ransomware attacks

Why has there been a rise in ransomware attacks?

Cyber security is something every business must come to grips with and invest in. If there’s no robust cyber security in place, your business could quickly fall victim to a cyber-attack, whether that’s through a phishing scam, ransomware attack, social engineering, etc. And it doesn’t matter how small, big or in what industry your enterprise is in. Whether your organisation is in the health, finance, retail or construction, any organisation dealing with data makes a target. It’s a common misconception that only large businesses dealing with highly sensitive data are attacked – cybercriminals will attack every business that leaves their doors wide open. Especially if it lacks a ‘human firewall’, which should be every business’ first line of defence in their cyber security strategy. All data is lucrative for cybercriminals, and they’ll come for it, in one way or another.

Ransomware has been particularly lucrative for cybercriminals and has posed an increasing threat to businesses. According to the cyber security firm SonicWall, from 2019 to 2020, there has been a 62% increase in attacks, with over 304 million attempted ransomware attacks detected.

But what is the reason for the staggering numbers of ransomware attacks lately? Read on to find out what ransomware is, what types of ransomware you need to look out for, and why there has been an explosion of ransomware attacks over the last two years.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is malicious software that encrypts files on your systems. It’s very similar to malware, but the goal behind it is different. Cybercriminals use ransomware to gain access to your network or computer, find sensitive data and hold it hostage. They then threaten the victim to either destroy it, keep it or release the information until someone is willing to pay the ransom. Hence the name ransomware.

What are the different types?

There are generally two different types of ransomware:

  • Locker ransomware: This type of ransomware locks you out of your computer and blocks basic computer functions. Once locked, a ransom demand will be displayed on your screen. The good thing about Locker ransomware is that it won’t target your critical data and is usually easier to treat than Crypto ransomware.
  • Crypto ransomware: In comparison to Locker ransomware, Crypto ransomware doesn’t lock basic computer functions but encrypts documents and files on your computer or network. You might still be able to see your files but won’t be able to access them. This is the most common and most damaging type of ransomware.

Why is ransomware on the rise?

Three main factors come into play if we look at why we’ve seen an increase in ransomware attacks:

  • Remote Working: According to experts, the pandemic caused a lot more attacks as businesses shifted to remote working. Especially in the early days, when people were using their personal devices, and the transition had to be fast, it was very easy for cybercriminals to access businesses data through their employees’ personal devices or unsecure WiFi networks. And on top of that comes human error, which makes businesses incredibly vulnerable, especially when it comes to a very popular and effective method of cyber-attacks: phishing emails. One moment of distraction and a wrong click, and your data is held for ransom. Hybrid working comes with many benefits, but the ‘always on’ mode can make employees less cautious. To improve your human firewall, check out our best practices to help your employees spot a phishing scam.
  • More targeted and sophisticated attacks: Another reason for the rise in ransomware attacks is that they’ve pivoted from just blocking your data to threatening to expose that data to the world. This makes business owners much more likely to pay the ransom as otherwise they’d have to face severe reputational damage, compliance issues and potentially hefty fines.
  • Ransomware as a Service (RaaS): The increased occurrence of RaaS on the Dark Web is another contributing factor to the increasing number of ransomware attacks. Ransomware as a Service is malicious software sold by cybercriminals or very sophisticated groups of criminals to other hackers, providing them a whole package of all aspects of the attack: the software, the payment platform, the phishing operation, etc. This allows even the the less tech-savvy criminal, the ability to launch ransomware attacks.

These are all factors that have been playing their part in the exploding numbers of cyber-attacks. However, the prevalent factor has been and still is human error.

What can you do to protect yourself?

The last thing any business wants is to be attacked by a cybercriminal. Several methods can help you protect your business from ransomware attacks, such as; firewalls, anti-virus and malware protection for your endpoints, patch management, disaster recovery, etc. But key to protecting your business from ransomware and where there’s no getting around is training your employees. Your employees are your strongest but also most susceptible layer of protection when it comes to safeguarding your business from cyber-attacks. You can implement as many security measures as you like, but without a robust ‘human firewall’, you are leaving your business exposed.

Novem offers a range of Cyber Security solutions including cyber security awareness training that will prepare your team and make them experts in detecting phishing emails and malicious links in the blink of an eye. Get in touch to learn more about our fast and effective training. Don’t wait until it’s too late.