Hollywood movies give us an insight as to how it is going to feel when someone puts a gun on your head and asks you for ransom. The good part is we can anticipate the reaction and prevention of any such situation. However, virtual life is significantly different from the ones we see in reel or sometimes unfortunately in real life. People stay under the misapprehension of the virtual world being a safe one, as no physical or face to face contact is made. If you think the same, you may want to rethink it.
The advancement in technology is no doubt, making life much easier. All it takes is just one click to flourish businesses, contact and lock deals and expand the clientele base. Communication has become easier and people can contact anyone from any corner of the world. But are these advantages turning into a bane? In recent years, it most definitely has. Cybersecurity is one of the biggest concerns of businesses that carry most of its operations online. Phishing, vishing, ransomware, smshing are few of many cyber threats occurring on an hourly if not daily basis. One such cyber threat that has caught the attention of cyber police and tech enthusiasts is ransomware.
What is ransomware?
Ransomware is a kind of malware that is used to infect the devices of individuals or businesses. There are a few variants available as of now including the ones which either infect the device and encrypt the files. The other ones get access to the device and either delete the files or block them till they get the desired ransom. The amount of ransom can be anything between $200-$20,000, gift cards or bitcoins with no specific pattern in the value of ransom.
The loss related to a ransomware attack is not only limited to the amount of ransom itself, but it hits the victim in many ways. The losses include the loss of data, amount of ransom, legal charges, IT costs, cybersecurity software and loss of productivity. One ransomware attack can affect the victim in numerous ways, from which it takes months or even years to recover. When a phisher attacks a victim he makes sure to take full advantage of the opportunity and attacks all the devices including the desktops and even the smartphones; leading to complete wreck in the system.
How does a ransomware attack work?
The attacks vectors it’s way to the victim because of his own activities. When the victim clicks on unauthorised links, e-mails containing malicious attachments, compromised websites or sometimes drive-by downloads; the malware gets downloaded automatically and infects the system.
Another method used by phishers to trap their victims is the use of cyber threat actors. This method is a combination of spear-phishing and ransomware. When the attacker intends to attack a specific person, this method stands by far most successful. After mining all the information, the phisher contacts the victim, win the trust and then attack him by persuading him to click the malicious link or attachment. Using actors in such attacks helps in gaining more money or ransom in comparison to sending mass e-mails or messages.
Top 3 important steps for mitigation of ransomware attack
- Incidental response plan- This is very similar to cybersecurity training where the employees of an organization are trained on how to prevent, respond and identify various phishing attacks. During the ransomware attack, the employees, employer or individual are trained on how to respond to a ransomware attack.
- Anti-spam and antivirus- The antivirus and anti-spam solutions are your go-to preventive measures when it comes to phishing attacks. Make sure you upgrade them time-to-time for better protection.
- Backups are saviors- The main element of a ransomware attack is stealing or encryption of important data. If you already own a backup of all the important data which you know may cause trouble if it gets stolen or deleted, it will significantly mitigate the loss caused by an attack.
Facts and figures
- The famous case of Baltimore ransomware attack 2019, where the computer system of government was aggressively and seriously infected by the ransomware variant called Robbinhood. Around 13 bitcoins ($76,280) were demanded as ransom in exchange of access key. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_Baltimore_ransomware_attack
- Ransomware attack amounted to a loss of $8 billion in 2019 alone, were the businesses around the globe were hit by the attacks. https://cybersecurityventures.com/global-ransomware-damage-costs-predicted-to-exceed-8-billion-in-2018/
- Prudent businesses spend at least $14billion on cybersecurity around the globe which has significantly decreased the impact of the attack.
- The bar graph below is the clear representation of the growth in damage and cost of ransomware which shows a whopping increase to an estimated $20billion dollar in 2020 alone
To sum up final thoughts
The greed for quick and easy money by people with ill-intentions has stooped them down to a level where they use their brightest brains to weave ideas for trapping people. The ransomware attacks are getting more and more sophisticated which is making it difficult to avoid or prevent them. However, with proper training and preventive measures as stated above; the task doesn’t seem impossible. Therefore, its high time one must get alert with the activities online to save oneself and businesses from huge losses.
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