There have been critical cases of ransomware of note lately. Tor Vergata University suffered an attack that knocked out about a hundred computers. Access to the systems by teachers and students has been blocked. The attack affected a number of documents related to COVID-19 research that were encrypted and then made inaccessible. In addition, two other noteworthy cases shook hospitals in September. The first took place in Germany, in Düsseldorf, where a woman lost her life following an attack that also blocked the machinery that kept her alive. The second happened in the USA and involved UHS (Universal Health Services). In that case, patient care was kept secure, but the IT applications were out of order.
For the uninitiated, ransomware-type attacks happen this way: attackers take possession of the data on a computer and remove or encrypt it. They ultimately render them unusable and require the victim to pay a ransom to free up the data again.
The costs of an attack
According to the Cost of a Data Breach report, a critical ransomware attack can cost an average of $ 4.44M. It is an impressive figure that should make us reflect on the value of data managed by companies and on their protection.
Let’s see in detail some attacks and what consequences they had.
A fatal ransomware
For the first time, a woman dies after a cyber attack on a hospital. On September 9, 2020, a critical ransomware attack, launched at a hospital in Düsseldorf, caused the vital systems to which the patient was connected to no longer function properly. The victim had to be transferred to another hospital as quickly as possible. For more than 30 kilometers, the paramedics fought for the victim’s life, but ultimately without success. Many questions remain pending regarding this case, first of all why the machines that kept the woman alive were connected to a hackable network. The investigations continue, however, showing how the network must be protected for the physical safety of users, to avoid tragic consequences.
An attack on research
The access of students and teachers was blocked at the University of Tor Vergata with a critical ransomware attack that made documents concerning the research on COVID-19 inaccessible. The attackers managed to break into systems within hours and encrypt files on hard drives. A month later, no ransom had yet been requested.
Such an attack could slow down the search, hampering the process. Even if no ransom was required, the damage would still be tangible.
Attack on UHS
Fortunately, it finished better than the attack in Düsseldorf, another episode hit areas close to health. Facilities using Universal Health Services (UHS) systems have seen access to the system freeze due to an attack. Fortunately, there were no casualties and patient care was guaranteed all the time, as stated by UHS itself.
Other critical ransomware attacks
Critical ransomware attacks happen all the time and can have non-immediate implications. For example, Fragomen, a New York law firm, suffered an attack and a consequent data breach involving the personal data of some Google employees.
Another attack hit Enel, which was asked for a ransom of € 14M in bitcoin. The attack refers to the download of private data, contacts, databases, financial and customer documents for a total of 4.5 TB. Enel did not provide any press release regarding the attack.
Run for cover
Unfortunately, ransomware attacks are among the most subtle and annoying, because they also leverage a psychological factor of the victim who sees a way out (payment) and tries to cover what happened in order not to lose reputation.Unfortunately, following a successful attack, the data is still breached and security has proved ineffective.
So how do you make sure these attacks are neutralized? Adequate security measures must be implemented to prevent attacks as much as possible and provide a quick response in critical situations.
Services such as those offered in partnership with Acronis and SOD’s SOCaaS are essential tools for defending your data and corporate network. The first proposed service secures data through backups and monitors file changes. As soon as an encryption attempt is detected, the data is locked and secured to avoid the worst. In the unfortunate event that the attack is successful, backups reduce the severity of the consequences and prevent actual data loss.
SOC as a Service is an all-round solution that monitors all the IT infrastructure referred to. The defense is not specific to a type of attack, but instead focuses on detecting anomalies, even in user behavior, which can indicate ongoing attacks of all kinds.
Finally, to verify that your system is protected, it is possible to request preventive services such as Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Test. These test the infrastructures with controlled attacks in order to stimulate the security response and identify the areas that need to be reinforced. We recommend implementing this type of service regularly throughout the year as a preventative measure.
If you have any questions about the services or want to talk to us about your situation to request an intervention, do not hesitate to contact us, we will be happy to answer your questions.
Acronis Active Protection is an advanced anti-ransomware technology. It actively protects all the data on your systems: documents, data of all kinds and Acronis backup files. It is a technology available for Windows and Mac OS X operating systems and protects against the latest ransomware actions such as Petya, WannaCry, Locky and Osiris.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a particularly painful type of malware. Malware is “hostile or intrusive software” illegally introduced into your system for malicious reasons. When ransomware infects the system, it blocks access to data. Whoever introduced the malware will then make a cash request to unlock the data. In short, the mechanism is that of redemption.
To defend against this type of attack, it is necessary to constantly monitor the activities that take place in the system.
Find the patterns
Acronis Active Protection constantly observes the patterns in how files and data are changed. A set of behaviors can be typical and expected. Another may report a suspicious process that aims to initiate hostile actions against the data.
Acronis’ approach is as follows: examine these actions and compare them with patterns of malicious behavior. This approach can be exceptionally powerful in identifying ransomware attacks, even from variants that have not yet been reported. The latest version of Acronis Active Protection adds additional behavioral patterns to improve ransomware detection.
Acronis has invested heavily in a new dedicated machine learning infrastructure used for telemetry and data processing. The first step in the process is a stack trace analysis. It is possible to detect malicious code by using the stack trace analysis of a process based on the machine learning approach.
The data to be studied and analyzed are the stack trace dumps / frames which are sent as input to the Acronis Machine Learning module. The output of the analysis will be the verdict: clean or infected data. This approach takes active protection to a new level, especially when it comes to threats never used before (called Zero Day).
The system does not require signatures of any kind, but rather creates a model of what is acceptable and what is not. In this way, when hackers will find a new vulnerability or a new approach to infiltrate the system, they will hardly be able to pass this behavior check made thanks to the models applied by Acronis.
Defense against advanced threats
Acronis Active Protection can detect very sophisticated ransomware threats that usually appear as legitimate operations. The detection of attacks takes place thanks to the application of advanced heuristics and machine learning, but not only.
In fact, special mathematical approaches are also adopted to calculate the entropy of the files, in order to understand if the file has been modified even if the header remains the same. Many anti-ransomware solutions, on the other hand, only act based on file headers.
One way that criminals could choose to compromise files would be to attack the backup software itself to corrupt the backup files it creates. To protect against this, Acronis has implemented a robust self-defense mechanism that will not allow criminals to interrupt the work of the Acronis application or the contents of the backup files. In addition, Acronis Active Protection checks the Master Boot Record of Windows-based computers. Hence, it will not allow illegitimate changes to be made to prevent the computer from starting.
How it intervenes
If the ransomware attack starts encrypting files, Acronis quickly detects and stops this process. Since Acronis is a backup solution, any data that was exposed and encrypted before the process was stopped can be recovered from a variety of sources. This is remarkable, considering that not only can anti-ransomware solutions commonly fail to terminate an attack once it has begun, they also have no way of recovering files encrypted by the attack.
Acronis Active Protection detects and deflects attacks and restores files of any size.
The methodologies detect and deflect attacks and advanced file recovery. These protection approaches are not only leading the way against criminals, but they are more innovative and advanced than any other anti-ransomware methodology available.
The Acronis solution is able to identify:
– Hackers trying to infect or compromise local or cloud backups
– Reduced attacks and usually more difficult to detect (for example, changing only a small portion of a document or a photo stored deep in the hard disk)
– Attackers who come up with creative new ways to attempt maliciously manipulating files
The application of artificial intelligence in the field of cyber security has made giant strides in defense possible and is making life extremely complicated for hackers. The search for innovative solutions is now oriented towards the implementation of machine learning to try to capture malicious behavior rather than the attacks themselves. Acronis Active Protection does this and does it effectively, offering complete and efficient protection from ransomware attacks.
The threats do not end once the security of your systems and perimeter has been verified, you must adopt constant defense and verification solutions to ensure your data in the best possible way.
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