Can ransomware spread through WiFi?

In the past several years, ransomware has become an ever-greater threat for businesses of all sizes and industries. If you’re concerned about the impact of ransomware attacks on your organization, you might wonder: Can ransomware spread through WiFi?

For a robust IT security posture, understanding the answers to questions like “Can malware spread through WiFi?” and “How does ransomware commonly spread to company networks?” is crucial. In this article, we’ll discuss these issues and more.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malware that holds your files and data “hostage,” preventing you from accessing them by encrypting them with a secret key. The attackers refuse to unlock these files until paying the ransom has occurred. However, there’s no guarantee that you can regain access, even after the ransom is paid.

The impact of ransomware can be dire for a business, from financial losses all the way to closure of the business.

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Can ransomware spread through WiFi?

How does ransomware spread? Ransomware can enter your IT environment through a variety of methods. The most common vectors are:

  • Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP): Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol software enables users to connect to another computer remotely. If an RDP instance is left exposed, it becomes the perfect opportunity for attackers to access the computer and download ransomware.
  • Phishing: Many ransomware attacks are due to a phishing email that tricks users into downloading a malicious application. Sophisticated attacks, known as “spear phishing,” impersonate a trusted contact (such as an employee’s boss) for additional believability.

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Once inside your IT ecosystem, ransomware attempts to replicate itself to as many endpoint computers as possible in order to have the greatest impact — and yes, this includes wireless networks. The spread of ransomware and other malware throughout your IT environment is known as “lateral movement.” The three stages of lateral movement are:

  1. Reconnaissance: During this initial stage, the ransomware attacker lies in wait, observing and exploring the environment. The malware collects information, such as the organization’s network hierarchy, the endpoint operating systems, and the locations of potentially valuable data, so that it can exploit this information later on.
  2. Credential dumping and privilege escalation: To remain undetected while spreading throughout the environment, ransomware usually needs valid credentials to other machines. These credentials can be obtained through a variety of methods: keyloggers, phishing emails, or stealing passwords in plaintext or hashes.
  3. Getting around: After an extended process of collecting information, the ransomware strikes by spreading itself to other computers in the network. These endpoints are then usually locked down simultaneously to make the attack as severe as possible. The good news is that these actions leading up to the attack can be detected with sophisticated endpoint monitoring software.

Any other devices or components that are connected to an infected device — such as through Wi-Fi — are at risk once ransomware is present in your environment. Lateral movement is the reason why it’s so critical to respond as soon as you detect the presence of ransomware within your IT ecosystem. Whether it’s via WiFi networks or some other vector, ransomware will find a way to insidiously spread itself throughout your systems unless it’s immediately contained.

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How to get started with ransomware defense

The answer to questions such as “Can ransomware spread through network endpoints?” and “Can viruses spread through WiFi?” is a resounding yes. Ransomware and other forms of malware are serious threats that put the security of your files and data at stake. To protect your IT environment, you’ll need a suite of cybersecurity tools and platforms, from firewalls to anti-virus software, that help you mount a better defense and respond more effectively to suspected threats.

That’s why UncommonX has built the powerful BOSS XDR (extended detection and response) security operations platform. An XDR platform is a threat detection and response tool that monitors your IT assets across the enterprise, from endpoints and servers to networks and cloud deployments. BOSS XDR helps our clients with everything from protecting against threats to reacting and recovering after an incident.

Want to learn how the BOSS XDR platform can help you guard against ransomware and other cyber-threats? Get in touch with our team of IT security experts today for a chat about your business needs and objectives, or to see a demo of the BOSS XDR solution.

About the Author

At the center of our U.S.-based Security Operations Center (SOC) is a distinctly skilled team of security architects, engineers, analysts, and data scientists. Each is an expert in their respective field and dedicated to protecting our customers 24/7.