Ransomware attacks are a modern-day nuisance affecting thousands of networks around the globe on a daily basis. The problem is on the rise, and attacks which seemingly appear to be a simple threat has larger implications.
Ransomware attacks are growing at an appalling rate. In 2016, IBM conducted a study and reported that the growth rate of ransomware attacks has risen to 6000%. The worst part is that this number is only growing. It is projected that cybersecurity losses can amount to $6 trillion by 2021.
A primary reason why in the last few years ransomware attacks have grown substantially is because ransomware has become a commodity in the digital black market.
The inception of (RaaS) ransomware-as-a-service has made everything possible for cybercriminals. It is simple: any hacker can purchase ransomware code available on the dark web, create a phishing email template and integrate the malware to it, shortlist targets, inject and wait for the receiving end to respond.
As of recent times, ransomware has emerged as the single most notorious threat to business networks and individuals – here’s why it is so dangerous:
Ransomware attacks are easy to carry out:
Its infection and distribution is fairly convenient. Cybercriminals need not much technical skills or expertise to spread this menace since it has become a commodity on ransomware-as-a-service platforms, allowing easy outsourcing to criminals.
Nobody is safe; from large corporations, the SME sector, government agencies, clinical institutions, etc. It’s a general assumption among small businesses that they might not be under the surveillance of cybercriminals as they are too occupied in bagging leads with larger corporations.
Cybersecurity experts have busted this myth by presenting relevant cases and examples. Every network connected to the internet is a target.
The digital lifestyle in the 21st century has made way for greater connectivity of devices, which in turn, is an opportunity for cybercriminals. The mass usage of Internet of Things (IoT) devices has many drawbacks since these devices are prone to cyber attacks.
Digital devices, cloud storage platforms, all store our private information and sensitive data on their servers which can always be hacked if not guarded by end-to-end encryption. Moreover, social blackmailing is widely carried out based on threatening individuals for their data.
Mode of payment:
Cash payments, bank transactions could easily be traced. The rise of cryptocurrency and an integrated use of blockchain has been rewarding for cybercriminals. A decentralized system oversees private and secure transactions, leaving no trace.
The commercial use of cryptocurrency among hackers is now a common thing. Hackers encrypt user data and demand payment in Bitcoin.
To gauge the devastating impact of ransomware, we turn our heads towards the recent examples which surely opens a dialogue about Maersk. Back in 2017, the shipping giant Maersk’s entire IT network collapsed and it was due to ransomware.
Møller-Maersk’s Chairman Jim Hagemann Snabe spoke at the World Economic Forum and shared appalling details regarding it. He stated that it disrupted the company’s “entire infrastructure”.
What do experts say?
Zohar Pinhasi, an ethical hacker, cybersecurity, ransomware removal, and recovery expert offers his take on the rise of ransomware attacks.
The CEO of MonsterCloud has dealt with cybersecurity breaches of all kinds throughout his career and as an expert, he cites his opinion on varying reasons as well as insights on what should be the foremost priority for individuals, organizations, and government when it comes to cybersecurity breaches.
Here is what he once said: “After a recent chain of events starting with the worldwide ransomware attack last month (July), it has been made clear that cybersecurity has to be one of the topmost concerns in the administrative policy of a nation. The concept of digitalized warfare has gained fuel, and it’s absolutely essential that we start taking measures to prevent attacks from this occurring again. The new Senate bill, while not the most ironclad answer, is still a good step forward in this situation.”
The likely scenario in the future
In hindsight, Ransomware attacks have followed a trend recently of targeting large corporations and compromising their networks, resulting in loss of millions.
Not just corporations but a whole country’s ministry – Ukraine! In the future, experts cite different opinions regarding the activities of cyber criminals but all hint towards ransomware attacks to be the foremost manifestation of cyber-attacks even in future. Experts signal the following likely scenarios in future –
Automobile giants are shifting towards manufacturing smart cars. The risk lies greatly here because they are set to be a target of cyber-attacks. Autonomous vehicles are the future and their incorporation as the primary mode of transportation entails the risk of external actors doing their jobs. Smart vehicles could be hacked in future just like any internet device.
Attacking IoT devices on a bigger scale:
Household appliances and devices are efficiently integrated to perform better. We now have “smart” for everything.
IoT has widely proliferated into our lives, which makes these smart devices a hot target for hackers. In the future, every device would become “smart” and thus, the possibility of cyber-attacks would only increase.
This advanced integration of these devices has its perks but they will remain vulnerable to attacks around the clock. So, if you have stored food items costing a few hundred dollars, it could get powered off.
Unlike commercial technology which has more durability and lifespan, the common appliances are discarded and disposed of nearly after 7 years of usage, which calls into question as to why should they even be secured in the first place?
Today’s world is hyperactive on a digital platform. The global usage of social networks by people to remain connected to the world and exchange information has its own cons. Social blackmailing is not a new concept, only that its scope will continue to expand as we continue to adopt the digital world.
Hackers can always target any individual no matter if their private information is not easily accessible to anyone and is only lying on a cloud storage. As the exchange of personal content is a widespread practice in our culture, hackers have found a bigger opportunity to target individuals, threating on the release of unfavorable content.
Artificial Intelligence and digital systems are the future and corporations are already investing millions of dollars to integrate their factory lines with automated machinery.
In terms of cybersecurity, it is only a bigger opportunity for hackers to break factory lines and network by compromising automated and smart machinery. Soon, companies will go fully automated.
The computerized workforce would be prone to ransomware attacks. If nothing, corporations may require to allocate annual budgets to pay off ransoms in future so that they could restore their production line.
How can companies prepare themselves against ransomware attacks?
Companies need to prioritize disaster recovery methods. It is generally required to determine whether data encrypted can be restored via backups in a case of a ransomware attack.
Any organization requires to carry out an effective plan of action in an event of ransomware attack. If data can be restored with an insignificant loss then not paying a ransom is the way to go. But, it requires concrete reassurance whether the restored data is valid. The backups are required to be tested to ensure data is safe and can be recovered.
Restoring data from backups has many challenges. It is also time-consuming which actually means that business would be on hold, under interruption and operations would seize. A critical scenario resulting in a monetary loss for a business.
Decisions are required to be made quickly. The time frame allowed by hackers to make ransom payments is usually short as well, otherwise, their demands can change or increase. The time sensitivity can be a problem and it is always advisable as a business principle not to yield to threats and opt for ransomware removal and recovery methods. This particular can be outsourced by service providers who specialize in this area.
On a wider scale, the monetary loss is only a single aspect. Losses can mount to more, such as the downtime, opportunity costs and reputation damage.