Why You Should Be Aware of Ransomware

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nfortunately, we live in a world where businesses and individuals need to be more careful than ever before when operating online. Cybercriminals continually try to gain access to company systems, customer data, ad networks, and more. As technology continues to improve, the tools available to hackers and other cybercriminals only seem to grow.

Have ransomware on your radar in 2021, so you do not fall into the same trap as many before you. This trap being hackers gaining access to sensitive information and leaving you to tell angry customers, which could culminate in the business struggling to recover.

For those who have read about ransomware going away, this sadly isn’t the case. Ransomware is just as serious as ever, and you need to be aware of the threat it has on your business.

Ransomware Statistics 2021

Back in 2015, the damage caused by ransomware reached around $3 trillion. Back then, it was considered a serious threat that affected thousands of businesses around the world. In 2021, we could see levels double this amount to $6 trillion. This is a result of more people working remotely due to the pandemic. Between the third quarter of 2019 and 2020, ransomware attacks increased by nearly 140%.

In the past, some industries could enjoy being in the shadows and were able to stay away from ransomware attacks. They could operate as normal knowing that the business wasn’t much of a target for attacks. Now, however, it seems that there’s no escaping the threat.

Country

Starting with attacks by country, the United States is at the top of all lists. Companies in the United States face the biggest threat from ransomware attackers, which has been the case for many years. Despite the small size and population, the United Kingdom experiences the second-most ransomware attacks.

After this, countries suffering at the hands of attackers include France, Ecuador, the Netherlands, Brazil, and Canada. This being said, it seems that the UK and the US are the two biggest targets and suffer more attacks than anywhere else on the planet.

Industry

So far in 2021, we can see thanks to a recent ransomware report that the services industry has been hit the hardest. The government is second on the list and is known to struggle with cybercriminals. After this, the four following industries have to deal with a medium number of attacks:

  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Manufacturing
  • Technology

Finally, attacks are less common in finance, utilities, and retail. Just because attacks are less common, this doesn’t mean that you can afford to take your eye off the ball by any means.

Month-by-Month

Last year the number of attacks increased continually from July to October. All over the world, the global pandemic forced people to work from home, which left businesses vulnerable. Employees were accessing company systems on more devices through unsecured networks. All it takes is one mistake from an employee to open the door for attackers.

In 2020, there were 14 major attacks in each of the first three months. Over the aforementioned months, attacks kept rising until we had the following:

  • July - 12
  • August - 20
  • September - 31
  • October - 40

Even November and December had around 28 major ransomware attacks, and which is still double the amount at the beginning of 2020. In 2021, the attacks have dropped off slightly, but they are still more prevalent than 12 months earlier.

Why You Should Be Aware of Ransomware

If you keep a close eye on what happens in this niche, you’ll know that data theft has led the way for many years. Cybercriminals were intent on taking intellectual property and data. However, if the pandemic has done anything it has shifted the mode of attack for cybercriminals towards ransomware.

The numbers we used in the previous section were known major attacks, and this includes companies like Hyundai, Kia, Victor Central School District, and Apex Laboratory. This isn’t to say that lots of small businesses haven’t been victims of a ransomware attack. Here are some more worrying stats:

  • Attacks grew by 350% in 2018 alone
  • Four in every five security experts believe the problem will worsen before it improves
  • Phishing emails grew by 110% between 2017 and 2019
  • Over 200,000 businesses lost access to files in 2019

However, two statistics stand out as the reason that you need to secure your business against this type of attack in 2021. Firstly, one business becomes a victim of ransomware attackers every 14 seconds. This means that nearly 6,200 businesses every day around the world fall prey to these cunning cybercriminals.

The second statistic is that there was a 45% increase in the number of ransomware variants in 2019. The field is constantly evolving, and you need to defend your business against not only the traditional threats but the new variants too.

Another reason that you should be alert against this crime is that ransomware attackers are highly strategic - the days of random attacks are seemingly over. Like you might analyze the success of ad campaigns, criminals analyze their strategy and create victim pipelines. These days, only a small number of attacks are random.

In the past, these attackers could only really collect money through messaging. Now, they have access to cryptocurrencies and ‘ransomware-as-a-service’ where developers create technology and systems for these criminals.

Another new trend is the rise of data exfiltration - criminals take passwords, usernames, and other personal details. Even if a business has backed up the important data, this will still not help the reputation of the business when this data is leaked.

Additionally, there’s a difficult balance between paying the fee to get rid of the cybercriminal and not trusting what they will do after. Although it shouldn’t surprise anyone, there’s an increasing number of stories where attackers still release sensitive information even after receiving a ransom payment. Therefore, businesses are reluctant to pay if the data will be leaked anyway. This is quickly becoming a lose-lose situation for businesses of all sizes.

Furthermore, there’s also the worrying news that attacks are getting bigger and more serious. According to insurers in the United States, it only took six months of 2020 to reach three-quarters of the value of all claims from 2019. Attacks are now more frequent and they’re increasing in value. If we’re not careful, 2021 will top this too.

Protecting Your Business

This guide isn’t intended to panic business owners, but it is designed to make you alert of the ever-growing concern of ransomware attacks. If you want to defend your business and protect the brand’s reputation, you should consider ransomware attacks as part of your 2021 security package.

One of the first things you should do is train your team to recognize ransomware attacks and to not take any risks. With the right training, employees will know how to spot dodgy links and scan email attachments for malware before opening them. You’re just one person in the business - you need everybody else to have the same level of attention if you want to prevent an issue.

Simultaneously, you might also think about giving your team more advanced technology. With the right products and services, you can set up fake documents and watch them for changes that weren’t sanctioned by somebody inside the business. If you spot a change, this should trigger a warning, and you can take the appropriate steps before an attacker gets to the real files.

You should also consider working with an online service/tool because many can spot the spies that come before an attack. Essentially, these spies assess the state of the business and decide whether or not an attack is worthwhile. After marking your business as attack-worthy, it isn’t long before the next step of ransomware. The very best vendors these days spot the spy and protect your business before the next (and more serious!) stage.

If you aren’t confident in dealing with cyber threats, don’t hesitate to contact a third-party service. Not only will they inform you of the best security measures, but they will also guide you through this new remote working environment. With the COVID-19 pandemic set to play a role in our lives for many years, you can encourage remote working without putting the business at risk of cybercriminals.

An external service will advise on training, security, computer systems, and much more. If you don’t take the ransomware threat seriously in 2021, there’s a chance your business will suffer since this is quickly becoming one of the most common methods of attack for cybercriminals!