Posted by Data Stems ● Jul 16, 2021 11:15:00 AM

Ransomware Attacks

Towards the fourth of July 2021, the world experienced the worst cyber-attack that affected many businesses across the globe. Hackers took advantage of a gap in the software code of a particular company that deals with information technology. As a result, over 1000 businesses using the hacked system were in chaos when the hackers demanded a ransom of $50,000 from smaller firms and up to 5 Million from larger companies. 

Security concept Lock on digital screen, illustration

Brenntag, a chemical distribution company headquartered in Germany, paid a ransom of 4.4 million in Bitcoin to receive decryption for their encrypted files. Additionally, the Colonial pipeline in the United States also suffered an attack from the DarkSide ransomware gang, forcing it to pay a ransom of $5 million to resume its services. 

Ransomware attacks are costly, and the effects of the attack can also cause a permanent loss and damage to a company’s reputation. The attacks have registered the highest numbers in 2021. The situation might worsen if individuals, organizations, and law enforcement firms do not come up with measures that will curb these attacks. 

What is Ransomware Attack?

Ransomware is a form of malware that is designed to encrypt files stored in a device. Malware renders any files and systems that rely on them inaccessible. The perpetrators of this act demand a ransom to decrypt the files and the software. 

Ransomware actors threaten to leak or sell the data or the authentication information if the victims fail to pay the ransom. Recently, ransomware attacks have become more prevalent within the Nation-state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) government units and organizations that deal with critical infrastructure. 

Factors Contributing to Ransomware Attacks

A report by SonicWall indicates that by the year 2020, the number of Ransomware attacks rose 62 percent across the globe. Furthermore, in North America alone, the numbers increased by 158 percent. In 2020, the FBI recorded about 2500 ransomware complaints. According to the FBI Internet Crime Report, these numbers are up to 20 percent higher than the numbers recorded in 2019. In addition, ransomware attacks have led to increased costs. The total ransomware attacks cost that the bureau reported in 2020 amounted to about $29 million. This amount recorded in 2020 is 200 percent higher than the amount of $8.9 million recorded in 2019. The following factors have contributed to the rising number of Ransom attacks.

Companies accepting to Pay Ransom

One of the significant factors that account for these cases is that more companies opt to pay the perpetrators ransom to recover their data; Cybercriminals like this trend. Criminals see this act as a business that guarantees quick cash. 

Rise of Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin

Business woman using tablet with cryptocurrency bitcoin link network concept

Some cybersecurity professionals argue that the development of cryptocurrency is among the fueling factors of cyberattacks. The value of Bitcoin has, as CoinDesk reports, rose to its highest peak around April 2020 to April 2021. These types of currencies are less regulated and complex to trace compared to other forms of payment. Therefore, hackers are finding them attractive and safer to use in their criminal activities. Cryptocurrency allows for anonymity so people can walk away with a crime without a trace. 

A growing number of people online

Another reason that could be accountable for the rise of attacks is the growing masses of people online. The use of the internet has been experiencing a steady increase over the years. However, since the inception of the internet, the pandemic has caused a spike in people who use the internet globally. The numbers increased because people had more free time and they worked and learned from home. More people online leads to more crime. 

As the crime rate grows, so does the ransom. Latest reports from CyberSecurity Ventures predict that the worldwide ransomware costs will rise to up to $20 billion this year. In 2015, the payouts amounted to $325 million, which is 57-fold higher than the amounts recorded over the six years before 2015.

Several factors force a company to opt to pay the ransom, and this, in return, makes cyber criminals increase their ransomware attacks and increase the amounts they demand ransom. 

How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks

Businessman holding a red traffic triangle warning sign in front of his head-1

  • Become proactive rather than being reactive

One of the best ways of dealing with cybercrime is to stay prepared. Companies and organizations need to engage experts to keep their data safer rather than looking for them after already falling victim to a ransomware attack.  

Companies can use the help of the FBI cybercrime unit, cybersecurity companies, and other law enforcement specialties to help prevent any impending attacks.  In addition, organizations need to have a backup of their data and invest in insurance policies covering cyberattacks. 

  • Use alternative means rather than paying a payout.

If a company falls victim to this attack, it should find alternative means to deal with the problem rather than pay the ransom. Therefore, companies need to exhaust other means first and use paying as the last option. However, since, in most cases, paying the ransom is the most practical mean to get out of such a crisis, it is better to prevent the attack rather than deal with it. 

  • Keep PC safe

Individuals can also play a massive role in reducing cyber-attacks. First, people should ensure that they secure their information. Second, individuals need to be wary of people who pretend to be someone else and be cautious about social engineering. Finally, users should refrain from doing things that they should not do. 

  • Regular software update

Organizations and individuals should as well ensure that they update their software regularly. In case there is any sign of vulnerability, you should patch things up. Also, it would be best if you used different log-ins. 

  • Increase global communication

To reduce cybercrime, governments need to find means to better international communication and cooperation. This way, the authorities will increase the chances of cornering and prosecuting cybercriminals. 

Final Thoughts

Technological advancements are growing fast, and so are ransomware attacks that put people's welfare and resources at stake. Should the issue of ransomware attacks continue skyrocketing, there will be a world crisis in no time. Cybersecurity personnel needs to get wise to deal with cybercrime. 

Topics: technology, cybersecurity, privacy, Ransomware, Ransomware Attack