Common Types of Ransomware

2016 seems to be the year of ransomware. News sources are dominated with more with more malware headlines than ever before. Whether it’s a phishing email scam or the latest strain of ransomware, it’s all bad news for businesses and data protection. It can be difficult to keep track of the different strains of malware however they generally use similar tactics to take advantage of users and hold your business critical data hostage. Let’s take a look at some of the most common types.

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    • CryptoLocker: Ransomware has been around in some form or another for the past two decades, but it really came to prominence in 2013 with CryptoLocker. The original CryptoLocker botnet was shut down in May 2014, but not before the hackers behind it extorted nearly $3 million from victims. Since then, the CryptoLocker approach has been widely copied, although the variants in operation today are not directly linked to the original. The word CryptoLocker, much like Xerox and Kleenex in their respective worlds, has become almost synonymous with ransomware.
    • CryptoWall: CryptoWall gained notoriety after the downfall of the original CryptoLocker. It first appeared in early 2014, and variants have appeared with a variety of names, including: Cryptorbit, CryptoDefense, CryptoWall 2.0 and CryptoWall 3.0, among others. Like CryptoLocker, CryptoWall is distributed via spam or exploit kits.
    • CTB-Locker: The criminals behind CTB-Locker take a different approach to virus distribution. Taking a page from the playbooks of Girl Scout Cookies and Mary Kay Cosmetics, these hackers outsource the infection process to partners in exchange for a cut of the profits. This is a proven strategy for achieving large volumes of malware infections at a faster rate.
    • Locky: Locky is a relatively new type of ransomware, but its approach is familiar. The malware is spread using spam, typically in the form of an email message disguised as an invoice. When opened, the invoice is scrambled, and the victim is instructed to enable macros to read the document. When macros are enabled, Locky begins encrypting a large array of file types using AES encryption. Bitcoin ransom is demanded when encryption is complete.
    • TeslaCrypt: TeslaCrypt is another new type of ransomware on the scene. Like most of the other examples here, it uses an AES algorithm to encrypt files. It is typically distributed via the Angler exploit kit specifically attacking Adobe vulnerabilities. Once a vulnerability is exploited, TeslaCrypt installs itself in the Microsoft temp folder.
    • TorrentLocker: TorrentLocker is typically distributed through spam email campaigns and is geographically targeted, with email messages delivered to specific regions. TorrentLocker is often referred to as CryptoLocker, and it uses an AES algorithm to encrypt file types. In addition to encoding files, it also collects email addresses from the victim’s address book to spread malware beyond the initially infected computer/network—this is unique to TorrentLocker.
    • KeRanger: According to ArsTechnica, KeRanger ransomware was recently discovered on a popular BitTorrent client. KeRanger is not widely distributed at this point, but it is worth noting because it is known as the first fully functioning ransomware designed to lock Mac OS X applications.

Through our Ransomware series of posts we want to help you become informed and understand how important it is to protect your business from ransomware effectively. Find out more about our Security services here.