Why Are Ransomware Attacks On the Rise?

Ransomware poses a significant threat to your South Florida business' data and devices, but what makes this cyber threat so unique?

Why Are Ransomware Attacks On the Rise?

Ransomware poses a significant threat to your South Florida business’ data and devices, but what makes this cyber threat so unique? The term “ransom” defines all you need to know about this form of malware. In essence, threat actors use extortion software that locks your computer and data then force you to pay a ransom.

Most of the time, the malware begins with accessing the device. Then, depending on its type, it can either encrypt individual files or the entire operating system. The cybercriminals will then demand a ransom.

Several such successful attacks have been reported in the United States, with both growing and established organizations falling victim to the increasingly cunning threat actors. Here are some key examples:

  • In February, cybercriminals breached a water-treatment facility in Florida’s Oldsmar community. They briefly increased the lye content in the region’s water supply to dangerous levels.
  • In March, one of America’s largest insurance companies, CAN Financial Corp, was breached and spent weeks locked out of their network.
  • In another incident in April, hackers claimed to have gotten away with at least 500GB of data from NBA team Houston Rockets, including non-disclosure agreements and contracts.
  • In May, the Colonial Pipeline fell victim to a ransomware attack that forced the corporate giant to halt gasoline supply to a massive chunk of the Eastern Seaboard. This led to shortages and numerous instances of impulse buying.
  • Kaseya, an IT agency, was hacked in July. They locked up with thousands of victims spread across at least 17 nations out of their systems. The responsible group made an initial ransom request of $70 million.

All these instances show just how common ransomware attacks have grown and the need for organizations of all sizes to secure their systems and data.

Are These Attacks Increasing or Getting More High-Profile?

Well, not only is the sheer number of successful ransomware attacks increasing, the ransom price has grown substantially as well. A SonicWALL report notes that ransomware attacks rose by 62% between 2019 and 2020 globally. There was an increase of 158% in North America alone, with the FBI receiving about 2,500 ransomware reports in 2020.

Collectively, ransomware cost businesses about $28.1 million, an increase of over 200% from the previous year’s cost of $8.9. The key reason why these attacks are becoming more prevalent is that most choose to pay the ransom, and threat actors have taken note, and most are considering it a get-rich-quick scheme.

High-profile ransomware attacks are also on the rise due to the growth in the popularity of cryptocurrency. These are usually unregulated, hence harder to trace than any other medium of payment. Hackers consider it the most attractive payment method.

Ransomware attacks are also becoming more common due to the increased online presence. Since its inception, web usage has been on the rise, and the coronavirus situation has seen organizations shift their operations to digital. Additionally, with almost every company having remote workers, the internet is now a populous city, which means more crime.

In a vicious cycle, most factors pushing companies to make ransom payments are incentives for threat actors to continue their attacks and request higher ransom payments.

Who Are Responsible for These Attacks?

These attacks are carried out by ransomware gangs working in jurisdictions beyond US law enforcement. The group names are what you might expect from experienced web-based criminals, including DarkSide, Evil Corp, and REvil. What’s more, the software tools come with fitting monikers, including references to an iconic anime prankster and the Greek god of the dead.

A member of DarkSide, the ransomware group responsible for the Colonial Pipeline attack, breached a small education publisher’s systems and data. The gang threatened to reach out to the organization’s clients and inform them of the breach and plans to create fake identification cards and allow pedophiles into their institutions. Fortunately, this injunction was reportedly a bluff.

How Do You Protect Yourself?

There’s no standard procedure to ward of ransomware gangs. However, the following cyber hygiene precautions can help you secure your company’s data and networks:

Back-Up Every Day

If you have updated data backups and a threat actor requests a ransom of $15,000 to decrypt your data, you can ignore paying and be rest assured that your data is secured in another inaccessible server. Notably, you must implement the correct backup approaches.

Avoid Suspicious Ads or Links

learning to avoid phishing attacks is among the crucial ways to prevent ransomware attacks. Most muggings are spread via email; hence it’s critical to screen all incoming messages. Watch out for company email compromise, stay vigilant, and avoid clicking on suspicious ads.

Use Antivirus Firewall

Securing your system against ransomware attacks using a firewall is vital, but the process has hurdles. For instance, none of the available firewall products guarantee 100 percent safety. Therefore, go for one that matches your needs, network use, and budget.

Regular Security Awareness Campaigns

Ultimately, threat actors leverage the human element before any other vulnerability to access systems and data. Your workers aren’t ignorant, but they probably don’t give the same consideration to IT security as you do. So ensure you train them regularly.

Deploy Security Patches

Every hacking attempt and cyberattack tries to exploit security loopholes in your third-party applications and plug-ins. By patching your software, you’ll effectively prevent hackers from accessing your devices through vulnerabilities in your installed software.

Application Whitelisting

Although blacklisting limits the installation of specific software, whitelisting can be more effective. It allows users to install a range of legitimate applications then prevent them from installing additional ones.

Have A Disaster Recovery Plan in Place

An all-inclusive disaster recovery plan will help you get back on your feet after a successful cyberattack.

Final Thoughts

Ransomware in all its variants and forms is a significant threat to companies and private users. Consequently, it’s all the more crucial to be mindful of the danger it poses and be ready for any eventuality.

It’s, therefore, crucial to gain more insights into this advancing threat and be highly conscious of your device usage. You also need the right security software to protect you from these cunning threat actors. With the above tips, you’ll be safe from the tricks of ransomware groups.

Most importantly, partnering with an experienced South Florida cybersecurity practitioner will advance your security against ransomware attacks and take it to the next level. ECW Network & IT Solutions offers just that, helping you find the right solutions to meet your requirements and budget.

Reach out to learn more.

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