Think ransomware attacks are a thing of the past? Think again!

Cyber attacks involving ransomware hit record levels in 2020. And it doesn’t look like the number or scope will be leveling off any time soon. Cyber crooks have been upping their games, coming up with new tactics, techniques and procedures to take control over the computers and systems of businesses both large and small.

Their goal: Make money off the ransom they charge to release the computers and systems they attack so the companies that get hacked can access them again.

This year, attackers went beyond targeting businesses and took on healthcare facilities, schools, IT organizations and other groups that provide different types of critical support during the pandemic. Not only has this harmed the organizations, it also impacted the businesses and people dependent on them.

While it’s impossible to know where cyber crooks are going to take things in the future, here are some ransomware trends to look out for so you can take steps to guard against them.

Big businesses and small can expect to be targeted.

There are primarily two kinds of ransomware attackers:

  • Larger ones, including Ryuk and RegnarLocker that target big organizations.
  • Smaller operators, such as Dharma, that go after small and mid-sized businesses.

Typically, when criminal organizations are successful, they get larger. This hasn’t been the case with ransomware attackers.

The big stay big. The small stay small. They prefer to remain that way because they’re able to stay under the radar.

The so-called “business models” for the two types of ransomware operations are different.

  • The bigger players strike at vary large targets using sophisticated methods to get million dollar plus ransoms from their victims. Their model is to go big and earn large payouts. Otherwise, they don’t waste their time.
  • The smaller operators sell their menu of services to cyber adversaries looking to attack more anonymous targets like small and mid-sized businesses. These players aren’t as sophisticated, and they don’t earn million-dollar ransoms. But, a lot of hacks worth a few thousand dollars a piece can really add up over time. They leverage a “spray-and-pray” tactic where they use low-grade ransomware against a large number of targets hoping to clean up on a relatively small investment.

Organizations both large and small can expect continuing ransomware attacks in 2021 and beyond. You owe it to your operation to take steps to protect against them. Many businesses close down because the combination of paying the ransom, the lost business activity that happens during the attacks and the costs of clean-up stretches finances beyond their limits.

Cyber extortion will become a bigger deal.

Ransom attacks are bad. Secondary extortion is worse.

In these attacks, cyber criminals don’t just encrypt an organization’s data and hold it for ransom. They go beyond this and threaten to steal it outright and publish sensitive, confidential company information online so everyone can see it if their demands aren’t met. This usually ruins the reputation of a business when this happens.

Quite a few known ransomware operators, including RagnarLocker, Maze, Netwalker and REvil have been successful using secondary extortion as a way to threaten businesses in order to make money. The added level of threat – not just being unable to access critical systems and information, but also the fear of having it stolen and exposed – makes it more likely that victims will pay the ransom money.

It’s critical for organizations to protect against — and prepare for — these kinds of attacks should they happen to them. If you’re not sure how to handle this, the experts at GeeksHD are available to help you. We’re on top of all the latest cyber security threats so you don’t have to be.

Attacks will come from seemingly legitimate sources.

More and more, ransomware attacks are coming through legit and commonly used tools, utilities and network locations. This makes it easier for cyber criminals to avoid many intrusion detection systems and other types of security measures. These tactics keep attackers under the radar of many automated security systems because these tools, utilities and networks aren’t usually viewed as problematic. This makes “successful” attacks more likely and the possibility of tracking the source after they happen almost impossible.

Considering how successful these types of attacks have been, it’s certain that they will continue on in the future. They’ll likely get more complex and sophisticated, using new sources to enter networks that no one could ever suspect.

How to protect against ransomware attacks.

These types of hacks are becoming more common. They’re also more costly to the organizations that are victims of them. That is, if they actually survive. You owe it to your business to take steps to protect against them. A small investment in cyber security now could save you a lot over the long term. Contact the experts at GeeksHD to find out how we can help protect you against ransomware attacks and all the online threats your business could face in 2021.