Crypto-Ransomware : Your Worst Information Technology Disaster
Crypto-Ransomware  Remediation ExpertsRansomware has become an escalating cyber pandemic that poses an extinction-level danger for businesses of all sizes unprepared for an assault. Different iterations of crypto-ransomware such as CrySIS, WannaCry, Bad Rabbit, NotPetya and MongoLock cryptoworms have been running rampant for a long time and still inflict damage. Modern variants of ransomware such as Ryuk, Maze, Sodinokibi, Netwalker, Conti and Nephilim, along with daily as yet unnamed viruses, not only encrypt online information but also infiltrate any configured system restores and backups. Information synched to cloud environments can also be ransomed. In a vulnerable data protection solution, this can make automated restore operations hopeless and basically sets the network back to square one.

Retrieving programs and information after a ransomware intrusion becomes a sprint against the clock as the targeted organization struggles to contain the damage and eradicate the ransomware and to resume mission-critical operations. Because crypto-ransomware takes time to spread, penetrations are frequently sprung on weekends and holidays, when attacks are likely to take longer to detect. This compounds the difficulty of promptly marshalling and orchestrating a qualified mitigation team.

Progent offers a range of solutions for protecting Cambridge businesses from ransomware penetrations. Among these are user training to help identify and not fall victim to phishing scams, ProSight Active Security Monitoring for remote monitoring and management, plus deployment of next-generation security gateways with artificial intelligence technology to automatically discover and suppress zero-day cyber attacks. Progent in addition provides the services of expert ransomware recovery engineers with the skills and commitment to reconstruct a breached network as soon as possible.

Progent's Ransomware Restoration Services
After a ransomware event, sending the ransom demands in Bitcoin cryptocurrency does not provide any assurance that cyber hackers will return the keys to decrypt any or all of your data. Kaspersky estimated that 17% of crypto-ransomware victims never restored their information after having sent off the ransom, resulting in additional losses. The gamble is also very costly. Ryuk ransoms frequently range from fifteen to forty BTC ($120,000 and $400,000). This is significantly higher than the usual crypto-ransomware demands, which ZDNET estimated to be around $13,000 for smaller businesses. The fallback is to piece back together the essential elements of your IT environment. Without the availability of essential system backups, this requires a broad range of skill sets, top notch project management, and the ability to work non-stop until the job is done.

For two decades, Progent has offered professional Information Technology services for companies throughout the United States and has earned Microsoft's Gold Partnership certification status in the Datacenter and Cloud Productivity competencies. Progent's pool of subject matter experts (SMEs) includes engineers who have been awarded advanced certifications in foundation technologies including Microsoft, Cisco, VMware, and major distributions of Linux. Progent's cyber security experts have garnered internationally-recognized certifications including CISA, CISSP, CRISC, and GIAC. (See Progent's certifications). Progent also has expertise in financial systems and ERP application software. This breadth of expertise affords Progent the skills to efficiently determine important systems and re-organize the remaining parts of your network system following a crypto-ransomware event and assemble them into an operational network.

Progent's recovery group uses powerful project management applications to orchestrate the complex recovery process. Progent knows the importance of acting swiftly and in concert with a client's management and IT staff to assign priority to tasks and to put the most important applications back on line as soon as possible.

Customer Case Study: A Successful Crypto-Ransomware Attack Restoration
A small business sought out Progent after their organization was penetrated by the Ryuk ransomware. Ryuk is thought to have been developed by North Korean government sponsored criminal gangs, suspected of adopting strategies exposed from the U.S. NSA organization. Ryuk seeks specific companies with little or no room for operational disruption and is among the most profitable instances of ransomware. Headline organizations include Data Resolution, a California-based data warehousing and cloud computing company, and the Chicago Tribune. Progent's client is a single-location manufacturing business located in the Chicago metro area and has about 500 employees. The Ryuk event had disabled all essential operations and manufacturing capabilities. The majority of the client's information backups had been online at the beginning of the attack and were damaged. The client was taking steps for paying the ransom demand (in excess of $200K) and praying for good luck, but in the end called Progent.

"I canít thank you enough in regards to the care Progent gave us during the most stressful time of (our) companyís existence. We had little choice but to pay the Hackers except for the confidence the Progent experts afforded us. That you were able to get our e-mail system and critical servers back into operation faster than five days was something I thought impossible. Every single staff member I talked with or texted at Progent was urgently focused on getting us back on-line and was working day and night on our behalf."

Progent worked together with the customer to quickly understand and prioritize the mission critical applications that needed to be restored to make it possible to continue business operations:

  • Microsoft Active Directory
  • E-Mail
  • Accounting/MRP
To get going, Progent followed ransomware event response industry best practices by stopping the spread and removing active viruses. Progent then initiated the task of restoring Active Directory, the heart of enterprise networks built on Microsoft Windows technology. Microsoft Exchange Server email will not operate without Active Directory, and the customerís MRP system leveraged Microsoft SQL Server, which requires Active Directory services for authentication to the database.

Within 48 hours, Progent was able to re-build Active Directory services to its pre-penetration state. Progent then charged ahead with rebuilding and storage recovery on key servers. All Exchange Server ties and configuration information were intact, which facilitated the rebuild of Exchange. Progent was also able to collect non-encrypted OST data files (Outlook Offline Data Files) on team desktop computers in order to recover mail messages. A not too old offline backup of the client's accounting/ERP software made them able to restore these vital programs back available to users. Although a large amount of work remained to recover fully from the Ryuk event, critical services were restored rapidly:

"For the most part, the manufacturing operation was never shut down and we delivered all customer shipments."

Throughout the following couple of weeks critical milestones in the restoration project were completed through close collaboration between Progent team members and the client:

  • Internal web sites were returned to operation with no loss of information.
  • The MailStore Microsoft Exchange Server with over four million archived emails was restored to operations and available for users.
  • CRM/Customer Orders/Invoicing/Accounts Payable (AP)/AR/Inventory capabilities were fully recovered.
  • A new Palo Alto 850 firewall was set up.
  • 90% of the user desktops and notebooks were fully operational.

"Much of what went on in the initial days is mostly a fog for me, but I will not soon forget the urgency all of you accomplished to give us our business back. I have been working with Progent for at least 10 years, possibly more, and every time I needed help Progent has shined and delivered as promised. This time was a testament to your capabilities."

A potential business-killing disaster was avoided with results-oriented professionals, a wide range of IT skills, and close teamwork. Although in hindsight the ransomware virus penetration detailed here could have been stopped with modern cyber security technology solutions and NIST Cybersecurity Framework or ISO/IEC 27001 best practices, user education, and well thought out incident response procedures for data protection and applying software patches, the fact is that government-sponsored criminal cyber gangs from Russia, China and elsewhere are tireless and are an ongoing threat. If you do fall victim to a ransomware incursion, feel confident that Progent's team of experts has extensive experience in ransomware virus blocking, remediation, and information systems restoration.

"So, to Darrin, Matt, Aaron, Dan, Jesse, Arnaud, Allen, Tony and Chris (along with others who were involved), thank you for allowing me to get rested after we made it over the most critical parts. Everyone did an fabulous effort, and if any of your team is visiting the Chicago area, dinner is the least I can do!"

Download the Ransomware Remediation Case Study Datasheet
To read or download a PDF version of this customer case study, click:
Progent's Ransomware Incident Recovery Case Study Datasheet. (PDF - 282 KB)

Contact Progent for Ransomware Cleanup Services in Cambridge
For ransomware cleanup consulting in the Cambridge metro area, call Progent at 800-462-8800 or see Contact Progent.

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