Re-Thinking The Threat Of Ransomware

In the last year there has been an endemic use of ransomware on a large scale and at a global level.  To put this into context, a recent report from Druva estimated that 4,000 ransomware attacks occur each day, while a report from Verizon ranked ransomware as the number one piece of crime-ware used by cyber-criminals in 2017.

The National Cyber Security Centre has also identified ransomware as the most common cyber extortion method used by cyber-criminals to target UK businesses.

Ransomware is a type of malware that restricts access to a computer or its data and demands money for it to be released. The threat is typically spread via phishing emails, spam campaigns, drive-bys or programs downloaded to a computer by an unwitting user visiting an infected website. 

In May last year, WannaCry, one of the world’s most publicised ransomware variants caused global panic when it hit the NHS and left hospitals unable to access patient data. So, where did ransomware come from, is it a new threat, how is it evolving and, most importantly, what steps can organisations take to protect against it?

History of Ransomware 
Ransomware is not new and has been around since 1989 with the first ever documented case being the AIDS Trojan (or PC Cyborg ransomware) created by Joseph Popp, who distributed 20,000 infected floppy disk drives to the participants of the World Health Organisations AIDS Conference.

Since then, ransomware has appeared more frequently due to the amount of money that can be made using the technique.  
In 2017 the same report from Druva estimated that the ransomware industry has quadrupled over the past year, reaching an estimated $1 billion. As a result of the huge financial return on ransomware, cyber-criminals are constantly developing new variants in a bid in ensnare more victims and bypass security defenses.

The latest ransomware variants have deployed new strategies for the delivery of the malware. Whilst most ransomware typically requires some sort of user interaction, recent research has demonstrated how hackers have infected systems with WannaCry by exploiting a remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability, which allowed them to infect unpatched systems without user’s interaction. This is something that is usually associated with a worm rather than ransomware.

To Pay or Not to Pay
One of the key dilemmas an organisation faces when infected with ransomware is whether or not to pay the fine. This is particularly true for organisations that do not have a comprehensive back-up strategy in place and risk losing access to their files entirely if they do not pay. Whilst many law enforcement agencies and security practitioners often advise against paying ransoms for this criminal activity, reports suggest that severe disruption to services and the lack of backups sometimes leads to organisations giving in and paying the criminals for the release of their data.

However, as has been demonstrated in many recent attacks, even when organisations do pay the fine, there is no guarantee they will receive their files back. Additionally, in some cases when an organisation opts to the pay the ransom, they only receive part of their data back in return. 

This ultimately means organisations need to assess if paying the fine is worth it at all, when there is absolutely no way to know if the cybercriminals will ever return their files. 

Some businesses also believe that paying the fine makes sense because they believe their data is worth more than the ransom. However, the danger of paying is that they are essentially funding the ransomware industry, which will ultimately make it more profitable for cyber-criminals and lead to more attacks. So, what are the best ways to mitigate a ransomware attack without having to pay the fine? 

Protecting Against Ransomware
To protect against the tidal wave of ransomware attacks, organisations need to improve their software patching processes. Many organisations, for example the UK NHS, were caught out because they did not update their systems with the relevant patches in time.

Another lesson that can be learned from these events is that vulnerability disclosure practices within the industry need to improve as no single organisation can defend against these threats on its own. 

For any organisation that does fall victim to a ransomware attack, it is very important to carry out a post incident analysis. This will allow them to analyse how they contained the event and if there are any changes that could be made to improve their response, should a future attack occur.

Infosecurity- Magazine

You Might Also Read:

British IT Bosses Fear Sophisticated Cyber Threats:

FBI: Don’t Pay Bitcoin Ransomware:

 

 

« Australia's Largest Bank Lost The Personal Financial Histories Of 12m Customers
Hacker Group Targets Healthcare Providers »

CyberSecurity Jobsite
Perimeter 81

Directory of Suppliers

IT Governance

IT Governance

IT Governance is a leading global provider of information security solutions. Download our free guide and find out how ISO 27001 can help protect your organisation's information.

North Infosec Testing (North IT)

North Infosec Testing (North IT)

North IT (North Infosec Testing) are an award-winning provider of web, software, and application penetration testing.

Perimeter 81 / How to Select the Right ZTNA Solution

Perimeter 81 / How to Select the Right ZTNA Solution

Gartner insights into How to Select the Right ZTNA offering. Download this FREE report for a limited time only.

Syxsense

Syxsense

Syxsense brings together endpoint management and security for greater efficiency and collaboration between IT management and security teams.

ON-DEMAND WEBINAR: Navigating cloud security: The importance of posture management tools

ON-DEMAND WEBINAR: Navigating cloud security: The importance of posture management tools

Watch this webinar to see how cloud security posture management (CSPM) tools can fit into your cloud security strategy.

rPeople Staffing

rPeople Staffing

rPeople provides direct placement in all areas of your organization, including and specializing in Technical and Executive hiring.

Cloud Foundry Foundation (CFF)

Cloud Foundry Foundation (CFF)

Cloud Foundry supports the full application development lifecycle, from inception, through all testing stages, to deployment.

Tiro Security

Tiro Security

Tiro Security is a boutique company specializing in information security and IT audit recruitment and solutions.

6cure

6cure

The 6cure Threat Protection solution eliminates malicious traffic to critical services in real time and protects against DDoS attacks.

Usenix

Usenix

Usenix brings together the community of engineers, system administrators, scientists, and technicians working on the cutting edge of computing.

DynaRisk

DynaRisk

DynaRisk helps companies protect their staff, clients and supply chain from cyber threats by enabling people to take action for themselves.

NextVision

NextVision

NextVision is a Cybersecurity and Technology company offering a range of solutions and services for Security, Compliance and IT Infrastructure Management.

iProov

iProov

iProov delivers authentication and verification simply and securely, based on a genuine one-time biometric.

YL Ventures

YL Ventures

YL Ventures funds and supports brilliant Israeli tech entrepreneurs from seed to lead.

Calypso AI

Calypso AI

Calypso AI build software products that solve complex AI risks for national security and highly-regulated industries.

Netlinkz

Netlinkz

Netlinkz has developed the Virtual Secure Network (VSN) overlay technology platform, a breakthrough in connectivity security, speed, and simplicity.

AirEye

AirEye

AirEye is a leader in Network Airspace Protection (NAP). Block attacks against your corporate network launched from wireless devices in your corporate network airspace.

ST Engineering Antycip

ST Engineering Antycip

ST Engineering Antycip (formerly Antycip Simulation) is Europe’s leading provider of professional grade COTS simulation software, projection & display systems, and related engineering services.

AMSYS Innovative Solutions

AMSYS Innovative Solutions

AMSYS is a full-service, 24/7/365 IT solutions, Cybersecurity & Managed Service Provider.

Emtec

Emtec

Emtec’s cyber security team provides advisory, assessment, & managed security services that help you build the cyber security policies, toolsets & best practices to elevate your cyber security posture

Box

Box

Box is the Cloud Content Management company that empowers enterprises to revolutionize how they work by securely connecting their people, information and applications.