Why is Ransomware on the Rise?

June 16, 2021

Why is Ransomware on the Rise?


It is becoming increasingly common that we see ransomware attacks on large organizations and firms. In more recent news it has become common to hear stories of cyberattacks and massive ransomware schemes. Although ransomware can affect people at an individual level, cyber gangs are likely to target these large groups for a bigger payout in the end. Ransomware attacks like this are only becoming more and more common in the coming years. It has been estimated that there were 65,000 successful breaches in 2020 and that around $350 million dollars in ransom payments were handed out in the last year. Even more recently in the past year, ransomware attacks have shut down major industries in the American economy. It is more important than ever now that we take cybersecurity seriously. 


What is Ransomware?


Ransomware attacks are the most common form of cybersecurity breach, where cybercriminals target individuals or businesses, they gain access to private information and hold it hostage until the victim can pay a ransom fee. Often, large organizations or corporations are forced to pay up to seven figures just to regain access to their information. Not only is ransomware common, but it is incredibly simple for cybercriminals to execute, often a malware software infects the victim’s systems and encrypts their files. Phishing campaigns are one of the most common means by which malware spreads, these seemingly legitimate emails are sent to the victims who unknowingly download malware onto their devices. Horrifying, nearly 40% of victims who pay their ransom never actually regain access to their data and around 73% of those that do pay the ransom are targeted again later. 


Ransomware gangs that carry out these attacks are often working from abroad or in areas where American law enforcement is unable to catch or reach them. Many of these hackers have ties to Russian intelligence. Because law enforcement is unable to stop these groups, ransomware gangs are often free to continue wreaking havoc on both individuals and large organizations. 


Who has been affected?


Famously one of the largest ransomware attacks this year was on the Colonial Pipeline, Brenntag, and JBS. Combined, these organizations paid a total of $15.4 million dollars to both regain access to their systems or to stop these attacks. These industry giants were prime targets for cyber criminals groups as they are desperate to regain control and continue their operations. There are many consequences to these cyberattacks and the effects can trickle down to impact everyday individuals. Following the Colonial Pipeline attack there was a massive gasoline shortage as people flocked to gas stations to fill up their tanks. 


It is not just large industry conglomerates that are impacted but every sector can be vulnerable to ransomware attacks. Healthcare is one of the most vulnerable sectors to cybercrime as the ability to access systems can be a matter of life or death. There has been a singular ransomware gang that is known to be responsible for 235 attacks on U.S. general hospitals, psychiatric facilities and other healthcare facilities dating back to 2018.Due to its sensitive nature, healthcare professionals are likely to respond to requests for ransoms since it is so urgent for them to regain access to be able to help their patients. 


Cybercrime does not only affect large organizations but also impacts small businesses and individuals. In fact, small businesses are one of the primary targets of cybercriminals because often they do not have the resources available to them to prevent and protect themselves from these attacks. In the end, nobody is safe from cybercrime or cyberattacks. 


Why now?


As we have transitioned to an online space, it has become more common for businesses and individuals alike to be incredibly reliant on virtual spaces to hold their most private and sensitive information. This means that there is a wealth of information that is available to cybercriminals and more often than not, victims are desperate to regain access to their information. Furthermore, ransomware attacks have become both more complex for individuals to detect but easier for cybercriminals to deploy. The popularization of cryptocurrency has also allowed for cybercriminals to extort more cash value from their victims while also minimizing their likelihood of being traced. These attacks are incredibly profitable for cybercriminals and can cost businesses and individuals millions of dollars. 


What’s next?


In America, firms have been encouraged to tell the FBI as soon as they are hacked to avoid the cycle of hacking and payments. Forums and tasks forces have been deployed to address this rising issue and efforts are being made to take down services that support ransomware attacks or campaigns. There has been some success, the Ransomware and Digital Extortion Task Force was able to recover 85% of the Colonial Pipeline bitcoin payment. 


On a smaller scale, for both individuals and small businesses, it is more important than ever to ensure that we have good cybersecurity practices.


Many of the clients we have currently initially came to us after being hit by a ransomware attack. Our team is here to help, we can give valuable insight on next steps when this does happen, and we do our best to keep your sensitive data safe.


If you are interested in learning more about how you can keep yourself safe and secure, check out our website for comprehensive plans and security options. Learn more here


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