Cyber Risk Aware Blog

Ransomware - The Growing Threat

[fa icon="calendar"] 20-Feb-2017 07:15:00 / by Stephen Burke

Stephen Burke

Last year saw a large spike in reported cases of ransomware, and industry experts predict a further increase throughout 2017.

Commercial insurers "Beazley" produced a report last month (click here) in which it stated that it had seen the number of attacks quadruple over 2016, with many of these attacks taking place in large institutions such as in the financial, education and healthcare industry.

That said,  we are seeing SME staff increasingly being targeted in the legal, hedge fund and retail sectors.  Beazley are currently predicting these attacks will double over the next twelve months.

Awareness of such threats needs to be increased company-wide across organisations, but particularly within the IT department.

Disabling macros, segmenting the network, keeping files backed up regularly and testing they actually restore are all great ways of keeping yourself one step ahead.

The Most Important Step to Take

As the root cause in 91% of such attacks is a phishing email, the most important step to take is to assess staff to see if they open phishing emails and click on a link or open an attachment.

If they do open emails and click links or open attachments, provide instant feedback with helpful messages explaining that it was a social engineering test along with tips on how to avoid falling for the real thing.

Making it seem real without actually getting burned, has an instant and dramatic effect as staff do not want to fall for this again.

This shouldn't be a one off exercise and should be done several times a year to maintain staff awareness. This way you can spot repeat offenders and follow up with additional training.

What to Do if You Fall Victim

If you do fall victim to ransomware, the most common mistake that people make is paying the bitcoin ransom. Invariably as well as losing the data, people lose the money as well.  I would also caution against researching on the web what to do, as we are starting to see evidence that further ransomware infections occur as a consequence.

Your first plan of action should be to disconnect the computer from any networks and the internet (to stop it spreading) and call in an expert to find out what, if anything, can be done.

Regardless of whether or not the predicted increase in ransomware attacks takes place, there are simple steps to take that will make your network far less likely to succumb to such an attack.

Educate your staff with industry leading security awareness training content. Create a human firewall and last line of defense. The tipping point has come to stop throwing technical defenses at the problem as they are not going to stop your staff from being targeted.

It is time we helped staff be more aware of threats, as it will be helpful to them at home and in the workplace.

Cybersecurity is a complex and rapidly changing world. Although we can expect an increase in ransomware over the next year, there is no reason it needs to happen to you.

If we can help safeguard your business, we would be delighted to hear from you.

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Topics: cyber crime, Phishing, Staff Awareness, Ransomware

Stephen Burke

Written by Stephen Burke