Ransomware Pretending to be Windows Update

November 29, 2023 by
Mark Nash

It's good cybersecurity practice to keep your devices up-to-date, so when you see a new update made available, you should download it right away. But what if you install what you think is a legitimate update, only to find your device infected with ransomware? That's the nightmare caused by an emerging cybersecurity threat of fake Windows updates. Cybercriminals are constantly devising new ways to infiltrate systems, and one of the latest and more dangerous that has emerged recently is the "Big Head" ransomware. It adds a new layer of deception by disguising itself as a Windows update. In this article, we'll explore the ins and outs of Big Head ransomware, including its deceptive tactics, and how you can protect yourself from falling victim to such attacks.

The Big Head Ransomware Deception

Ransomware attacks have long been infamous as one of the most disruptive types of malware for their ability to encrypt files, rendering them inaccessible to the victim until the attacker gives them a key after a ransom is paid. By 2031, it's expected that a ransomware attack will occur every 2 seconds. In the case of Big Head ransomware, the attackers have taken their tactics to the next level by masquerading the attack as a Windows update. Big Head ransomware presents victims with a convincing fake Windows update alert. Attackers design this fake alert to appear in a pop-up window or as a notification and can even use a forged Microsoft digital signature to make the fake update appear more authentic and more challenging for users to discern its true nature. If the victim clicks the notification to try and install the update, they unknowingly download and execute the ransomware onto their system.

Protect Yourself from Big Head Ransomware & Similar Threats

With cyber threats regularly becoming more sophisticated, it's crucial to take proactive steps to protect your data and systems. Here are some strategies to safeguard yourself from ransomware attacks like Big Head.

Educate Yourself and Others

Perhaps the most important step in cybersecurity is to stay informed about the latest threats and tactics hackers are employing to attack people. Of course, it only takes one vulnerability to compromise a network, so educate your colleagues or family members as well as yourself. Cybersecurity can only work if everyone is doing their part.

Keep Software and Systems Updated

This one is tricky because updating your computer is a best practice for security. Yet, Big Head ransomware leverages that by taking the appearance of Windows updates. Before installing any software update, verify its authenticity. One way to be sure you're installing a real update is to search for it in your device's settings menu in the updates section. Additionally, from your device's settings menu, you should find the option to enable automatic updates, which is an excellent setting to enable and increase your device's security. You should never click on an update notification that came through an email or similar unusual source.

Use Robust Security Software

Install comprehensive antivirus and anti-malware software on your computer to help detect and block ransomware threats. Additionally, like any software you would install on your computer, ensure it comes from a verified and reputable source.

Use Email Security Measures

One of the most popular methods hackers use to spread ransomware is through phishing emails. Put in place robust email security measures, including training on how to identify and avoid phishing attacks. Never open an attachment or click a link in an email before you have thoroughly scrutinized said email to ensure its validity. It is always a good idea to contact the person the email claims to be from first to ask them directly if they sent that email; note that you should not do this by replying to the initial email, either compose a new one or use an alternative means of communication such as a phone call or SMS message. Additionally, watch out for emails from unknown senders.

Backup Your Data

Keep a backup of all your important files and update those backups regularly. Your backups should be stored on an external storage device or a secure cloud backup service, where they will stay safe if your device is compromised. In the event of a ransomware attack, having backups of your data is vital to allow you to restore your files.

Disable Auto-Run Features

Many devices will automatically run an external drive when they are connected to the device; however, this is a terrible idea. Hackers can use external drives such as USBs to store malware that is distributed to any device the USB is connected to, and this can even apply to things such as the USB end of a charging cable. Ensure that in your device's settings, you have disabled auto-run functionality for external drives.

Be Wary of Pop-Up Alerts

Exercise extreme caution whenever you encounter pop-up alerts, especially if they ask you to download or install software. It can be difficult to verify the legitimacy of such alerts, so it is recommended not to engage with them directly.

Keep an Eye on Your System

Keep an eye on your computer's performance and watch for any unusual activity. If you notice any suspicious activity occurring on your device, investigate immediately. Suspicious PC activity can be:

  • Unexpected system slowdowns
  • Unexpected changes to files
  • Missing files or folders
  • Your PC's processor "whirring" when you're not doing anything

Have a Response Plan

There is, unfortunately, no way to make your devices 100% resistant to cyberattacks, so that means it is vital to have a plan in place just in case. Your plan needs to account for how to react immediately after a compromise is identified to minimize damage, how to remedy the compromised devices, and how to restore the network to pre-compromise conditions. Some important steps for your immediate reaction are knowing how to disconnect infected devices from the network to try and halt the attack's spread, how to report the incident to your IT department or a cybersecurity professional, and, of course, knowing never to pay the ransom.