Backup and recovery means you can say no to ransom demands

Ransomware continues to be a huge problem for companies and consumers—and a major source of income for cybercriminals. Malicious hackers using CryptoWall ransomware extorted $18 million last year, according to the FBI, and that’s just one of many ransomware variants. Microsoft has detected a 400% increase in ransomware attacks since 2015. This sad fact is that the ransomware industry continues to grow because people continue to pay ransoms.

Logic would dictate that we simply stop paying ransoms and ransomware will end. But this is much easier said than done. Businesses, healthcare organizations, politicians and security experts debate this topic regularly, and there’s no clear consensus on what to do. Nobody wants to pay the ransom, but some are not in a position to refuse.

Healthcare organizations must consider the potential danger to patients if they do not pay a ransom. Meanwhile, banks are stockpiling bitcoins as an insurance policy against attacks. Some companies choose to pay because it’s cheaper than fixing the problem. Of course, this just makes it more likely that cybercriminals will target the company with ransomware again.

So, how do we get to a place where companies and individuals can afford to say no to ransom demands? This solution is surprisingly simple: Have a good backup of your data so that you can restore the data instead of paying a criminal to unlock it for you. Here’s a quick guide to protecting your data with a backup and recovery solution:

1. Data inventory
The first step is to understand what data you have so that you can adequately protect it. You may have data on workstations, laptops, file servers, cloud services, or within applications and databases.Try to get a good feel for what you have and what is most important—then prioritize that data for backup.

2. Data design
The second step is to identify the ideal location for the data. Workstation and laptop data may be migrated to servers; redundant data can be consolidated, and pointers or mappings created so that it is still accessible in multiple ways.

3. Backup design
Choose a backup solution that backs up data  automatically and often enough to ensure that minimal data is lost when recovery is required. Remember that backups should be segmented from production systems. There should be both a logical and a physical segmentation.

Logical segmentation places the backups in a location that cannot be reached by systems on the production network. For decades, tapes were used for offsite backups. Today, tape backups are often replaced with cloud backups.  If an incorrectly written script deletes data from the network, the tapes would be safe from harm. Similarly, if a virus like ransomware infects production systems, you will still have clean versions of your data backed up to the cloud.

Physical segmentation protects against a natural disaster such as a fire that could take out a facility. If backups are stored on a server, hard drive, or tapes located within the facility, a fire or some other disaster could destroy both production data and backups, leaving the organization with no way to recover data. Physical segmentation places backups outside the facility. Backups could be replicated to the cloud or another site, tapes could be shipped to a remote storage facility, or an employee could take backup drives to a safe deposit box.

4. Testing
A backup system cannot truly be relied upon until it is tested with a restore. Restore testing ensures that organizational data can be effectively recovered within acceptable time frames. It is often through the restore testing process that inefficiencies or complications are identified that can be resolved before the backups are required in an emergency. Restore testing also familiarizes IT staff with the recovery process. That means they’ll be ready when disaster strikes.

5. Say no
Say no when ransomware strikes. You don’t need to pay because you can restore the data. Delete the infected files, remove the virus, and restore your data from backup. With the right backup solution in place, there’s no need to deal with cybercriminals.

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New version of Cerber ransomware hits businesses where it hurts

The latest version of Cerber ransomware is targeting database applications and putting business’s most valuable data at risk, according to recent reports.

Large database applications such as Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL and others contain critical data for things like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Electronic Medical Record system. And the latest version is aiming to encrypt all of them in addition to documents, spreadsheets and multimedia files.

How Cerber ransomware works
Ransomware victims are not chosen on an individual basis. Instead, they’re usually found within a pool of available targets organized by country, region or industry. This semi-targeted approach is often used to ensure that as many targets as possible have the means to pay the ransom, either because they live in regions with a high median income, or they work in industries that are known to pay up. Cybercriminals like those spreading the new version of Cerber may also target databases—where many businesses’ store their most important information.

Once Cerber infects a system, it checks to see if it is in a target country. It targets all countries except for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Cerber then places a copy of itself in the %AppData%\{2ED2A2FE-872C-D4A0-17AC-E301404F1CBA}\ directory using a randomly generated executable name. Cerber then prepares to encrypt files by escalating its privileges through a UAC bypass using DLL hijacking. Cerber needs escalated privileges in order to stop certain services that, if running, would disrupt the process of database encryption.

Database files are usually written to and changed frequently, and database software typically keeps the files open so that data in memory can be flushed down to the files and applications rapidly. Data corruption can occur if the files are tampered with while they are open and criminals would lose the confidence of their victims if they were unable to decrypt files after the ransom was paid so they stop the services first.

Here are the databases that Cerber encrypts as well as the processes that it terminates. If you are running these processes and they stop unexpectedly, this could be a sign of Cerber infection. Each of the processes below is a Microsoft Windows executable. Cerber ransomware currently affects databases running on Windows only.

Database Process
Citrix MetaFrame encsvc.exe
Microsoft SQL Server msftesql.exe, sqlagent.exe, sqlbrowser.exe, sqlservr.exe, sqlwriter.exe
Mozilla Firefox firefoxconfig.exe
Mozilla Thunderbird tbirdconfig.exe
MySQL mysqld.exe, mysqld-nt.exe, mysqld-opt.exe
Oracle agntsvc.exe, agntsvc.exeisqlplussvc.exe, agntsvc.exeagntsvc.exe, agntsvc.exeencsvc.exe, dbsnmp.exe, isqlplussvc.exe, mydesktopservice.exe, mydesktopqos.exe, oracle.exe, ocssd.exe, ocautoupds.exe, ocomm.exe, synctime.exe, xfssvccon.exe
Red Gate Software’s SQL Backup Pro sqbcoreservice.exe

Decryption keys were made available for earlier versions of Cerber, but they were removed when newer versions of Cerber came out. A high-quality database backup is crucial for recovering from an encrypted database. Since enterprise database systems change frequently as new transactions occur, backup systems are often continuous, or scheduled at very short intervals, so that little or no data is lost when failures occur. It’s also important to test the restore process regularly to ensure that all relevant data is captured and that the data can be recovered in a reasonable time frame.

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Breaking Free: A list of ransomware decryption tools and keys

Security software companies and research organizations are collaborating to break the encryption codes of ransomware variants and free those who have fallen victim to cybercriminals. Unfortunately for many, these efforts take time, and that’s why decryption methods often do not exist for the newest ransomware variants. The good news for those who have been infected by older ransomware is that there may be a decryption method available to recover their data.

If backups are available, the easiest course of action is to simply remove the virus, delete the infected files and restore data that has been encrypted. But that’s not always an option. In some cases, users become infected with older ransomware that is no longer being monitored for ransom payments—so paying the ransom won’t help. If your computer is infected with ransomware, the chart below may help.

Search for the ransomware in the table below and then download the decryption tool from the URL provided.  Some tools will scan for ransomware and prompt you to decrypt the files while others require you to point the decryption tool directly at the encrypted files. You may also have the option to remove the encrypted file after a decrypted version has been created. Please note: The decryption of files could take hours and a large number of encrypted files could take weeks to decrypt. In other words, be prepared to wait.

The list below was compiled in October 2016 and it contains links to decryption tools and or scripts that can potentially set your computer free.

Ransomware Vendor URL
777 Emsisoft Download decryptor
Agent iih Kaspersky Download decryptor
Al-Namrood Emsisoft Download decryptor
Apocalypse Emsisoft Download decryptor
ApocalypseVM Emsisoft Download decryptor
Aura Kaspersky Download decryptor
AutoIt Kaspersky Download decryptor
Autolocky Emsisoft Download decryptor
BadBlock AVG Download decryptor
Bart AVG Download decryptor
Bitman Kaspersky Download decryptor
Chimera Kaspersky Download decryptor
CoinVault Nomoransom Download decryptor
Cryakl Kaspersky Download decryptor
Crybola Kaspersky Download decryptor
CrypBoss Emsisoft Download decryptor
Crypt888 AVG Download decryptor
CryptInfinite Emsisoft Download decryptor
CryptoDefense Emsisoft Download decryptor
Cryptokluchen Kaspersky Download decryptor
CryptXXX Kaspersky Download decryptor
CryptXXX v2 Kaspersky Download decryptor
DeCrypt Emsisoft Download decryptor
DecryptorMax Emsisoft Download decryptor
Democry Kaspersky Download decryptor
DMALocker2 Emsisoft Download decryptor
Fabiansomware Emsisoft Download decryptor
FenixLocker Emsisoft Download decryptor
Fury Kaspersky Download decryptor
Globe Emsisoft Download decryptor
Globe2 TechForum Download decryptor
Gomasom Emsisoft Download decryptor
Harasom Emsisoft Download decryptor
HydraCrypt Emsisoft Download decryptor
Jigsaw MalwareHunterTeam Download decryptor
KeyBTC Emsisoft Download decryptor
Lamer Kaspersky Download decryptor
LeChiffre Emsisoft Download decryptor
LECHIFFRE TrendMicro Download decryptor
Legion AVG Download decryptor
Linux Encoder 1 BitDefender Download decryptor
Lortok Kaspersky Download decryptor
MirCop TrendMicro Download decryptor
Nemucod Emsisoft Download decryptor
Operation Global III Nathan Scott Download decryptor
PCLock Emsisoft Download decryptor
Peyta Leostone Download decryptor
Philadelphia Emsisoft Download decryptor
Pletor Kaspersky Download decryptor
Radamant Emsisoft Download decryptor
Rakhni Kaspersky Download decryptor
Rannoh Kaspersky Download decryptor
Rotor Kaspersky Download decryptor
Shade Intel Download decryptor
SNSLocker TrendMicro Download decryptor
Stampado TrendMicro Download decryptor
SZFlocker AVG Download decryptor
TeslaCrypt Cisco Download decryptor
TorLocker Kaspersky Download decryptor
UmbreCrypt Emsisoft Download decryptor
WildFire Intel Download decryptor
XORBAT TrendMicro Download decryptor
Xorist Emsisoft Download decryptor
Alpha PhishLabs Download decryptor

This list contains keys that can be directly used to decrypt files encrypted by Crypt38, Locker, and NoobCrypt.  

Ransomware Vendor URL
Crypt38 Fortinet Look in your %Appdata%\Microsoft\Windows\request.bin directory
Locker Poka BrightMinds
NoobCrypt Jakub Kroustek ZdZ8EcvP95ki6NWR2j or lsakhBVLIKAHg

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Warning: Some ransomware attacks are just a diversion

Ransomware computer viruses are becoming more sophisticated—and so are the attacks that make use of ransomware. In some cases, ransomware is used to disable access to a machine so criminals can perform further actions without being tracked. Criminals have also used ransomware to cause chaos and avoid detection after hacking into a network and stealing data.

Ransomware attacks are sometimes used to create a diversion while cybercriminals steal or exfiltrate data. While users and IT teams are busy trying to take machines offline and contain the infection, criminals are busy downloading files from users’ computers.

study on Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks by Neustar showed that ransomware was found in 15% of DDoS cases. And Dark Reading author Kelly Jackson Higgins says attackers are including ransomware with other types of attacks as well.

Ransomware can be an effective way for criminals to cover their tracks. For example, cybercriminals might install ransomware that encrypts valuable data such as log files in an effort to make those files inaccessible to investigators. Even if the files are later decrypted, investigators may not look for a second attack because ransomware incidents typically receive the most attention. Investigators need to be especially vigilant: In addition to searching for the cause of the ransomware infection, they need to look into whether more attacks were performed on the machine.

In many cases, the best practice is to wipe a machine that is infected with ransomware and then restore its files from backup. This provides assurance that backdoors and other compromised elements of the system will no longer be available for the attacker to take advantage of at a later point.

However, wiping the system can remove valuable evidence as well. In cases where additional evidence is needed, it’s important to take a forensic image of the computer prior to wiping it. This allows investigators to review data from the image when conducting the investigation. In some cases, ransomware decryption tools become available that will allow investigators to decrypt the data from an image. This data could be valuable in determining whether additional data was exposed and whether the ransomware was used to cover up other illegal activities.

For more news and information on the battle against ransomware, visit the homepage today.

Ransomware Incident Response: 7 steps to success

Ransomware infections are becoming increasingly commonplace, and companies that put a plan together before an incident are much more effective at combatting this pervasive malware.

Ransomware response can be broken down into seven steps. Here’s a cheat sheet:

The first step is to confirm whether a reported ransomware infection is an actual infection. There are cases where a user reports what they think is ransomware, but it turns out to be adware, phishing, or some other virus. Validation is important because it keeps efforts focused on important issues. But if you see a ransomware note demanding payment to unlock files, and your system or files are locked or frozen, then you’ve been hit.

Now it’s time for the incident response team to assemble. Incident response teams often include members of your IT staff, management, public relations, and legal. The incident response plan outlines how each member should be trained on how to respond to a ransomware incident. In some cases, the primary person may be unavailable, and it will be necessary to call in a secondary resource to handle that role.

The next step is to determine the scope of the incident, including which networks, applications and systems are impacted and whether the ransomware continues to spread. This is often the role of the IT and security point people.

Containment actions can take place concurrently with analysis activities. In this phase, infected machines are isolated to stop the spread of the ransomware by disconnecting the computers from the network or shutting them down. The scope often changes when containment is underway, and ransomware is still spreading. This phase ends when all infected machines have been isolated from clean machines.

The investigation starts by preserving evidence. Some machines will need to be returned to service as soon as possible while others might be less critical. Evidence such as log files or system images is taken of the affected machines along with documentation of serial numbers and asset identifiers.

The eradication phase removes the ransomware from machines and brings them back into a functioning state. Isolated machines are wiped, and then data is restored from backupto each of the machines after the evidence on the computers has been preserved. In some cases, organizations may decide to remove the ransomware and then restore files that were encrypted by the ransomware without wiping the device first.

A full machine restoration prevents other ransomware or malware from causing problems on the computer, and it also prevents backdoors or other software that the ransomware might have installed from being used to infect the machine later. For this reason, it is typically recommended that you wipe the device and restore the operating system and data from backup.

The last step is to remediate the problem that the ransomware exploited in the first place. This is often a user training issue, so companies implement more awareness training or coaching of individuals. In other cases, new technology needs to be put in place. If backups were found to be inadequate, the company would back up more data or back up more often. The ransomware incident should result in some improvement actions that the organization can perform to be better prepared for future incidents.

For more news and information on the battle against ransomware, visit the homepage today.

Mamba ransomware takes a bigger bite out of your data

As if encrypting your individual files was not enough, a recently discovered ransomware virus called Mamba encrypts your entire hard drive.

This may sound similar to the Peyta drive encryption ransomware that made headlines earlier this year. But Mamba is a different animal. It differs from Peyta in that it encrypts the entire hard drive while Peyta encrypts only the Master File Table (MFT), the information store that tracks which files are on the drive and where they are located. With Peyta, forensics can recover the data from the drive since the data itself is not impacted. There is also a password generator tool for Peyta that can be used to decrypt the MFT. There is currently no easy fix for the sneaky snake known as Mamba.

Mamba starts by overwriting the Master Boot Record (MBR), the program that tells your computer where to find the files to start your operating system. Mamba’s custom MBR tells the computer to load a ransom demand instead of the operating system when the machine restarts. The ransom demand reads as follows:

You are Hacked! H.D.D. Encrypted, Contact Us For Decryption Key ( YOURID: 987654

Mamba encrypts the hard drive as well as other mounted drives such as USB flash drives using an AES-256 compatible open source full-disk encryption program called DiskCryptor.  Mamba is primarily distributed through phishing emails, but that could change as Mamba distribution grows. The ransomware currently targets only Microsoft Windows machines of any variety including Windows XP, Windows 7 and Windows 10.

What to do if you’re attacked with Mamba

If your computer is infected with Mamba, your first recovery step is to restore from backup. Mamba encrypts the entire drive so victims will be unable to access the files or operating system without the decryption key. This means that the operating system and all files will need to be restored from backup.

With most ransomware, you have the option of restoring just the files or folders that were encrypted, or the entire machine. The recommended approach is to restore the whole computer, but some cases require the that the device be put back into service as quickly as possible, so a file restore is performed. There is no such choice with Mamba.

There are two options when restoring the system, based on what data is available to restore. Victims with a full system backup can restore the entire system backup to the machine in a single operation. If a full system backup is not available, victims will need to install the operating system and programs and then restore the data. The second option takes more time to perform, and it requires that the user knows which applications were installed on the system, but it will bring the system to a fully functional state with applications and data in the end.

Take the time now to ensure that you have adequate backups so that you can restore your system in case you encounter full-disk encryption ransomware like Mamba. Consider which restore strategy would be ideal for your company, and how much time your employees can go without access to their computers or data. Then craft a backup strategy that meets your recovery expectations.

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The Economics of Extortion: Understanding the ransomware market

We all know money is the motivating force behind cybercrimes like the creation and distribution of ransomware. The interesting twist with ransomware is that the basic rules of supply and demand become a little hard to follow. Typically you have a buyer and a seller. In the case of ransomware, the distributor—or supplier—has to steal what’s in demand—your data.

Cybercriminals create the demand by restricting access. Victims realize they need access and­—if they cannot get access themselves by restoring critical files from backup—they end up paying the ransom and fueling this economy. This applies to online consumers, small business owners, and CEOs—they have all paid to retrieve data.

It’s interesting to consider the ransomware economy in the following five segments:

1) Investment 

Cybercriminals leasing ransomware can obtain it for as little as $39 and as high as $3,000 depending on which type is purchased. They must then distribute it. Distribution costs include time spent creating and sending emails. According to Trustwave, an IT security team that spent time trying to dissect the ransomware economy, it would cost about $2,500 to spread 2,000 ransomware infections once you factor in the time to send emails and compromise sites.

2) Pricing 

Ransom demands in the United States have been known to be several hundred dollars higher than the same ransomware in Mexico or other countries with lower median incomes than the U.S. Ransomware authors have researched regions and incomes—and they understand that they can only charge what the market will bear. Ransomware authors also consider the bitcoin exchange rate when determining the ransom demand. This helps cyber criminals set a ransom that victims can afford to pay regardless of which country they’re from. In the U.S., the average ask is between $300 and $500, according to many industry sources.

3) Target market 

The target market for ransomware consists of consumers and companies that retain important or business-critical information and have the ability to pay the ransom. Unfortunately, these people also typically aren’t adhering to IT security best practices. Hospitals and other healthcare organizations are a popular target for cybercriminals because of the pressure to pay up quickly, rather than risk patient health.

4) Revenue 

Estimates as to how much has been paid in ransom tend to be conservative because many payments are undisclosed. That said, The U.S. Departments of Justice Internet Crime Complaint Center received reports of ransom payments totaling $24 million in 2015. And in July 2016, ransom payments for Cerber ransomware alone totaled $195,000 for the month. But the market is growing exponentially, and the FBI has said ransomware costs could total $1billion this year.

5) Competition 

The relatively low barrier to entry has resulted in fierce competition among cyber criminals. Some ransomware authors and cyber-extortionists have even adopted higher levels of professionalism to make it easier for victims to pay up. And, in an interesting angle to the supplier side, ransomware kits are easily available and come with simple instructions, meaning that distributors can sell ransomware to new, smaller distributors—as long as they are guaranteed a piece of the profits.

The ransomware economy is booming and returns are high. That means you can expect the number of ransomware attacks to continue rising. Protect yourself by having adequate backups in place before a ransomware attack occurs. Test your backups to ensure that the right data is being protected and can be restored in satisfactory time frames. Also, ensure that a backup copy is kept in a different location from production data so that ransomware does not infect both at the same time.

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