Every October, we participate in National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Throughout the month, we stress the importance of cybersecurity overall and cybersecurity topics and best practices relevant to our employees and organization. This year, our cybersecurity awareness campaign highlights the increasing threat of ransomware, what it is, how it works, and how to prevent a ransomware attack from happening.
So, what is ransomware? Ransomwareis a type of malicious software or malware that encrypts data on a computer rendering it unusable. The data is held hostage under the threat of destruction or public release until a ransom is paid in exchange for decryption.
Recent events have made it clear that many organizations are ill-equipped to defend against, let alone recover from, a ransomware attack without paying the ransom:
Ransomware remains one of the most profitable tactics for cybercriminals, with increasing ransom demands often ranging from $1 million to $10 million. According to an annual report on global cybersecurity, 304 million ransomware attacks were reported worldwide in 2020 alone.
There are several ways a threat actor can infect a computer or system with ransomware, but the leading cause of ransomware attacks is email phishing. When an unsuspecting user opens a malicious attachment or a link to a compromised website, ransomware infects the system. The threat actor can block access to the hard drive, encrypt some or all of the files on the computer, and then demand a ransom for decryption. Ransomware payments are typically completed using bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, making these cybercriminals nearly impossible to track.
Every business has some form of cyber exposure, and cybercriminals don’t discriminate based on a business’s operations or size. Research has found that reported attack rates for small organizations (less than 1,000 employees) are lower than attack rates for larger organizations (more than 1,000 employees).
Sometimes, the best defense against a cybersecurity threat is maintaining awareness of the threat and understanding how it is delivered.
However, there are simple actions you can take to make sure you don’t become a cybercriminal’s next ransomware victim: