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What Are the Types of Ransomware Attacks?

By
Jonathan Barrett
|
November 21, 2022

In the first half of 2022 alone, there were 236.1 million ransomware attacks reported around the world. Ransomware is a type of cyberthreat that can deny you access to your files. This can cause individuals or businesses to lose money, access to personal data, and important security.  

Everyone who uses a computer or device must be aware of what ransomware attacks are, what types of ransomware attacks you should watch out for, and how to recognize and prevent them. It is also important to ensure that you are staying up to date on evolving ransomware threats and best practices for avoiding them.  

What Is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of cyberattack in which a bad actor restricts your access to files on your computer or device, and demands a ransom in exchange for renewed access. Typically, these bad actors will restrict access to your files by gaining access and encrypting them. They will also typically ask for payment in the form of cryptocurrency, as these assets are more difficult to trace. In the process, they may also steal valuable information and may not even renew your access when you pay them as they have asked.  

You should never comply with the request for a ransom if you experience a ransomware attack, and should instead turn off the computer or device, unplug it, and contact the appropriate FBI division. This will prevent the bad actor from gaining further access to your device while the FBI investigates the issue.  

Entities that are most likely to experience a ransomware attack are those that store valuable information (such as government offices), those that face high stakes if access to information is interrupted (such as healthcare facilities), or those that are not well prepared for such an attack (such as schools).

Types of Ransomware Attacks and Names of Major Examples

While all ransomware attacks utilize a similar base strategy, they are not all identical. There are many different types of ransomware attacks and they are evolving all the time. It is important to be aware of common types of ransomware attacks and how they operate.  

Crypto Ransomware/Encryptors

Crypto ransomware is one of the most common types of ransomware. This type of attack restricts your access to your files through the use of encryption. As a highly prevalent type of ransomware, this type of threat is common in ransomware attacks across the board.  

Double Extortion

Double extortion is essentially a subcategory of crypto ransomware. A double extortion attack not only encrypts data, but also extracts it for further use. As such, the bad actor can then use the information as leverage for future ransom demands or otherwise further use it for their benefit.  

Lockers

Locker ransomware attacks utilize viruses to infiltrate computer systems and block various functions and access points. As such, you may not only lose access to the targeted files themselves, but also to the device or its peripherals altogether. The virus may infect the system through various means, but common culprits are interactions with spam and email attachments.  

Ransomware as a Service (RaaS)

Some bad actors such as the group DarkSide take their nefarious activities to the next level and sell access to pre-developed ransomware tools. This allows prospective buyers to gain the ability to launch a ransomware attack without the need to have sophisticated knowledge or tools at their disposal.  

While this allows ransomware to more widely proliferate as it becomes more accessible to use, it also means that many bad actors are using the same software and techniques. These attacks may be less successful overall as information about their specific hallmarks spread.  

Scareware

Scareware makes it appear that there has already been an attack on your device. Typically, this strategy will take the form of a popup notifying you that a cybersecurity threat has been detected and that you must take immediate action to address it. You will then be encouraged to click an unsafe link, navigate to an unsafe site, or pay to download unnecessary software to address the problem. As a result,  you will either actually download malware or be extorted into paying unnecessary fees.  

Identifying Ransomware Attacks

To effectively detect and address various types of ransomware attacks, you must be aware of how you can identify them. The following are some of the most important strategies to utilize:

  • Utilizing cybersecurity software;
  • Researching known ransomware file extensions;
  • Being watchful for an unusual uptick in the renaming of files;
  • Being watchful for unusual changes in the location of files;
  • Noting any slowing of network activity;
  • Noting any unauthorized access or extraction of files;
  • Noting any unusual encryption activity.

High-risk targets may benefit from employing more advanced techniques and tools such as the use of NDR and AI technology to identify threats early. Meanwhile, government entities should utilize signals intelligence to identify nefarious behaviors indicative of active attacker tactics.  

Preventing Ransomware Attacks

It is important that in addition to being able to identify ransomware attacks early, you also strategically employ techniques and tools to prevent attacks and preemptively minimize their impact. Effective options to achieve this include the following:

  • Maintain backups for your important data.
  • Develop detailed cybersecurity policies and procedures.
  • Regularly update your cybersecurity software.
  • Only use secure networks to access or share data.
  • Keep devices in secure locations and limit access to them.  
  • Notify an IT professional if you note any unusual activity on your network.  

It is also vital that organizations develop a response plan to respond to attacks if they do happen.