What is ransomware?
Ransomware is a type of malicious software (malware) that encrypts files or locks computer systems, holding them hostage until a ransom is paid to the attacker. It is designed to extort money from individuals, organizations, or businesses by denying access to their own data or systems.
Ransomware operates by encrypting files on a compromised computer or network, rendering them inaccessible to the user. Subsequently, the attacker demands a ransom, typically in the form of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, as payment in exchange for decrypting the files or restoring access to the system. This coercive tactic is employed to extort victims into paying the demanded ransom.
Ransomware commonly propagates through various means, including phishing emails, malicious attachments, and the exploitation of software or operating system vulnerabilities. Once the malware infiltrates a system, it initiates the encryption of files, leading the victim to receive a ransom note. This note contains instructions on how to make the ransom payment and restore access to the encrypted data.
Paying the ransom does not guarantee that the attacker will provide the decryption key or unlock the system, and it may even encourage further attacks. Additionally, complying with the demands of ransomware attacks can support criminal activities and contribute to the perpetuation of such threats.
What is Royal ransomware?
Royal ransomware is a newer ransomware operation that uses unusual techniques to breach networks before encrypting them with malware and demanding ransom payments. The malware is distributed via malicious attachments and malicious advertisements. Since approximately September 2022, cybercriminals have compromised U.S. and international organizations with a Royal ransomware variant. The variant uses its own custom-made file encryption program and is believed to have evolved from earlier iterations that used “Zeon” as a loader. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have released joint Cybersecurity Advisory (CSA) #StopRansomware: Royal Ransomware to provide network defenders tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) and indicators of compromise (IOCs) associated with Royal ransomware variants.
Recent Royal Ransomware Attacks
Recently, Royal ransomware has been in the news due to its increasing threat to organizations. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released a joint Cybersecurity Advisory (CSA) #StopRansomware: Royal Ransomware on March 2, 2023, to provide network defenders with tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) and indicators of compromise (IOCs) associated with Royal ransomware variants. The Royal ransomware group has been targeting corporations with ransom demands ranging from $250,000 to over $5 million. The FBI and CISA have issued an alert to warn organizations of the increasing threat posed by the Royal ransomware. Additionally, the Royal ransomware gang claimed responsibility for a data breach at Clarke County Hospital in Iowa, USA, in May 2023
What to do if you think you have Royal ransomware?
If you suspect that you have been infected with Royal ransomware, the following steps can help mitigate the damage:
- Disconnect the infected machine from the internet and any other devices to prevent the ransomware from spreading.
- Unplug all storage devices, including external hard drives and USB drives, that are connected to the infected machine.
- Do not pay the ransom, as there is no guarantee that the attackers will provide the decryption key.
- Contact a reputable cybersecurity firm to help remove the ransomware and recover your data, if possible.
- It is important to report the incident to law enforcement agencies such as the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency).
It is important to note that prevention is the best defense against ransomware. Regularly backing up your data, keeping your software up-to-date, and being cautious when opening email attachments or clicking links can help reduce the risk of a ransomware attack.
How to protect yourself and avoid infection by Royal ransomware?
Here are some tips to protect yourself and avoid infection by Royal ransomware:
- Keep your software up-to-date: Regularly updating your operating system, antivirus software, and other applications with the latest security patches is crucial in protecting your system against ransomware and other cyber threats.
- Backup your data: Regularly backing up your data and storing it in a secure location is crucial in safeguarding your information against ransomware attacks.
- Use strong passwords: Use strong and unique passwords for all your accounts, and enable two-factor authentication wherever possible.
- Be cautious when opening email attachments and clicking links: Do not open attachments or click links from unknown or suspicious sources, as they may contain malware.
- Educate yourself and your employees: Educate yourself and your employees on how to spot phishing emails, suspicious links, and other common tactics used by cybercriminals to spread ransomware.
It is important to acknowledge that no single solution can provide absolute protection against ransomware. However, implementing these best practices can significantly reduce the risk of a ransomware attack.
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts files and demands a ransom for their release. These attacks have become increasingly prevalent, with thousands reported daily. Preventive measures include updating software, using strong passwords, regular data backups, and exercising caution with email attachments and links. Organizations should also employ security measures like firewalls and antivirus software.
In case of an attack, disconnecting the infected device and seeking professional cybersecurity help is crucial. Paying the ransom is discouraged, as there is no assurance of receiving the decryption key.