Two high-profile cyber attacks on critical infrastructure companies have shed much-needed light on the growing threat of ransomware across multiple sectors and industries in the last few months. After the Colonial Pipeline and JBS attacks, more companies are looking for ways to enhance their cybersecurity efforts and avoid being the victims of ransomware attacks.
The blog post below offers insight into why ransomware attacks are on the rise and what organizations can do to prevent them in 2021.
Ransomware attacks are undoubtedly on the rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, these attacks were on the rise well before the pandemic started. The pandemic simply exposed existing vulnerabilities to hackers that they were then able to exploit.
Below, we have outlined six of the main reasons why ransomware attacks are increasing:
Reason 1. Profitability
Ransomware as a service (RaaS) groups are increasingly offering to sell their tools and services to other hackers online. Ultimately, they treat ransomware attacks like a ‘number’s game’ and believe that more attacks equate to more money. By selling their services to other attackers and launching their own attacks, they are essentially earning a double income.
Reason 2. Affordability
It costs hackers nothing to plan and execute an attack, which means they have nothing to lose. Attackers merely sit back and wait for a response while threatening to leak stolen data. If they need to shut down their operations quickly, they can do so instantly since they generally exist online only.
Reason 3. Unpreparedness
Most companies are ill-equipped to handle the effects of a ransomware attack. In general, they have not reviewed their incident response plan since putting it in place. By not performing routine security exercises and delivering effective security awareness training, many companies were technologically exposed to the hackers’ unsavory tactics.
Reason 4. Powerlessness
Unfortunately, critical infrastructure is considered an easy target for hackers. Company leaders feel like they are backed into a corner and have no choice but to pay the ransom. Until there are impactful penalties on the table for these sectors, leadership will continue paying the ransomware, and the problem will continue to proliferate.
Reason 5. Cryptocurrency
Another attribution of ransomware attacks is partially due to the rise of cryptocurrencies. Many attackers demand a ransom payment in Bitcoin, which is harder to trace. Since these exchanges allow for greater anonymity, ransomware attacks involving cryptocurrencies are particularly attractive to hackers.
Reason 6. Insurance
The percentage of businesses that pay for cyber insurance nearly doubled over the last four years. As attacks and ransom demands increased, premiums for those plans rose by 30 percent, while the amount of damage coverage promised by those insurers decreased. Cyber insurance has convinced some organizations that they do not need to make the necessary changes to prevent ransomware attacks.
As you can see, there are multiple reasons why ransomware attacks are on the rise. The culmination of these factors ismore sophisticated and numerous attacks across many industries, nations, and company sizes. However, company leaders can take proactive measures to ensure that they mitigate their exposure.
According to cybersecurity experts, the solutions for stopping ransomware attacks are well-known, but they are not implemented uniformly or consistently. While organizations must educate their employees about phishing and social engineering attacks, there are other changes they can implement to make a significant difference.
Businesses should segment their networks to ensure employees have access to only the components necessary for their jobs. For example, limit administrator access to a computer since not every user requires this authority level. This strategy prevents certain user groups from accessing specific websites or installing software that can infiltrate the network.
Additionally, businesses should keep backups of their data and test them regularly. These backups should remain separate from the main network, which makes them immune to ransomware encryption. Additionally, they should be utilizing multifactor authentication and implementing software patches as soon as they become available.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) currently advises companies not to pay the ransom. However, failure to pay can sometimes result in significant costs to companies. It is believed that ransoms should never be paid since doing so will result in more attacks since the model works.
Although hackers can access your systems in several unscrupulous ways, your top priority should be implementing the right security features and engaging employees with continuous security awareness training. If you have an educated workforce that recognizes ransomware attacks or incidents that could lead to ransomware attacks, you may be able to stop the problem before it even begins.