systems aren’t immune to such infections. 

To protect your data from ransomware, adopt safe browsing habits and use cybersecurity software that shields you from emerging threats. As the leader of an organization, train your employees in ransomware prevention and have remedial tools on standby. Your preparedness can reduce the chances of a disastrous outcome. 

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