What is Ransomware Detection?

What is ransomware?

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a harmful program that seals or encodes files until a ransom is settled to cybercriminals. Non-payment may lead to the exposure or continued denial of access to confidential data. Recently in 2023 September, Hong Kong tech hub Cyberport suffered a ransomware attack, with 400GB data being breached and a ransom price of US$300,000.


What is Ransomware Detection?

Ransomware detection combines automated systems and expert malware examination to identify harmful files early in the attack sequence.

Ransomware Detection Explained with Hong Kong Metaphor

Think of ransomware detection like a vigilant security guard patrolling a busy Hong Kong market.

In a bustling market like the Temple Street Night Market, there are countless interactions happening every moment. It’s a lot like your computer network, with data packets coming and going continuously.

Just as a security guard in the market is looking out for suspicious behavior (like someone sneaking around stalls or handling goods in a strange manner), ransomware detection tools are monitoring the network traffic, looking for unusual patterns that might indicate a threat.

Signature-based detection works like a guard who has a list of known troublemakers. When he spots a face that matches one on his list (known malware signatures), he raises an alarm.

Behavior-based detection, on the other hand, is like a guard who’s more interested in people’s actions. Even if he doesn’t recognize the face, if someone is behaving suspiciously (like trying to access a stall they shouldn’t or looking nervous and out of place), he’ll flag it as a potential issue.

Deception-based detection is like setting up a fake stall in the market with appealing items on display. It’s intended to attract thieves. If someone tries to steal from this stall, the guard knows they’re a problem, all without risking any real merchandise.

Remember, just like a single security guard can’t catch every thief, no single ransomware detection method is perfect. A layered approach, employing multiple methods, provides the best protection – just like having multiple security guards, each with their own strengths and areas of focus.


Types of Ransomware Detection

As mentioned above, there are 3 main detection types, signature-based, behavior-based and deception-based detection.


Signature-based detection is one of the most straightforward way to spot bad activity. It checks network traffic, matches it with known signatures, and sends an alert when it finds a match. Suricata is a system that uses this method. However, according to Acronis’s report in 2023, signature-based detection is getting easier to bypass in 2023 due to new and customized malicious code being created at a “blazing speed,”.

Still, signature-based detection is helpful for finding older ransomware samples and known safe files, according to Mario de Boer, a managing vice president at Gartner. He also said it protects against broad ransomware attacks, not just the targeted ones.


Behavior-based malware detection identifies threats based on their actions or ‘behavior’ within a system, rather than relying on known malware patterns (like signature-based). It monitors real-time activities of applications, flagging suspicious actions such as unusual file modifications or data transmissions.

This method is particularly effective against unknown threats or zero-day exploits, which are new malware types without known signatures, and thus undetectable by signature-based methods. However, it can result in higher false-positive rates, as it may flag legitimate software activities as suspicious. Therefore, it’s often used alongside other detection methods for a comprehensive security approach.


Deception-based malware detection is a proactive cybersecurity approach that uses decoys or ‘honeypots’ to attract and trap cyber attackers. These decoys, mimicking real and valuable files or systems, are deployed within the network, but isolated and closely monitored.

When an attacker interacts with these decoys, their activities trigger alerts, enabling security teams to detect and study the attack early, understanding the attacker’s methods, and taking necessary actions. This strategy is effective against various threats, including zero-day attacks and Advanced Persistent Threats, as it doesn’t rely on known malware patterns. However, it requires careful setup and management to ensure decoy effectiveness.


Ransomware Detection Benefits

Ransomware detection offers several key advantages:

1. Quick Threat Detection

These tools can spot threats early, often before any damage is inflicted, enabling rapid responses that can safeguard critical data.


2. Guard Against Data Loss

By catching ransomware before it locks or erases files, these tools help keep important data safe and prevent interruptions to business operations.


3. Economic Efficiency

Coping with successful ransomware attacks can be financially draining, factoring in the ransom, business downtime, and system recovery costs. Preventive measures through ransomware detection can lead to substantial savings.


4. Maintaining Compliance and Reputation

Ransomware attacks can result in regulatory fines if they compromise customer data and can tarnish a company’s reputation. By thwarting such attacks, ransomware detection helps companies stay compliant and preserve their reputation.


5. Strengthened Security Measures

The use of ransomware detection tools enhances a company’s security efforts, potentially discouraging attackers.


6. Ongoing Learning and Development

Contemporary ransomware detection tools continually learn from each attack, enhancing their detection mechanisms and offering improved protection against emerging threats.

In essence, ransomware detection is an essential part of a robust cybersecurity strategy, offering benefits ranging from cost reduction and data safety to regulatory adherence and improved security.


What if You Can’t Detect The Ransomware?

If ransomware remains undetected, it can result in significant consequences. The recent attack on Hong Kong Cyberport has caused the organization legal, reputation and business embarrassments.  Below are a few other examples:

1. Data Inaccessibility

The primary impact of a ransomware attack is that your files become encrypted and inaccessible. Retrieving them typically requires a decryption key that only the attacker has.


2. Ransom Demands

The attacker usually requests a ransom in exchange for the decryption key. The amount can vary widely, and paying doesn’t guarantee you’ll receive the key or that it will unlock your files.


3. Business Interruption

Ransomware can halt your operations while your data is locked, which can be particularly costly for businesses heavily reliant on data and online services.


Damage to Reputation

A successful ransomware attack can undermine trust in your business, potentially leading to customer loss.


Legal Penalties

If the compromised data includes personal identifiable information, you could face fines under data protection regulations like GDPR or CCPA.


Irretrievable Data Loss

Even if you pay the ransom and obtain a decryption key, you might permanently lose some or all of your data. Some ransomware variants also ‘wipe’ the original files after encrypting them.

To mitigate these risks, it’s important to maintain a proactive cybersecurity strategy, including the use of trusted antivirus software, regular software and system updates, training employees on phishing threats, and routinely backing up data securely.


Can You Remove Ransomware?

Yes, it’s possible to eliminate ransomware from your system. However, it’s important to note that removing ransomware doesn’t necessarily decrypt your files; it just prevents the ransomware from causing further harm or encryption. Below are the steps to handle ransomware removal:


Disconnect the Affected Device

To stop the ransomware from infecting other devices in your network, immediately isolate the affected device.


Identify the Ransomware

Try to figure out which type of ransomware has infected your system, if possible. This information can be helpful when looking for a specific removal tool or decryption software. However, avoid contacting the attackers or clicking any links they provide.


Report the Attack

Inform your local law enforcement about the ransomware attack.


Eliminate the Ransomware

Utilize trusted antivirus or anti-malware software to scan for and eliminate the ransomware. In certain situations, you may need to boot your computer in ‘Safe Mode’ to achieve this.


Recover Your Files

If you have a recent backup of your data, restore it once the ransomware is removed. If you don’t have a backup, a ransomware decryption tool might help to recover your files. Such tools are offered by several cybersecurity firms. However, decryption tools are not available for all ransomware types and may not always be successful.

Prevention is the best strategy against ransomware. Regularly update your software and operating system, use a reliable security tool, avoid dubious emails or websites, and consistently backup your data in a secure location.


Final Thoughts

Ransomware poses a serious cybersecurity threat, making ransomware detection a critical part of any comprehensive security strategy. Detection tools offer numerous benefits like preventing data loss, reducing financial impact, and maintaining compliance and reputation. They also evolve to deal with new threats, thanks to machine learning and artificial intelligence.

However, ransomware detection is just one piece of a layered security approach. Other important measures include regular software updates, strong user credentials, employee education, and robust data backups. In essence, ransomware detection, combined with these practices, forms a strong defense against ransomware and other cybersecurity threats.


THREE IC: Ransomware Solution

In an increasingly digital world, fortifying network security is no longer optional but a crucial necessity. THREE IC provides a comprehensive, 24×7 managed ransomware solution, using the latest equipment and continual updates to ensure network security.

Additionally, our range of IT support services is designed to cover all your IT needs, providing you with a seamless and worry-free digital experience. So why wait? Get in touch with a trusted IT consultant at THREE IC today. Because when it comes to protecting what’s valuable, you deserve nothing but the best. Secure your digital assets now, for peace of mind tomorrow.