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6 Signs of a Ransomware Attack

Measured Staff
May 17, 2022
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People often think that ransomware attacks just happen, but really, there are several warning signs that indicate they are about to take place. Knowing what these signs are can help you spot a ransomware attack much earlier, potentially limiting damage.

Automated vs. Human-operated Ransomware

Before getting into the six warning signs of a ransomware attack, it’s important to understand that there are two types of ransomware – automated and human-operated.

In most cases, automated ransomware attacks cause problems for individuals. These cyber-attacks are opportunistic and usually happen like this: an individual downloads ransomware by opening an attachment or clicking on a link. Then, the ransomware encrypts that individual’s data. At some point, but not always instantaneously, a ransom message will appear. 

Human-operated ransomware is much more sophisticated. In these cases, hackers will break into a network of computers within an organization. Once they have successfully gained access, they will research the systems and plan an attack. When the ransom demand is sent, the hackers already have significant knowledge of the organization’s inner workings and its data. It’s not uncommon for weeks or even months to pass between the initial cybersecurity breach and the ransom demand. 

Ransomware warning signs

Even with cybersecurity measures in place, keeping an eye out for these warning signs can help detect a ransomware attack or the plan of an attack before receiving a ransom message. Early detection can increase the chances of a better response and recovery.

  1. Spike in disk activity – ransomware is finding and encrypting data on a computer or network
  2. Systems are less responsive than normal – ransomware is impacting overall performance
  3. Installation of unauthorized software – hackers have added tools to help with the impending attack
  4. Security systems are experiencing glitches – hackers are tampering with or disabling protection systems
  5. New accounts – hackers have created privileged accounts on the network to research and help plan an attack
  6. Failed attempts to access the network – evidence that hackers are attempting to break into a system

A robust cybersecurity plan and diligent employees are a great start to protecting against ransomware attacks. Just knowing what signs to look for is important information to keep in the back of your mind when preparation for an attack might be happening.