Complex Made Simple

Ransomware reality is biting, so how do businesses bite back?

The extension of the office’s boundaries into online and remote locations has exposed severe vulnerabilities, and criminals are all too willing to take advantage

Ransomware is now on the agenda of every boardroom and even made the cut for discussion at the G7 The reality is that a clampdown is going to require international cooperation Failure to patch software should create the same attention as failing to lock up the office overnight

By: Dave Russell, VP, Enterprise Strategy, Veeam

Ransomware attacks have bitten a gaping hole in the pockets of businesses that are having to pay extortionate ransoms in response to highly targeted attacks by sophisticated criminal organizations. The problem has only worsened with the onset of mass remote working. The extension of the office’s boundaries into online and remote locations has exposed severe vulnerabilities, and criminals are all too willing to take advantage.

Right now, a new ransomware attack will occur every 11 seconds. To put this in context, in the five minutes it takes you to read this article, 27 businesses will have been attacked by ransomware. The best piece of advice on ransomware is not to give in and pay. But despite the majority of businesses will pay the ransom that this attack demands. Many feel under extreme pressure to limit the damage of downtime caused by ransomware, and the quickest resolution is to pay up.

It’s not a surprise that so many have chosen to pay when they’re already grappling with the challenges and pressures of operating throughout the risky business terrain that COVID-19 has created. However, this is simply encouraging cyber-attackers to continue exploiting this lucrative illegal market, as is evident from the 600% uplift in attacks since COVID-19 first emerged.

On a positive note, businesses and governments have recognized that this can’t continue. Ransomware is now on the agenda of every boardroom and even made the cut for discussion at the G7, as well as numerous other diplomatic talks between global leaders. Now is the time to think about modern data protection and its future. And now is the time to bite ransomware back.

This is organized crime

It’s easy to forget that there’s a criminal behind the ransomware that makes itself at home within your business system. While it may once have been deemed something loitering on the web and only harmful if clicked on, many are starting to recognize the severe, complex, and targeted nature that ransomware really has. This is organized crime, and it works innovatively to infiltrate your business and your supply chain. It quite honestly poses a genuine threat to entire industries and communities.

So how can we start clamping down on the perpetrators behind this? The downside to such a connected and digital world means an attacker can operate in completely different areas of the world, making it difficult to prosecute using the same legal system your business is subject to. The reality is that a clampdown of this scale is going to require international cooperation and government action beyond anything we’ve seen in the cybersecurity sphere. And of course, this is going to take time, which, as you know, is something businesses don’t have when facing constant threats.

Therefore, while we wait for these political interventions to happen, businesses must be fully prepared for the ongoing onslaught of ransomware attacks, especially now they’re operating in remote locations. Previous cybersecurity measures won’t be enough, we have to adapt to the enemy by deploying modern data protection measures.

Think like a hacker

In the same way that a detective has to think like a criminal to solve a crime, the only way businesses will successfully protect themselves sufficiently from cyberattacks is to think like hackers. They’re relentless, hyper-aware, and stringent. Employers and employees must act the same to stop vulnerabilities from opening up.

Good digital hygiene must become second nature, as opposed to something practiced for a week following annual cybersecurity training, and forgotten about until the next one. Failure to patch software should create the same attention as failing to lock up the office overnight. Not having a disaster recovery plan is akin to skipping contents insurance. We can’t simply think about security in the physical space because the enemies are operating in the digital one.

Another important aspect is thinking about the hacker’s success rate. In many cases, they’ll spend all day attacking systems. They dedicate their time to evolve and innovate their attacks to overcome the security barriers that are holding them back. We need to anticipate they will eventually be able to do this, even if the best cybersecurity defenses are in place. As we can see from the number of businesses paying ransoms, an attack can cause enough damage to push businesses into paying out rather than taking alternative routes.

It’s up to every organization across every industry to invest in modern data protection practices to minimize the impact of ransomware attacks. Viewing attacks as an inevitability is the first step towards creating a more cyber-secure culture, with employees who are more educated and aware of ransomware. At the same time, businesses need to have the right safeguards in place to minimize disruption, including anti-virus software and firewalls, plus continuous backup and recovery to offer adequate insurance against the crippling effects of ransomware.

If the worst happens, and your systems are compromised, the business won’t collapse, and the attacker won’t get everything they want. The cybersecurity landscape may feel rocky right now, but there are steps we can and should take to better protect ourselves from the damages. It’s time to bite the ransomware hackers back.