By Kunal Bajaj, Chief Business Officer, eSec Forte Technologies
The striking rise in ransomware attacks around the world has raised security concerns for many companies and prominent individuals, prompting a widespread debate on measures to control this menace.
Ransomware is a malware designed to deny users access to their systems. These attacks result in the encryption of system files and attackers then demand a ransom for the decryption key. The average cost from a ransomware attack is USD 4.5 million and by the end of the year 2022, the ransomware damage is expected to skyrocket to USD 20 billion.
Ransomware Attacks: Rising Threat
Ransomware attacks are crippling the world economy by blocking access of businesses and individuals to their computer systems and IT networks. These attacks have witnessed exponential growth of late and according to the latest figures released by the 2022 Cyber Threat Report, there has been an increase of 105% in ransomware attacks in 2021.
Further classifying these attacks into different segments, the report publishes that governments across the globe have witnessed a whopping 1,885% increase in ransomware attacks. Across industries, the healthcare sector is the worst affected sector that registered an increase of 755% in attacks last year. All these numbers testify to the growing threat of ransomware attacks and the following are some of the significant reasons which have led to rising in these attacks across the globe:
1) Remote Work: Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the conventional ways of corporate culture and resulted in a new trend of remote and hybrid working. Businesses and organisations cutting across industries have now fully embraced the culture of remote working which is good and bad at the same time. Good because it offers the desired flexibility in work culture and bad because this means employees work without the safety net of office networks. This increases the attack surface for attackers who can break into the system and gain unauthorised access to the networks.
2) Lure of Money: Money is the prime charm behind ransomware attacks or for that matter, most cybersecurity attacks. As attackers keep on making a decent amount of money through ransomware attacks, they continue to feel motivated to keep on with their misdeeds. Companies that are held hostage by these attacks pay millions of dollars as ransom and this huge amount of money further encourages attackers to target more organisations and individuals. Also, firms that pay ransom money for getting access to their system and network back are also perpetuating these kinds of behaviors. In a nutshell, as long as these attacks continue to yield money to hackers, these spammers will never cease to build their capacities to bypass constantly evolving security systems.
3) Unsecured Systems: We often become ignorant when it comes to protecting our system from security threats including ransomware, phishing emails, data hacking, and so on. Most of us continue to work with unsecured systems which are poorly configured and run on old software. In fact, it’s not the case with individual users as even large corporate houses don’t show the intent and alacrity to upgrade the security of their systems and networks. Attackers often take advantage of this fact and bypass the unsecured system to hack and block its access.
4) Loosely-defined Laws: The world over legislative frameworks related to cybersecurity threats are fraught with inconsistencies and vagaries. The laws related to hacking and data breaches lack standardisation and this loophole is quite well-exploited by hackers across the globe. Although an increasing threat of data misuse and breach of privacy has prompted governments to adopt stringent measures to tackle this menace, still there’s much to be done on this front before we witness any visible letup in the frequency of these attacks.
5) Lack of Training: The lack of investment in cybersecurity training is another major reason for the increase in the number of phishing attacks and ransomware cases. Companies are unwilling to accept the fact that nobody is immune from cyber attacks and irrespective of the scale and size, attackers will target systems and networks of firms across the businesses and industries. To effectively safeguard against these attacks, organisations need comprehensive training programs although most firms are disinterested considering these exercises as a cost rather than an investment.
Tips to prevent ransomware attacks
1) Regularly update IT Landscape: One of the simplest things you can do in order to prevent ransomware attacks is to diligently follow the process of patching. Patching means you update the software of your computer on a continuous basis to make it run on the latest iteration of both hardware and software configurations. This will ensure your system’s security and let it work effectively against any kind of hacking attempts including ransomware attacks. Remember, it seems a very mundane and ordinary process but can work wonders in protecting your system against any kind of hacking attempt.
2) Awareness and Training Program: Security analysts and experts emphasise the need of spreading more awareness about cyberattacks including ransomware attacks among others. This awareness can be spread by conducting training programs which should be delivered by people who are authorities in the field of cybersecurity. These training exercises can provide information to users on a number of different aspects including offering guidance and instructions to the people on how to identify cyberattacks and report crimes such as phishing, data breach, information loss, etc.
3) Follow Global guidelines and advisories: It is important to familiarise yourself with the Global guidelines and advisories or Threat Intelligence related to ransomware attacks. These recommendations are the most definitive ones when it comes to offering protection against malware. In fact, each and every organisation must have knowledge about these instructions as measures suggested by these guidelines can be of great help in keeping the hackers at bay. Some of the significant aspects of these guidelines include regular scanning of the internet devices and creating a proactive response plan to deal with contingency arising from any cybersecurity breach.
It’s not easy to avert cybersecurity threats including the ones which come in the form of ransomware attacks but following the systematic approach of planning, implementing, and reviewing a holistic cybersecurity policy, individuals and organisations can effectively guard themselves against the menace of ransomware attacks. Policymakers and regulators also need to play their role effectively by spreading awareness among stakeholders including users, companies, and other intermediaries involved in the IT ecosystem.