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Ransomware Surge Breaks Six-Year Record

Understanding the Threat and Solutions

Arthur Gaplanyan

Ransomware Spike

I’m hoping you know what a Ransomware attack is. It’s when malicious software locks up a victim’s data until a ransom is paid. It effectively puts a company out of business in a heartbeat, so it’s no stretch of the imagination to understand that it has become a major concern for businesses today.

The numbers speak for themselves—2024 has seen an unprecedented spike in ransomware attacks, surpassing records from the past six years and causing alarm widespread across industries.

We’ve all seen the news articles, and maybe you’ve gotten a notice recently that your information was involved in one of those breaches – or more! One of our staff has received 4 of these notices just this year.

What is the Impact of Ransomware?

Ransomware attacks involve encrypting the victim’s data so nobody can read it, and demanding payment for the decryption key. These attacks can be devastating, leading to significant financial losses, operational disruptions, and reputational damage.

The costs associated with ransomware include not only the ransom payments but also the expenses related to downtime, data recovery, and system repairs.

For instance, the average recovery cost for businesses hit by ransomware soared to $2.73 million in 2023, a significant increase from the previous year. Victims often face a dilemma: pay the ransom or risk losing their data permanently.

In 2024, more than half of the organizations targeted by ransomware paid the ransom to recover their data, a trend that highlights the increasing desperation and lack of viable alternatives for many businesses.

The Exponential Surge in Ransomware Attacks

The first quarter of 2024 witnessed the highest level of ransomware activity on record, ever. Reports indicate a dramatic increase in the number of ransomware incidents compared to prior years.

For example, the number of ransomware attacks in 2023 was more than double that of 2022, reversing a brief period of decline and setting a new high for cybercriminal activity.

Several factors contribute to this ransomware surge, including:
Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS)

One of the primary drivers behind the increase in ransomware attacks is the rise of Ransomware-as-a-Service. RaaS platforms operate similarly to legitimate Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) businesses, providing tools and services to cybercriminals for a share of the profits. This model lowers the barrier to entry, enabling even those with minimal technical skills to launch sophisticated ransomware attacks.

Increased Use of Zero-Day Exploits

Cybercriminals are increasingly exploiting newly discovered vulnerabilities in enterprise software, often within hours of their disclosure. This rapid exploitation makes it challenging for organizations to patch systems in time to prevent attacks.

Advanced Techniques and Tools

Ransomware groups are continuously evolving, adopting more sophisticated methods to evade detection. Techniques such as living off the land, where attackers use legitimate software and tools for malicious purposes, have become more prevalent.

Geopolitical Factors

Nation-state actors and politically motivated groups are also using ransomware as a tool, targeting critical infrastructure and high-value sectors such as healthcare, finance, and energy.

Cyber Protection

How to Protect Your Business

There is no single solution in cybersecurity. You can’t go to the store and buy a box of cybersecurity off the shelf to solve all your problems. (Don’t I wish!)

Addressing cyber threats, with Ransomware at the forefront, requires layers of security. What that means is a multifaceted approach that includes prevention, protection, detection, and response.

Here are some key strategies:

Education and Awareness

Continuous education and awareness programs are crucial in helping employees recognize and avoid potential threats. You should implement regular training sessions on cybersecurity best practices – and there is a right way and wrong way to do it.

Robust Security Measures

Implementing comprehensive security measures such as firewalls, antivirus software, endpoint detection and response (EDR), and network segmentation can significantly reduce the risk of ransomware attacks. Additionally, using multifactor authentication (MFA), conditional access, and application whitelisting can prevent unauthorized access and execution of malicious software.

Regular (Proper) Backups

Maintaining regular, secure backups of critical data ensures that organizations can recover their information without paying a ransom.

It’s not just about making a backup. It’s about making sure you can recover your data – it’s subtle, but there is big difference in those statements.

Make sure you know how long it will take to get your data recovered if you need it. Are you backing up your files, or the entire system it’s running on?

Is your backup even recoverable? 58% of data backups fail. It’s essential to test backups to ensure they are functioning correctly in case you need them.

Incident Response Plan

What do you do if you have a cyber incident? Knowing what to do (and what not to do) allows you to react quickly and effectively, saving you a ton of time, headaches, and your data

This plan should include steps for isolating affected systems, communicating with stakeholders, and restoring operations.

Also make sure that everyone on your team knows it. I touched on this last week, where many incidents don’t even get reported because nobody really understands how or why.

The rise in ransomware attacks in 2024 highlights the need for increased vigilance and proactive measures. By understanding the threat and implementing comprehensive security strategies, businesses can better protect themselves against this ever-evolving cyber menace. Are you ready to safeguard your business against ransomware?