Ransomware Detection

Despite advancements in computer systems in the last decade and the onset of virtual reality, malware, especially ransomware, is still one of the biggest threats faced by all digital systems today. There are several vital elements that make ransomware as fatal as it is. One of these traits is that this malware is nearly undetectable. This allows the ransomware enough time to infect the affected system thoroughly and spread laterally to other systems that the device may be connected to over a network.

The destructive nature of ransomware often forces victims to fulfill the ransom demand in an attempt to recover their data. However, there is no guarantee that the attacker will give the victim the decryption key even after the ransom is paid. Therefore, it is suggested to first look into and prepare other methods of fighting ransomware before deciding to pay the ransom.

Although notorious for being unsolvable malice, some methods can still help you fight and recover from a ransomware attack. But the most important step in any such method is apt ransomware detection. Only by detecting the nature and severity of the attack on time can you stand a chance against this deadly threat.

Ransomware Detection

Ransomware detection is the first step in the line of defense against malware. It is significant because ransomware can often stay hidden in the infected system until all files and data are encrypted. This encryption process takes place unbeknownst to the victim, who only discovers the attack when the ransom demand is displayed.

Ransomware detection techniques help prevent this ordeal by identifying the infection earlier before it can do irreversible harm to your valuable data. Early ransomware detection is imperative because, unlike other cyber attacks, ransomware may make any data that is not properly backed up irrecoverable.

Today, ransomware is evolving rapidly, and new variants are constantly emerging. This has made early ransomware detection even more essential because it helps stop the infection in its tracks before it has the chance even to start encrypting files.

Ransomware Detection Techniques

Ransomware detection techniques aim to monitor any suspicious activity and compile a list of such suspicious activities to identify the presence of malicious activity.

Behavior-based Detection Methods

Behavior-based ransomware detection is designed to monitor any suspicious activities and look for anomalies that are different from normal. This detection technique uses the odd behavior of ransomware, for example, two simultaneous login requests from the ID of a single user.

Another tell-tale sign of ransomware infections is the sudden opening of several files on the system. The malware does this to read and identify all crucial files and then encrypt them. Correct identification of such anomalous behavior can help security professionals detect ransomware on time and deal with it accordingly.

Three of the most popular behavior-based detection methods are:

Traffic Analysis

Security professionals should monitor any impromptu traffic flow changes or connections to suspicious file-sharing sites. However, this method requires analysis time, and the attackers may resort to legitimate file-sharing sites.

File System Changes

In this method, security teams should keep an eye on any file executions that are not normal, for example, several more file renames than are carried out in the system per day. Similarly, along with the encryption of files, teams should also monitor the creation of new files sharing names with pre-existing files but having different specifications.

API Calls

Security teams can monitor the commands being executed by files, how long the system has been on, and the presence of a debugger on the system.

Signature-based Detection Method

Signature-based detection is perhaps the easiest way to identify a ransomware attack. This is because ransomware, and other malware, have several identifiable signatures, such as the IP addresses and domain names of control and command infrastructure, file hashes, and other indicators.

There is a library of these signs on signature-based detection systems, and all files are compared against these signatures to ensure whether they are malware.

However, today, this method is not as viable as it used to be and often ends up giving false positives. This is because of the onset of new ransomware variants and the tactic used by attackers to use unique signatures for every attack.

Deception-based Detection Method

No matter how advanced the attacking techniques are, it is important to realize that the bottom-line goal of a ransomware infection is to encrypt data and block file access. Hence, an effective way of detecting ransomware is to set up a bait known as a honeypot. This includes the creation of fake files and putting them in easily visible locations to lure and trap attackers.

When an attacker identifies these files and tries to encrypt them, they are unknowingly revealing their intent, attack path, and strategies. As soon as the perpetrator falls into this trap, it is only a matter of time before security teams are able to stop the attack in its tracks.

Many deception-based ransomware systems are available today on the market that creates automated honeypots for cyber criminals and makes them completely indistinguishable from the normal traffic on the system.

This method is one of the most effective ones for early detection of ransomware because it reveals the attacker’s intention, tools, and attack tactics, which not only helps detect and defeat the attack at hand but also adds to intelligence reports to help mitigate the attacker and prevent such attacks in the future.

Advantages Of Ransomware Detection

Ransomware attacks are not partial; every system is prone to them, especially individual users and small businesses. Therefore, everyone can benefit from early ransomware detection, especially small companies that do not have access to advanced cybersecurity resources, compared to big businesses that can recover quickly from ransomware attacks.

Large-scale ransomware attacks can result in the loss of millions of dollars, apart from the large sums of sensitive data that are lost. In most cases, victims are unable to recover their original files, whether or not they choose to pay the ransom. In the case of companies, even if the data is recovered, the process of replacing and rebuilding an infected system is very expensive.

Although some may argue that installing state-of-the-art ransomware detection techniques systems is equally resource-intensive, it is crucial to consider what stands at risk without apt detection, i.e., sensitive data and huge finances, as either ransom or recovery costs, both of which may or may not be recovered. Both small and large-scale users can not afford these losses.

Ransomware Detection Best Practices

There are certain best practices that can be adapted to help identify ransomware attacks early.

Policies For Segmentation

Segmentation policies should be formed according to the normal flow of communication between the elements in your environment. A system should be set up to alert if anything happens outside the norm.

Such an approach helps deliver an early warning, allowing quick detection and response.

Strong Visibility

It is crucial to understand the flow of traffic between your systems. Good knowledge of traffic flow will help identify any abnormal changes, which may indicate ransomware is attempting to spread laterally across a network.

Malware Detection Tools And Intrusion Detection Systems

These tools help readily identify an attacker’s attempts at ransomware propagation. This method also employs predefined signatures and general detection of anomalies, which may even be automated.

Deception Tools

Deception-based ransomware detection and response is perhaps the most efficient early detection technique for identifying ransomware on time. For this method to be successful, it is crucial to have effectively established baits and a well-distributed deception platform.

If done correctly, deception techniques allow security professionals to quickly detect any unusual behavior and suspicious lateral data flow and identify an active data breach before data is encrypted.


Ransomware is a deadly threat that can lead to the loss of precious data and large sums of money. Nearly no one is secure from a ransomware infection. Although several methods for protection, prevention, and recovery from ransomware threats are now available, one can never be fully sure that one will be able to recover their losses.

The only way to avoid irretrievable losses due to such malicious actions is to invest in detection techniques to be able to detect and stop ransomware before any losses occur, i.e., before the attacker blocks access to important files and sensitive data.

Derik Belair

As President and CEO, Derik leads the vision, strategy and growth of Augmentt. Prior to founding Augmentt, Derik was the Vice President at SolarWinds, leading the digital marketing strategy for SolarWinds’ Cloud division. Derik has been working in the channel for over 20 years, starting his career as a channel sales rep at Corel Corp. and eventually becoming the first employee at N-able Technologies in April of 2000.
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