Ransomware attacks are a growing threat to businesses and organisations worldwide. These attacks can have significant impacts, including financial losses, downtime, damage to reputation, data loss, regulatory non-compliance, productivity loss, and business continuity disruption.
The frequency and sophistication of ransomware attacks have increased in recent years, and businesses must take proactive measures to protect themselves from this threat. Failure to do so can result in significant harm to the organisation, as well as its employees and customers.
Ransomware has become an increasingly prevalent threat in recent years, with numerous high-profile attacks targeting both individuals and organisations. The rise of ransomware has been driven by several factors, including the increasing reliance on technology, the growing sophistication of cybercriminals and the opportunities made available by inadequate security controls. The increasing use of cryptocurrencies has also made it easier for attackers to receive ransom payments anonymously, making it more difficult to track and prosecute them. The impact of ransomware attacks can be severe, with victims facing not only the loss of valuable data but also potential financial and reputational damage. The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), the FBI’s lead federal agency for investigating cybercrime, received 3,729 ransomware complaints that led to $49.2 million worth of losses.
In response, many organisations are investing in cybersecurity measures to protect themselves against ransomware and other types of cyber threats. However, the evolving nature of ransomware attacks means that vigilance and proactive measures are necessary to stay ahead of the threat.
As ransomware continues to gain prominence as a serious cybersecurity threat, it is important for individuals and organisations to remain informed about the latest trends and best practices for preventing, detecting, and responding to attacks.
In the past, ransomware attacks were perpetrated by isolated Threat Groups. Due to the incentives that successful ransomware attacks offer, an entire ecosystem has emerged to prey on the vulnerabilities afforded by victims. The emergence of Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) as a business model where cybercriminals offer ransomware services is a key development in support of this ecosystem.
RaaS enables cybercriminals who lack the necessary skills or resources to create their own malware to carry out attacks on a larger scale and with greater sophistication.
Today, RaaS offerings can be found on the dark web and even on legitimate websites. Some RaaS Operators operate as a subscription-based service, allowing criminals to purchase access to a suite of malware tools and services. Others offer a pay-per-use model, where criminals can rent specific ransomware tools for a short period of time.
To attract more customers, RaaS Operators have also improved the user experience and made their services more user-friendly. Some RaaS Operators even offer technical support to their customers to ensure that their ransomware attacks are successful.
The sophistication of RaaS has also increased. To further improve the rate of a successful deployment of the ransomware payload, ransomware attacks often combine the ransomware payload with other types of malware, such as Qakbot, TrickBot and Ursnif. This allows attackers to move laterally through a victim's network, maintain persistence, avoid sandboxes and virtual machines, as well as search capability for disk encryption software in their attempts to extract unencrypted files, and more.
While the inevitability of an attack seems to propagate the “Doom and Gloom” outlook with no hope in sight, there are steps businesses can take to prepare for a ransomware attack, mitigate its impact during an attack, and recover from the attack afterwards.
Before an attack, businesses should implement security measures such as a ransomware-centric backup strategy as a viable countermeasure to paying the ransom, adequate vulnerability, and patch management to reduce the porosity of the attack surface. Employee training can reduce the organisations’ susceptibility to insider-related threats which could lead to a ransomware event. The familiarity of stakeholders with established Incident Response plans can also help them efficiently manage an actual ransomware-related breach.
During an attack, businesses should have adequate measures to detect, identify and contain the effects of the ransomware detonation. These measures should include the active monitoring of technology assets to quickly detect ransomware-related events, information flow controls to find anomalies such as data exfiltration, hardware and software asset inventory records to minimise the time to identify the affected assets and their connectivity with other assets. Last but not least, organisations should have well-trained response personnel, including senior and business leaders, to manage the incident as it unfolds.
After an attack, businesses should thoroughly assess the damage, restore data from backups, and identify the vulnerabilities that led to the attack to prevent future incidents. The first step is to determine the extent of the damage caused by the ransomware attack. This includes identifying which systems and data were affected, as well as the operational, financial, and reputational impacts and costs to remediate. The restoration of data and systems should take place concurrently when a sufficient level of confidence is provided by technology teams that the malware has been eradicated. Finally, an in-depth review of existing controls and measures should be conducted to improve and tighten controls to thwart further attacks.
For organisations looking to curb ransomware threats, Ensign offers an end-to-end suite of services to prevent, detect, and respond to advanced ransomware threats. Click here to find out more about Ensign’s Anti-Ransomware Suite of services.