Ransomware attacks are one of the most disruptive and costly cyber security risks to an organisation. And while 2022 saw a slight drop in attacks overall, this malware is continually evolving, to the point where 45% of the top cyber-attacks last year were attributed to ransomware.
This means that your organisation needs to be aware of the sophisticated techniques that hackers are using to access and exploit your data.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is one of the most harmful forms of malware that exists today. Hackers use encryption to hold a victim’s data in exchange for a ransom. A ransom is then demanded to provide access. Ransomware is often designed to spread across a network, targeting database and file servers to quickly paralyse an entire organisation.
In most cases, if the victim doesn’t pay the ransom within a certain timeframe, the encrypted data will remain inaccessible and could eventually be deleted by the hacker. What’s more, when larger organisations fail to pay the ransom, there’s a high probability that their data could be leaked or sold on the dark web. It is a growing threat, causing significant damage and expenses for victims.
How Has Ransomware Become More Sophisticated?
In the past year, we have seen the rise of various strains of ransomware, and organisations should be aware of the threat each provide to best equip themselves against such an attack.
Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) is a business model between ransomware operators and clients, where clients pay to launch ransomware attacks developed by operators. This has removed the technical barrier for perpetrators and so of course has led to more frequent attacks. The model has also facilitated the move from individual-based robberies to vast criminal activity networks.
Attacks on Major Organisations
Over 70% of global companies have reported that they’ve been a victim of ransomware in 2022. Rather than operating through random attacks such as email spam, criminals have started to target high-value organisations where they know the consequences would be vast and that millions could be made off the data they acquire.
Optus, the second-largest telecommunications provider in Australia, was targeted last year. This resulted in the exposure of 10 million residents’ data, and the release of 10,000 of these records. While Optus didn’t have to pay the ransom, thousands of people still had to replace passports, driver’s licenses, and other personal documents. This is a key example in how damaging and far-reaching the effects of ransomware attacks can be.
The most common form of social engineering is phishing, for example fake emails designed to get the recipient to click on a malicious file or link. This has been around for years, but new AI tools have improved phishing scams, making them harder for the human eye to detect.
Apart from that, hackers have been known to target other sources that we use every day in our working lives, falsifying such things as multi-factor authentication prompts and help desk calls. Successfully tricking a human into engaging with the malicious file can result in a ransomware attack, and human error is still unfortunately by far the biggest cyber security threat. Hackers may even target particular employees to access a particular organisation’s files.
What Can Your Organisation do to Reduce the Risk of a Ransomware Attack?
There’s a successful ransomware attack every 40 seconds. While it is difficult to prevent hackers from attempting to access your data, you can mitigate the chance of their success in doing so:
- Back up your data, so that if you do get a ransomware infection, you can wipe your computer or device free and reinstall your files from backup.
- Use security software and keep it up to date.
- Don’t respond to emails and text messages from people you don’t know, and only download applications from trusted sources.
- Only use secure networks.
- Keep current on the latest ransomwares threats so you know what to look out for.
- Provide cyber security training in your workplace to avoid phishing attacks.
Avoid Ransomware by Keeping Your IT Environment Secure.
The 848 Group is an experienced IT partner and Managed Service Provider (MSP) serving businesses across the UK. We are Cyber Essentials Certified and hold 6 Microsoft Advanced Specialisations including information protection and governance, identity, access management and more.
We have a dedicated security practice, consisting of qualified cybersecurity experts who can plan, build, and implement cybersecurity processes that keep your business safe from ransomware attacks and other cyber threats. If you would like some more guidance on how to keep your business’s IT environment secure, then contact us today.