Organizations and government entities are currently experiencing a concerning trend of ransomware attacks. From the Albany Police Department’s recent discovery that their 2019 ransomware attack went further back than they thought (they initially claimed it was from 2018 but it went back to September 2017) to sources claiming in March 2021 that a phishing hack infected more than 30,000 Microsoft customers, ransomware can plague businesses in many ways.
Business leaders need to protect their organization and customers. Their best line of defense is understanding what their organization can do to avoid falling victim to ransomware attacks. Here are a few things you need to know about ransomware trends in 2021.
Ways Cybercriminals Target Victims Using Ransomware
While there are several ways cybercriminals can use ransomware, there are three common ways they typically target victims:
- Phishing: Attackers claim to be someone else that the victim trusts in an attempt to collect personal information.
- Network: Scammers can exploit network equipment software that is not properly protected.
- Remote desktop protocol: If this software tool is openly accessible, cybercriminals can use it to steal information.
To ensure these areas are secure, make sure that your IT team implements iron-clad security and protocols. This will reduce the risk of them becoming an entry method for ransomware.
Larger Company Networks Are at High Risk
Due in part to their complex systems and the volume of data they store, larger company networks are at high risk. Larger companies often have more robust networks, which can make detecting an attack more challenging. Data published by Group-IB indicates that in 2020, ransomware operators were present on a compromised network for an average of 13 days before deploying. Ransomware may be able to latch onto the network for days, weeks, or even months. Because larger companies usually store more data, this gives criminals ample time and incentive to hack massive amounts of information before their victims detect the breach.
Ransomware Attacks Are Soaring in the Education Sector
Business leaders that partner with educational institutions should know that ransomware attacks aren’t just growing for big corporations — they are also impacting the education sector. Security reports published in late 2020 indicate that successful ransomware attacks in the education sector grew by over 388% during the third quarter of 2020. This means that school districts and other educational institutions need to be on the lookout for these threats. Also, if an institution thinks it has been compromised, it must notify neighboring educational facilities that may be at risk.
Ransomware Attacks Involve Data Theft
During the second quarter of 2020, ID Ransomware documented over 100,000 crypto-malware attacks that targeted both organizations and government entities. Approximately 11% of those attacks involved data theft. This ransomware trend can ruin the reputation of any business. If your company is victimized, you will potentially expose sensitive and personal information. Once this data is compromised, it is hard to regain customer trust.
Ransom Demands: Pay or Do Not Pay?
When a company falls prey to a ransomware attack, they have to decide whether or not they will pay. Help Net Security reports that in 2020 the ransom demand averaged $170,000, while some of the bigger criminal groups averaged between $1-2 million.
When Companies May Pay
While this may seem like a large sum of money to give to a criminal, there are times when companies may choose to pay. Organizations that have ransomware insurance, for example, can submit a claim. Why would they choose to pay? In some cases, the ransom demand may cost them less in the long run. When criminals obtain compromised data, they may promise to return it or not to release it if the company pays the ransom demand. Ransomware attacks involving data theft could cause long-term damages for victimized organizations. For example, legal fines from lawsuits and regulatory penalties can end up costing an organization more time and money.
Reasons Not To Pay
On the flip side, paying a ransomware demand may not always be the best option. A company is bargaining with a criminal who may or may not keep their word. Also, giving in to criminals for these attacks may open the door for additional cybersecurity threats.