The term “doxware” is coined from the term ‘dox’, meaning searching or posting private information online with any malicious intention. The criminals draw the victims’ attention by stating that their crucial, confidential or personal files would be released online and made them public.
There are some similarities in Doxware and Ransomware. Both encrypt the victims’ files; demand for ransom and are highly automated in nature. In a doxware attack, the compromised files are uploaded to the attacker’s system. It is more focused on choosing the files as per confidentiality or privacy. However, in case of ransomware attack, the files are not removed; they are encrypted.
Doxware has its shortcomings too as below:
• Doxware attacks normally happen with small amount of data. The cyber criminals do not have enough space to save thousands of files, and as a result, uploading huge volume of files increases detection risk.
• Criminals always search for maximum profit on their investment and doxware attacks are too costly to implement. In order to ensure profitability, the criminals do extensive research on the potential victims to decide whether the compromised data would be valuable. They chalk out plans on how to publish the data if the victim denies to pay the ransom.
• The criminals need proper framework to host the compromised data and release them online. It can be easily traceable if it is improper.
IT security professionals estimate that doxware attacks might increase over the next couple of years. Till now the victims have been more from businesses and high-profile individuals comparing to general public. Nevertheless, it might change if the criminals start targeting smartphones or IoT devices. If there is access to more devices, the criminals could improve doxware attacks that are cost-effective and target victims on a larger scale.
Prevent Doxware attacks
Any business which is suffering a doxware attack might think that there is no other way but to pay the ransom. However, the payment never ensures the end of worries. If the criminals find out any particular information that is critical, then further demands might come again. In addition, there is no assurance that the criminals will not release the data even after meeting the demands and the victims cannot confirm whether the stolen files have been removed. Thus, the best way to deal with it is to prevent it.
The below steps can keep Doxware attacks at bay:
• Any Doxware attack starts with a phishing attack. The users should know how to recognize and mitigate phishing attempts in the form of attachments or mysterious links coming from unknown senders in the emails. (please refer to the previous blog posted on detection of phishing e-mails)
• Refrain from keeping all sensitive data in a single hard drive; if that is not possible; at least spread the data in multiple devices/ hard drives.
• Always make sure that the important and sensitive files are encrypted.
• Always keep the anti-virus or anti-malware software (like eScan) updated regularly. It should be capable enough to detect and mitigate newer threats that are emerging every day.
• The users need to be more alert towards malvertising and the websites where malware-infected ads appear. These include social media websites, adult websites and other illegal/ unauthorized online shows.
Doxware attacks are comparatively lesser known than the conventional ransomware attacks. However, eScan, being a security software developer, is of the opinion that, any criminal having opportunity to make money, would definitely take advantage of it. Doxware is nothing but another alarming arrow in the cyber-criminals’ quiver.