Ransomware attacks, a highly prevalent threat for computer users today, have crippling effects on the victims. The attacks are aimed to extort huge sums of money from the victims who are forced to pay to retrieve their files.
Ransomware, as we know it, is a malicious virus that encrypts the user’s data on the computer and locks all the files. It then demands hefty monetary payment as a ransom to remove the cyber extortion, and provide the decryption key. The system then has to go through the process of ransomware recovery to ensure that it is free from malware.
Ransomware’s evolution is staggering. The malware started as targeting individuals to earn money out of ransom. However, over time, the focus gradually shifted to smaller companies with weaker security systems, and now large corporations and organizations are a lucrative target for hackers as they tend to place a much higher value on their data and therefore, are ready to pay high amounts as a ransom to regain access to their files. The more complex the attack is, the more difficult the ransomware recovery becomes.
Who are the hackers? Well, hackers can emerge from the independent hacking units, professional criminal organizations, even ex-employees as well as amateur hackers, hacking systems as a leisure activity.
The ubiquity of cyber-attacks across the globe raises the question of the specificities of the ransomware attackers. Do they need any particular qualifications or training to be able to carry out a large scale attack? How do they get access to the cyber-crime?
Well, in reality, hackers do not require proficient software engineering or programming skills to carry out a successful attack. Many of them are merely non-technical scoundrels. A relatively simple, low risk and accessible cybercrime, ransomware can serve as a rewarding tool for hackers. Just a little bit of tech-savviness can take them to high levels.
The task of the hackers, today, is made much simpler by the advent of the Dark Web. The dark web comprises websites that are not accessible from a standard browser, instead, they exist on an encrypted network, and in order to access them, the user must download a distinctive browser known as TOR ‘The Onion Ring’. It has the ability to direct internet traffic through a wide network in order to obscure the user’s location and usage from any possible surveillance or monitoring.
Readily available on the marketplace is the RaaS ‘Ransomware as a service’, providing numerous ransomware offerings. Potential attackers do not have to go through the hassle of creating their own ransomware, rather these packages can be found and sold on the Dark Web. This huge platform provides a wide variety of services, including customer support, to direct attacks for these hackers. It does not necessarily require the attacker to be proficient at devising computer codes to launch attacks.
A pact is formed between the ransomware author and the buyer (attacker), to split the profits earned through the ransom, thereby benefitting both the parties. This, unfortunately, leaves the victim as the only loser, who in most cases, passively submits to the demands of the hackers in the hope of retrieving access to his essential data.
Unfortunately, since there are no prerequisites for hackers, the barriers to entry in this toxic field are significantly low, paving room for anyone who wants to cause damages to enter with no trouble. This has led to a rise in the occurrence of attacks every year and has become a real-time threat for businesses and individuals who have to pay huge amounts for ransomware recovery, at the same time, being an extremely lucrative affair for the hackers.