What is Ransomware? - Core Networks

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What is Ransomware?

Apr 26, 2022 | Business, CMMC Compliance, Cyber Security, Managed IT, NIST Compliance

What is Ransomware?

There are times when you log in to your computer and find that some of your personal photos, videos, or documents are on the internet. You can also get surprised at how it happened when not even you or anybody from close surroundings has done it. It may be because of some of the malicious software (malware) that is active on your computer. It can enter your system with random files that you have downloaded using the internet. These malicious files can be ransomware. If you don’t know what ransomware is then here, in this article, we will tell you all the details related to ransomware.

Ransomware is typically malware that is in cryptography and has the ability to publish the personal information stored on your computer. It can block your access to data or to your computer system as well. Until you detect it up and the victim pays a ransom fee to the one who spreads this malware. Some simple malware is there that only locks your computer or the files stored in it, and will harm them.

These are some new malware in the market that locks your computer and some files that you have stored in it. Attackers demand money in exchange for decrypting this Ransomware from your computer. It actually locks up all of your details stored in your computer, even sometimes it locks up your computer as well. So, it becomes impossible for you to trespass their code and switch to your computer, and in such a case, you have to pay the ransom fee which is the demand of the attacker. You can’t unlock the computer without paying the ransom fees.

The ransom fee which is the demand of these attackers is generally in form of digital currencies, i.e, Paysafecard, bitcoins, and other cryptocurrencies. These types of digital currencies are difficult to track, and this is the main cause we are unable to prosecute the perpetrators.

What is an example of Ransomware?

Until now you have to know enough about what ransomware is.  Let’s move further to learn the different types of ransomware.

Ransomware has many shapes and forms that hackers and attackers use. The attackers trespass on your computer and lock the files of your computer, and sometimes your computer as well. Ransomware uses encrypted keys, that are not easily decrypted. There are many forms of ransomware used today, but here we will discuss some best examples of ransomware that are popular among users.


Locky is one of the most popular ransomware malware which came into existence back in 2016. Attackers generally deliver this ransomware to people as an email attachment that consists of a Microsoft Word document that has encrypted ransomware. When a user opens that document, it appears to be full of some jumbled words which are impossible to decode and at the end, there appears a message “Enable macro if data encoding is incorrect”, which is a common social engineering way to influence people.

Locky Ransomware ScreenshotIf the user enables the macro file for that document, then that malware is activated and it attacks your computer with the actual encryption Trojan, which will affect all files with that particular extension. The filenames got changed to a 16-letter and number combination that is unique. These encrypted files initially got the .locky file extension.

Other file extensions that are used are .zepto, .odin, .aesir, .thor, and .zzzz. Following encryption, they will receive a message instructing them to download the Tor browser and visit a certain criminal-run website for more details. Payment of between 0.5 and 1 bitcoin is essential according to the directions on the website. The attacker force victims to pay to have their files decrypted. The attackers have the private key and control the remote servers.


Ryuk is a ransomware family that primarily targets large, public-sector Microsoft Windows cyber systems. It usually encrypts data on less secure systems, making it unavailable until you pay a ransom in untraceable bitcoin to the attacker. Ryuk is in use by one or even more criminal organizations, most likely Russian, that target businesses rather than individual customers.

Ryuk is among the first ransomware attacks to recognize and encrypt network discs and resources, as well as destroy shadow copies on the endpoint. As a result, attackers can limit users’ access to Windows System Restore, making it hard to recover from an attack without the use of additional backups or rollback technologies.


Bitcoin Blackmailer was the other name for Jigsaw ransomware. It only targets Windows-based systems. Every cybersecurity research center assigns a name to malware when it is initially in the development stage. While some people will agree with a malware’s name after hearing about it from other labs. Others will come up with their own name after spotting the new malware practically simultaneously. As a result, certain malware, such as Jigsaw/Bitcoin Blackmailer, are recognizable with the help of several characters.

Jigsaw infiltrates a computer system using spam email. Ransomware variants are also detectable via adware and pornographic site downloads. The installer for Jigsaw is in the attachment or download, and it will act as you create the file.


The CryptoLocker ransomware encrypts files on Windows PCs before demanding a ransom payment in exchange for the decryption key. It initially appeared in September 2013, as part of a long-running campaign that lasted until May of the following year. Targets were in trick into downloading infected attachments that is forward through email by CryptoLocker. When these Trojan horse attachments are opened, the software lurking inside is executed.Cryptolocker

CryptoLocker couldn’t replicate itself, unlike malware and worms. So, how did CryptoLocker get its foot in the door? The attackers behind it used the now-famous Gameover ZeuS botnet to aid in the infection of further victims. This was a botnet, which was a collection of malware-infected machines that you can control remotely by the botnet’s operator without the owners’ knowledge or agreement. To put it another way, it was a perfect target for a huge CryptoLocker ransomware attack.

When launched, the malware used RSA public-key cryptography to encrypt certain types of files saved on local and network devices, with the private key stored exclusively on the malware’s control servers. The malware then displayed a message offering to decrypt the data. It provides payment information which you have to fulfill by a certain deadline. As well as threatening to remove the private key if you did not meet the deadline. IIf you did not consider the deadline, the malware ensures to decrypt data via an internet service supplier of the infection’s operators for a substantially greater charge in bitcoin if you did not meet the deadline. After payment, you cannot guarantee the unlocking of your computer and files stored in it.

Despite the fact that CryptoLocker was easily removed, the impacted files remained encrypted in a form that researchers believed was impossible to crack. Many people came in favor of the ransom that no one should pay the ransom amount but offered no solution for recovering files. Others said paying the ransom was the only option to restore files that has no backup. According to certain victims, paying the ransom is not the exact solution to this problem.


Maze ransomware is a powerful form of Windows ransomware that targets businesses in a variety of industries all around the world. Maze requests a crypto-currency deal in return for the safe retrieval of encrypted data, just like previous ransomware.

If victims of the maze ransomware refuse to pay, the perpetrators threaten to release the victims’ personal information. This is becoming more common in newer ransomware, such as REvil/Sodinokibi, JSWorm/Nemty/Nefilim, Clop, and many others.

Petya and Non-Petya

Petya is a crypto-malware family that originally came into existence in 2016. The malware infects the master boot record of Microsoft Windows-based systems, executing malware that encryption a hard drive’s file system database and stops Windows from starting. In order to restore access to the system, it then requests that the user pay a fee in Bitcoin.Peyta

Petya variants are initially known in March 2016 and you can share them via corrupt e-mail contents. A new form of Petya was used in a global cyberattack in June 2017 that primarily targeted Ukraine. The new form spreads using the EternalBlue exploit that was employed earlier by the WannaCry ransomware and is thought to have been designed by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

Because of the differences in functioning, Kaspersky Lab dubbed this new version NotPetya to distinguish it from the 2016 iterations. Furthermore, despite the fact that it claims to be ransomware, this edition has been updated to prevent it from undoing its own alterations. Security researchers, Google, and various nations have attributed the NotPetya attacks to the Russian government, notably the Sandworm hacking squad within the GRU Russian military intelligence organization.

Bad Rabbit

Bad Rabbit is a ransomware family that was previously unknown. Drive-by attacks were used to disseminate the ransomware dropper. A malware dropper is downloaded from the threat actor’s infrastructure while the target is viewing a genuine website. Because there were no exploits employed, the user would have to manually run the malware dropper, which posed as an Adobe Flash installer. However, our investigation revealed that Bad Rabbit leverages the EternalRomance exploit to proliferate over corporate networks. In the ExPetr, the identical exploit was employed.

How does Ransomware Work?

People only know what is ransomware but they don’t know how it works. Generally when ransomware attacks firstly it gains access to the target system, then it encrypts its file on that system, locks the system and then the attacker asks for a ransom fee from the attacker. To get successful in their task, an attacker needs to fulfill all the steps given.

Every ransomware variant can have different implementation detail than varies from one to another, but all of them share the same core stages:

Stage 1. Infect and Distribution Matrix

Just like any other malware or malware ransomware can gain access to a system in several ways. This can be either through phishing messages, spam emails, uncertain links, etc. There are a number of ways to encrypt a system using ransomware.

The advanced way to encrypt a system with ransomware is Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). If you have provided access to your computer to someone else via a remote desktop service. It might be possible that some ransomware malware can encrypt your system through it. With it, the attacker can directly execute the installation of malware software in your system.

Stage 2. Data Encryption

Once downloaded or entered a system, the ransomware malware starts encrypting its files on the system. The ransomware malware generally locks your system or the files stored in it. It will not affect your system until it has access to destroy or delete the files. This ransomware malware is able to choose the type of extensions of files that they have to encrypt. Some of the ransomware malware delete some important file or backup, to make it impossible to get malware-free without getting a decryption key.

Stage 3. Ransom Demand

As soon as the file gets encrypted on your computer, the malware gets activated to make changes in the system. After implementing all the required changes, the attacker asks for the ransom fee to provide you with a decryption key that can make your system ransomware free. To demand the ransom fee there are many ways that are regular ways opted by the attacker. It can be by changing the desktop background to a random ransom note. These notes contain the demand related to the ransom fee which you need to pay in form of cryptocurrency. When you will pay the ransom fee to the attacker they will provide you with a decryption key that you can use to decrypt your system. Then, you can gain access to your system and your system’s file.

How does Ransomware get on your Computer?

The ransomware malware is difficult to remove by a common person who uses a laptop or computer for their daily office work or conducting other types of casual activities. For the people who work online, there are a variety of ways that attackers can use to send them ransomware malware.  We need to keep ourselves updated on that what ransomware is and how it attacks our laptops, pc, or mobile sometimes. There are ways that can make your computer go under ransomware attack is via:

           1. Phishing messages.

           2. Scam emails with links or attachments.

           3. Using infected websites.

           4. Clicking on random ads that appear on your computer.

           5. Social Engineering.

           6. Download a file that contains ransomware.

           7. Through chat messages.

           8. Removable USB devices.

Often, an executable file in a zip folder, placed within Microsoft Office document macros, or disguised as a fax or other feasible attachment is used to introduce the program to your network. After that, the download file encrypts your data, adds an extension to your files, and makes them unavailable. More advanced versions of the program are self-propagating and can function without the intervention of a human. This type of ransomware, known as “drive-by” attacks, infects your computer by exploiting flaws in various browser plug-ins.

How to Remove Ransomware?

If you have a random message on your screen asking for a ransom fee, you must not pay much attention to it, until it will start encrypting your system. Ransomware encrypts the system and asks for the ransom fee in form of cryptocurrency to decrypt the system. If you have ever come across such a situation must be looking for options that you must do to remove the ransomware from your system. And if not, you should be aware of the things prior to it.

When ransomware attacks a system many files get locked and you are not able to access them, in such case you should:

1.      Leave the Device

The use of the device will spread the ransomware to different drivers or folders. It can also try to affect the connected machines. You must remove the connected devices from the internet and quarantine the system to stop spreading the ransomware from one device to another.

2.      Let the Computer remain ON

Some ransomware is so destructive that it can make unstable damages. Switching your computer on or off can also affect their behavior. In this condition, you should leave the computer as it is now, which can help you not get more destructive.

3.      Always create a Backup

If you are in habit of backing up your computer’s data then it will be very helpful for you. You can easily decrypt some files without paying the ransom fees to the attacker. These backup files will help you when any such ransomware will attack your computer and you don’t know what ransomware is and what should you do now.

4.      Check for available Decryptors

You can check online if there is any No More Ransom Project available. These projects help you decrypt your system from ransomware. If run properly on the encrypted files, they can surely remove the malware and make your computer workable again.

5.      Try to Seek Help

Sometimes it is possible that your computer might have stored backup or shadow files of the documents or media that are attacked by the ransomware. An IT expert can help you to recover those files by copying them to a new destination. This could be possible only if the ransomware has not attacked or deleted those files.  (Give us a call, we can help!)

6.      Clean and Restore

You can restore all the documents or media files if you have created a backup of them previously. This is the reason why backup is required so that you can regain the important data when required. For taking the backup of these files, you must ensure that they might not get affected by the ransomware.

Recent Ransomware Attacks

Till now, we have got to know much about what is ransomware, its types, how it works, and how to remove it. We hope that you are much aware of the ransomware malware. Let us now discuss some of the recent ransomware attacks that happened to big companies even when they are equipped with all the cyber security options.


In March of the year 2021, the Taiwanese computer company Acer was attacked by the REvil ransomware. The hackers requested a stunning $50 million in exchange for their information. They released screenshots of stolen files as proof of the security breach and subsequent data leak at Acer. Images of financial spreadsheets, bank correspondence, and bank balances were among them.

According to claims in the media, the gang gained access to Acer’s network by exploiting a Microsoft Exchange vulnerability that had previously resulted in the hacking of the emails of 30,000 US government and commercial organizations.

The ransomware group allegedly generated more than $100 million from huge company extortions in a single year. The same hackers were behind the Travelex ransomware attack in 2020.

Kia Motors

In February of the year 2021, a Hyundai affiliate, Kia Motors, was held ransom. According to reports, the DopplePaymer gang demanded $20 million in exchange for a decryptor and a promise not to publish the stolen data. The resulting ‘IT outage,’ according to Kia Motors, impacted Kia Motors America’s mobile UVO Link apps, payment systems, owner’s portal, phone services, and internal sites.


DarkSide, a hacking organization based in Germany, targeted Brenntag, a chemical delivery firm, at approximately the same time as the Colonial Pipeline Company breach. A DarkSide is said to have requested $7.5 million, or 133.65 bitcoin, in exchange for access to 150 GB of data. DarkSide also posted a data breach page with a summary of the data obtained and images of a few files to back up its allegations. The ransom was discussed, and Brenntag finally paid $4.4 million.


Learn how to protect your business:

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