Breaking Down the Rapidly Evolving GandCrab Ransomware

Most ransomware strains have the same commonalities – bitter ransom notes, payment demanded in cryptocurrency, and inventive names. A select few, however, can go undetected by a handful of antimalware products. Meet GandCrab ransomware, a strain that somehow manages to accomplish all of the above. Our McAfee Labs team has found that the ransomware, which first appeared in January, has been updating rapidly during its short lifespan, and now includes a handful of new features, including the ability to remain undetected by some antimalware products.

First and foremost, let’s break down how GandCrab gets its start. The stealthy strain manages to spread in a variety of ways. GandCrab can make its way to users’ devices via remote desktop connections with either weak security or bought in underground forums, phishing emails, legitimate programs that have been infected with the malware, specific exploits kits, botnets, and more.

GandCrab’s goal, just like other ransomware attacks, is to encrypt victims’ files and promise to release them for a fee paid in a form of cryptocurrency (often Dash or Bitcoin). It can also be sold across the dark web as ransomware-as-a-service, or RaaS, which allows wannabe cybercriminals to purchase the strain to conduct an attack of their own.

So, the next question is what can users do to defend against this tricky attack? Thankfully, McAfee gateway and endpoint customers are protected against the latest GandCrab versions but beyond using security software, there are a handful of other things you can do to ensure you’re protected from GandCrab ransomware. Start by following these tips:

  • Don’t pay the ransom. Many ransom notes seem convincing, and many only request small, seemingly doable amounts of money. Doesn’t matter – you still don’t pay. Paying does not promise you’ll get your information back, and many victims often don’t. So, no matter how desperate you are for your files, hold off on paying up.
  • Do a complete backup. With ransomware attacks locking away crucial data, you need to back up the data on all your machines. If a machine becomes infected with ransomware, there’s no promise you’ll get that data back – it could even become wiped entirely in some cases. Make sure you cover all your bases and have your data stored on an external hard drive or in the cloud.
  • Use decryption tools. No More Ransom – an initiative that teams up security firms, including McAfee, and law enforcement – provides tools to free your data, each tailored for a specific type of ransomware. If your device gets held for ransom, start by researching what type of ransomware it is. Then check out No More Ransom’s decryption tools and see if one is available for your specific strain.

And, of course, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow me and @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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