Crypto Ransomware Explained

Computer coding screen

What is Crypto Ransomware, the latest cyber security threat and steps to keep protected.

Crypto Ransomware is an ongoing and evolving security issue and continues to appear in headlines worldwide as industries work to protect from various risks that can occur.

Research has found up to 40% of businesses have been subjected to a form of cyber attack in the last year. Such events have resulted in a range of impacts from minor to major disruption, even resulting in major financial or production losses.

One of the more public types of cyber security incidents that has been most prominent in recent months is ransomware attacks. It’s estimated that the global cost of ransomware is $20 billion a year.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to interrupt or block access to a computer or full IT system until a specific demand is met – usually for financial gain. The most common form of notification of such an attack is through a visual display on screen stating the attack has occurred and the terms of any ransom.

The malicious software is referred to as Malware.

As the world of cyber security evolves with trends, so does the types of threats and purposes. With the increase of Cryptocurrency, though generally it has become a growing legitimate currency source, this too has become of interest for cybercriminals.

What is Cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that can be used to trade online for goods and services using what is referred to as blockchain technology. As with traditional currency, “crypto” can be sourced through a range of types – such as the most well-known currency, Bitcoin.

Unlike traditional money, this form of currency is encrypted and decentralised meaning due to it digital nature, cannot be modified and there is no central authority to manage it. Though cryptocurrency can be used for legitimate purposes, due to the way it is created and generated to not be traced has also resulted in being popular for cybercriminals.

Its generation through computing resources which can be at a consideration scale through a myriad of systems – mining – as well as legitimate trading is in part a reason for the rise in a new form of cyber threats, Crypto Ransomware or Crypto Jacking.

How does a Ransomware or Crypto Ransomware attack happen?

Such incidents are linked to a user mistakenly downloading malware either through an unknown fraudulent website download link or email attachment. Emails associated with malicious attachments may also be referred to as a form of phishing email as they seek out individuals to exploit through appearing as a legitimate company or known sender.

Both forms of ransomware seek to threaten an individual or organisation for financial gain.

Ransomware Illustration

Why is Cryptojacking and Crypto Malware a threat?

Unlike malware associated with ransomware by cybercriminals, crypto malware can also be a means for such individuals to stay hidden for criminal means.

Due to the structure of cryptocurrency, associated organisations and highly financed individuals can seek to increase their overall cryptocurrency “balance” through a form of activity called mining. Through various complex mathematical equations using computer systems and servers, it enables a means escalate quantities of cryptocurrency, through the validation of data blocks and adding to a blockchain. This activity though seen as an expensive venture to create legitimately, is rewarded by payment via cryptocurrency.

As this presents a lucrative opportunity, cybercriminals have sought to exploit other individuals and organisations to use malware opportunities to conduct their own form of mining using target computer systems instead. The activity will likely be quite hidden but will drain significant resources from the device so it will appear to the owner as simply being slower than normal to operate. This form of exploit as hijacking someone’s system is called cryptojacking.

How to defend yourself from a crypto ransomware attack

The best line of defence is to ensure you are aware of how such attacks can happen and use responsible online behaviour. This includes:

  • Never open unsolicited links or download unexpected attachments on emails
  • Look for HTTPS on a website address – S = secure
  • Apply a SPAM filter to your email inbox – Information Solutions include this for all its customers
  • Invest in cyber security software – Information Solutions has a range of world-leading products including Sophos Intercept X Advanced to keep your devices safe
  • Enable two-way authentication – available for many essential business software tools

Your organisation may also wish to consider gaining security accreditation such as Cyber Essentials. Cyber Essentials is an assessment of your IT systems against recognised standards covering all areas of security, including related policies and procedures. Gaining Cyber Essentials certification not only provides peace of mind that your organisation has all necessary technical controls to keep protected, but a clear criteria to establish for your organisation.

How Information Solutions help

Information Solutions customers can access a range of support services along with cyber security consultation and testing packages to help provide the tools and training for your organisation.

As a Sophos Silver Partner and Watchguard certified, we can also support organisations sourcing and implementing a range security and network tools to keep protected and support any working environment.

For more information, advice or to book a free consultation on how we can help your organisation, contact Information Solutions today.