Ransomware: A New Cyber Hijacking Threat to Enterprises

Ransomware: A New Cyber Hijacking Threat to Enterprises

Xin Luo (The Univeristy of New Mexico, USA) and Qinyu Liao (The University of Texas at Brownsville, USA)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-855-0.ch001
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In computer virology, advanced encryption algorithms, on the bright side, can be utilized to effectively protect valuable information assets of enterprises. Yet, on the dark side, they can also be of use for malicious attackers to conduct pernicious activities. This article attempts to discover the surreptitious features of ransomware and to address it in information systems security research. It intends to elicit attention from enterprises with regard to ransomware—a newly emerged cyber hackjacing threat using such encryption technology as RSA—and to help both academic researchers and IT practitioners understand the technological characteristics of ransomware, along with its severity analysis. As ransomware infections continue to rise, and attacks employing refined algorithm become increasingly sophisticated, data protection faces serious challenges. This chapter draws a ransomware extortion scheme, compares ransomware with other malware, and discusses future trends and research directions in an effort to cater to both practitioners and researchers.
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Today’s enterprises confront not only keen peer competitions in business society, but also increasingly sophisticated information security threats in cyberworld, as online presence and business transaction are considered as a possible profit-driven avenue and a necessary means for global competence. In computer virology, as technologies continue to evolve, advanced encryption algorithms, on the bright side, can be utilized to effectively protect valuable information assets of enterprises. On the dark side, however, they can also be employed by malicious attackers to conduct pernicious activities in search of profits or benefits. Past information systems security research has investigated such malware programs as Trojan horse, worms, and spyware from a plethora of scientific perspectives (Warkentin, Luo, & Templeton, 2005), and relevant strategies and tactics have been proposed to alleviate and eradicate the cyber threats (Luo, 2006).

Young and Yung (2004) indicated that future attacks will result from combining strong cryptography with malware to attack information systems. Very recently, the emergence of a new form of malware in the cyberspace, known as ransomware or cryptovirus, starts to draw attention among information systems security practitioners and researchers. Imposing serious threats to information assets protection, ransomware victimizes Internet users by hijacking user files, encrypting them, and then demanding payment in exchange for the decryption key. Seeking system vulnerabilities, ransomware invariably tries to seize control over the victim’s files or computer until the victim agrees to the attacker’s demands, usually by transferring funds to the designated online currency accounts such as eGold or Webmoney or by purchasing a certain amount of pharmaceutical drugs from the attacker’s designated online pharmacy stores.

This chapter attempts to discover the surreptitious features of ransomware, and to address it in information systems security research. In an effort to cater to both security practitioners and researchers, the rest of this chapter is organized in four parts. Part 1 will address ransomware’s underpinning structures (recent statistics and attack methodologies of ransomware infection are also offered); Part 2 will compare the technological differences between ransomware and Trojan horse, worm, and spyware (a sample attack scheme will be listed to address the attacking process); Part 3 will discuss the future trend of ransomware in terms of technological sophistication level; and Part 4 will propose the recommendations for antiransomware.


In-Depth Analysis: How Ransomware Works

In the cyber world, computer users have faced certain types of threat such as worms, spyware, phishing, viruses, and other malware. Ransomware is an extortion scheme whereby attackers hijack and encrypt the victim’s computer files, and then demand a ransom from the victim for these files in original condition. Kaspersky, one of the global leading antivirus companies, warned that ransomware is a serious threat, because there is no way to recover the effected data.

We thereby define ransomware as a piece of pernicious software that exploits a user’s computer vulnerabilities to sneak into the victim’s computer and encrypt all his/her files; then the attacker keeps the files locked unless the victim agrees to pay a ransom. In a typical ransomware attack, the attacker reaches into a compromised computer by seeking the exposed system vulnerabilities. If this system was victimized earlier by a worm or Trojan, the attacker can easily enter the weakly configured system. He then searches for various types of important files with such extension names as .txt, .doc, .rft, .ppt, .chm, .cpp, .asm, .db, .db1, .dbx, .cgi, .dsw, .gzip, .zip, .jpg, .key, .mdb, .pgp .pdf. Knowing these files are of possible crucial importance to the victims, he then encrypts these files, making them impossible for the victim or owner to access. Later, the attacker sends the victim an e-mail ransom or pop-up window demanding for the encryption key that unlocks the frozen files.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Phishing: A type of fraud whereby a criminal attempts to trick their victim into accepting a false identity presented by the criminal. The common application of this approach is to send fake e-mails to a victim purporting to come from a legitimate source and requesting information or directing the victim to a fake Internet website where this information can be captured.

RSA: A cryptology algorithm for public-key encryption. It was the first algorithm known to be suitable for signing as well as encryption, and one of the first great advances in public key cryptography. RSA is widely used in electronic commerce protocols, and is believed to be secure, given sufficiently long keys and the use of up-to-date implementations.

Cyber Extortion: The webjacking activity that infects a computer with malicious code that encrypts user-based documents, then demands ransoms for a key that can be used to decipher them.

Ransomware: A piece of pernicious software that exploits a user’s computer vulnerabilities to enter the user’s computer and encrypt all his/her files, and the attacker keeps the files locked unless the victim agrees to pay a ransom.

Spyware: A client-side software component that monitors the use of client activity and sends the collected data to a remote machine.

Cryptovirus: A malware that contains and uses the public key of its author.

Cryptosystem: Used as shorthand for “cryptographic system”. A cryptographic system is any computer system that involves cryptography. Such systems include, for instance, a system for secure electronic mail which might include methods for digital signatures, cryptographic hash functions, key management techniques, and so on.

Complete Chapter List

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Jatinder N. D. Gupta, Sushil Sharma
Jatinder N. D. Gupta, Sushil Sharma
Chapter 1
Xin Luo, Qinyu Liao
In computer virology, advanced encryption algorithms, on the bright side, can be utilized to effectively protect valuable information assets of... Sample PDF
Ransomware: A New Cyber Hijacking Threat to Enterprises
Chapter 2
Joon S. Park
E-commerce has grown immensely with the increase in activity on the Internet, and this increase in activity, while immeasurable, has also presented... Sample PDF
E-Commerce: The Benefits, Security Risks, and Countermeasures
Chapter 3
Pamela Ajoku
Even though weapons and money are considered important factors for running a modern world, at the end of the day, it is all about controlling and... Sample PDF
Information Warfare: Survival of the Fittest
Chapter 4
Gaeil An, Joon S. Park
In this chapter, we discuss the evolution of the enterprise security federation, including why the framework should be evolved and how it has been... Sample PDF
Evolution of Enterprise Security Federation
Chapter 5
Roy Ng
The hypergrowth of computing and communications technologies increases security vulnerabilities to organizations. The lack of resources training... Sample PDF
A Holistic Approach to Information Security Assurance and Risk Management in an Enterprise
Chapter 6
John D’Arcy, Anat Hovav
A number of academic studies that focus on various aspects of information security management (ISM) have emerged in recent years. This body of work... Sample PDF
An Integrative Framework for the Study of Information Security Management Research
Chapter 7
Aditya Ponnam
Organizations worldwide recognize the importance of a comprehensive, continuously evolving risk assessment process, built around a solid risk... Sample PDF
Information Systems Risk Management: An Audit and Control Approach
Chapter 8
Udaya Kiran Tupakula
In this chapter we discuss Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks in networks such as the Internet, which have become significantly prevalent... Sample PDF
Distributed Denial of Service Attacks in Networks
Chapter 9
Andy Luse
This chapter describes various firewall conventions, and how these technologies operate when deployed on a corporate network. Terms associated with... Sample PDF
Firewalls as Continuing Solutions for Network Security
Chapter 10
Jamie Twycross
The immune system provides a rich metaphor for computer security: anomaly detection that works in nature should work for machines. However, early... Sample PDF
An Immune-Inspired Approach to Anomaly Detection
Chapter 11
Wasim A. Al-Hamdani
This chapter introduces cryptography from information security phase rather than from deep mathematical and theoretical aspects, along with... Sample PDF
Cryptography for Information Security
Chapter 12
Carlo Belletini
The chapter introduces and describes representative defense mechanisms to protect from both basic and advanced exploitation of low-level coding... Sample PDF
Memory Corruption Attacks, Defenses, and Evasions
Chapter 13
Dalila Boughaci, Brahim Oubeka, Abdelkader Aissioui, Habiba Drias, Belaïd Benhamou
This chapter presents the design and the implementation of a decentralized firewall. The latter uses autonomous agents to coordinately control the... Sample PDF
Design and Implementation of a Distributed Firewall
Chapter 14
Tom Coffey
This chapter concerns the correct and reliable design of modern security protocols. It discusses the importance of formal verification of security... Sample PDF
A Formal Verification Centred Development Process for Security Protocols
Chapter 15
Ahsan Habib
This chapter develops a distributed monitoring scheme that uses edge-to-edge measurements to identify congested links and capture the misbehaving... Sample PDF
Edge-to-Edge Network Monitoring to Detect Service Violations and DoS Attacks
Chapter 16
Doug White, Alan Rea
Hard disk wipes are a crucial component of computing security. However, more often than not, hard drives are not adequately processed before either... Sample PDF
A "One-Pass" Methodology for Sensitive Data Disk Wipes
Chapter 17
Lijun Liao
This chapter deals with the issues concerning e-mail communication security. We analyze the most popular security mechanisms and standards related... Sample PDF
Securing E-Mail Communication with XML Technology
Chapter 18
Li Yang, Raimund K. Ege, Lin Luo
This chapter describes our approach to handle security in a complex Distributed Virtual Environment (DVE). The modules of such an environment all... Sample PDF
Aspect-Oriented Analysis of Security in Distributed Virtual Environment
Chapter 19
Information Availability  (pages 230-239)
Deepak Khazanchi
This chapter describes the concept of information availability (IAV) which is considered an important element of information security. IAV is... Sample PDF
Information Availability
Chapter 20
Siraj Ahmed Shaikh
The purpose of this chapter is to introduce the reader to the research area of formal analysis of authentication protocols. It briefly introduces... Sample PDF
Formal Analysis and Design of Authentication Protocols
Chapter 21
Rajeev R. Raje, Alex Crespi, Omkar J. Tilak, Andrew M. Olson
Component-based software development offers a promising technique for creating distributed systems. It does require a framework for specifying... Sample PDF
Access Control Frameworks for a Distributed System
Chapter 22
Manish Gupta, JinKyu Lee, H. R. Rao
The Internet has emerged as the dominant medium in enabling banking transactions. Adoption of e-banking has witnessed an unprecedented increase over... Sample PDF
Implications of FFIEC Guidance on Authentication in Electronic Banking
Chapter 23
Sue Conger
Historically, companies have automated a security model that analogizes the concept of a “guardian” who monitors incoming and outgoing activities... Sample PDF
Disruptive Technology Impacts on Security
Chapter 24
Sushma Mishra
Internal auditing has become increasingly important in current business environments. In this era of the Sarbanes- Oxley Act and other similar... Sample PDF
Internal Auditing for Information Assurance
Chapter 25
William H. Friedman
This chapter is management oriented. It first proposes a general theoretical context for IT disasters within the wider class of all types of... Sample PDF
IT Continuity in the Face of Mishaps
Chapter 26
Yvette Ghormley
This chapter describes the tools that businesses can use to create a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan. Utilizing business modeling... Sample PDF
Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plans
Chapter 27
Yvette Ghormley
The number and severity of attacks on computer and information systems in the last two decades has steadily risen and mandates the use of security... Sample PDF
Security Policies and Procedures
Chapter 28
Arjmand Samuel
This chapter outlines the overall access control policy engineering framework in general and discusses the subject of validation of access control... Sample PDF
Enterprise Access Control Policy Engineering Framework
Chapter 29
Sushil K. Sharma, Jatinder N.D. Gupta
The purpose of the information security policy is to establish an organization-wide approach to prescribe mechanisms that help identify and prevent... Sample PDF
Information Security Policies: Precepts and Practices
Chapter 30
Paul D. Witman
This chapter provides a set of guidelines to assist information assurance and security researchers in creating, negotiating, and reviewing... Sample PDF
A Guide to Non-Disclosure Agreements for Researchers
Chapter 31
Omkar J. Tilak
Software realization of a large-scale Distributed Computing System (DCS) is achieved through the Componentbased Software Development (CBSD)... Sample PDF
Assurance for Temporal Compatibility Using Contracts
Chapter 32
Arjan Durresi
The latest estimates suggest that there are over two billion cell phone users worldwide. The massive worldwide usage has prompted technological... Sample PDF
Spatial Authentication Using Cell Phones
Chapter 33
Sushil K. Sharma, Jatinder N.D. Gupta, Ajay K. Gupta
The ability to perform E-Commerce over the Internet has become the driver of the new digital economy. As it has opened up opportunities for... Sample PDF
Plugging Security Holes in Online Environment
Chapter 34
Erik Graham, Paul John Steinbart
This chapter presents a step-by-step approach to improving the security of wireless networks. It describes the basic threats to achieving the... Sample PDF
Six Keys to Improving Wireless Security
Chapter 35
Robert W. Proctor, E. Eugene Schultz, Kim-Phuong L. Vu
Many measures that enhance information security and privacy exist. Because these measures involve humans in various ways, their effectiveness... Sample PDF
Human Factors in Information Security and Privacy
Chapter 36
Wm. Arthur Conklin
Software defects lead to security vulnerabilities, which cost businesses millions of dollars each year and threaten the security of both individuals... Sample PDF
Threat Modeling and Secure Software Engineering Process
Chapter 37
Christopher M. Botelho, Joseph A. Cazier
The threat of social engineering attacks is prevalent in today’s society. Even with the pervasiveness of mass media’s coverage of hackers and... Sample PDF
Guarding Corporate Data from Social Engineering Attacks
Chapter 38
Tom Clark
Data storage is playing an increasingly visible role in securing application data in the data center. Today virtually all large enterprises and... Sample PDF
Data Security for Storage Area Networks
Chapter 39
Edgar Weippl
This chapter outlines advanced options for security training. It builds on previous publications (Weippl 2005, 2006) and expands them by including... Sample PDF
Security Awareness: Virtual Environments and E-Learning
Chapter 40
Manish Gupta
Enterprises are increasingly interested in new and cost effective technologies to leverage existing investments in IT and extend capabilities to... Sample PDF
Security-Efficient Identity Management Using Service Provisioning (Markup Language)
Chapter 41
Dwayne Stevens, David T. Green
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) networks signal an evolution in telecommunications that is accelerating the convergence of the Internet and the... Sample PDF
A Strategy for Enterprise VoIP Security
Chapter 42
Jose M. Torres
This chapter presents an Information Systems Security Management Framework (ISSMF) which encapsulates eleven Critical Success Factors (CSFs) along... Sample PDF
Critical Success Factors and Indicators to Improve Information Systems Security Management Actions
Chapter 43
Rebecca H. Rutherfoord
This chapter will deal with issues of privacy, societal, and ethical concerns in enterprise security. Security for a company is defined as... Sample PDF
Privacy, Societal, and Ethical Concerns in Security
Chapter 44
Rodolfo Villarroel, Eduardo Fernández-Medina, Juan Trujillo, Mario Piattini
This chapter presents an approach for designing secure Data Warehouses (DWs) that accomplish the conceptual modeling of secure DWs independently... Sample PDF
An MDA Compliant Approach for Designing Secure Data Warehouses
Chapter 45
Hai Wang
This chapter introduces the survivability evaluation, especially on the corresponding evaluation criteria and modeling techniques. The content of... Sample PDF
Survivability Evaluation Modeling Techniques and Measures
Chapter 46
Art Taylor
With the rise of the Internet, computer systems appear to be more vulnerable than ever from security attacks. Much attention has been focused on the... Sample PDF
The Last Line of Defense: A Comparison of Windows and Linux Authentication and Authorization Features
Chapter 47
M. Pradhan
Information Technology can be used at all levels to counter attack bioterrorism. This article gives an overview of use of Information Technology for... Sample PDF
Bioterrorism and Biosecurity
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