The technology world was rocked late last week with the arrival of the “WannaCry” malware payload. “WannaCry” is ransomware: it encrypts files with strong encryption, and then notifies the victim that they can “recover” their files for a payment using Bitcoin (which is an extremely difficult-to-track blockchain-based payment system). While the New York Times has reported that victims in nearly 100 countries have been affected so far by this fast-moving malware, the most significant impact so far has been identified within the U.K.’s National Health Services (NHS), which was forced to reallocate patients to unaffected facilities due to the “WannaCry” outbreak.
Late last year, Symantec Corporation released a survey on ransomware: malicious software that attempts to encrypt everything it can access, and demands money (usually in difficult-to-trace remuneration such as Bitcoin). One of the most disturbing trends of this report was that ransomware has grown from less than 20% of all new malware types in 2014, to over 90% of all newly discovered malware types today. Why is this? Well, put simply, because it works. When an organization’s critical business data is directly compromised – with the promise of possibly regaining access and restoring business as usual – the temptation to simply pay $500-$1,000 in Bitcoin or gift cards is strong. However, there’s always one nagging question in the background: what if the attacker doesn’t actually give us the key to decrypt the files?
Companies stand to lose a lot if they are hacked. They risk lawsuits, loss of brand equity, theft of intellectual property, and more. Among other dangers, there are three especially common cybersecurity threats that may bring this nightmare to life for any organization and can haunt those charged with protecting the company if they don't have the resources to do so. Those threats are ransomware, insiders, and vulnerability hacks—and here's what IT teams can take to defend against them.
As the second quarter of 2016 continues, it is increasingly clear that SMEs are faced with an urgent need to secure their IT systems. The year isn't even halfway through and already organizations have seen sophisticated cyber attacks that outstrip those faced in the past. Combating such threats means IT personnel must be sufficiently knowledgeable and qualified, but often companies do not have the resources necessary to hire enough in-house IT staff. Given this challenge, many firms are turning to managed security services to improve their cyber defenses.
Ransomware is out of control in 2016! Ransomware, as defined by Wikipedia, “is a type of malware that restricts access to the infected computer system in some way, and demands that the user pay a ransom to the cybercriminal to remove the restriction. Some forms of ransomware systematically encrypt files on the system's hard drive, which become impossible to decrypt without paying the ransom for the encryption key, while some may simply lock the system and display messages intended to coax the user into paying.”
In light of the latest cybersecurity trends, such as the increased threat of ransomware and malvertising, small- to medium-sized businesses should investigate the best ways to protect their IT assets from cyber attacks. Strong security tools and practices such as regularly backing up data can make a big difference. An especially important solution to consider is network security monitoring, particularly from a managed security service.
With the advent of ever more sophisticated ransomware cyber attacks, you can’t be too careful these days. In the past, ransomware was largely spread by phishing attacks -- and employee education about not clicking external links or images was helpful in mitigating any potential problems. At the same time, the attack typically would encrypt just files, not whole systems. Now, ransomware attacks are locking down entire file systems, making machines (and even whole networks) completely unusable.
The threat landscape is constantly becoming more sophisticated. That means any cybersecurity strategy not up to date with security tools and research will leave an organization open to attacks. According to a 2016 IBM report, only 17% of the participating organizations are fully “cybersecured”—which means 83% are inadequately defended.
To be prepared, companies need to implement cybersecurity strategies that address today's threats. The following three examples of emerging attacks show why all but the most well-guarded companies' current cybersecurity strategies need an update.
2016 is a new frontier for cybersecurity, but based on what happened in 2015, it’s safe to say that past incidents will continue this year. Here are four cybersecurity trends we expect to see in 2016:
The Growing Threat of Ransomware
Ransomware encrypts data on user machines to prevent access until the user pays to release the encryption. In other words, ransomware holds user data hostage and demands a ransom to free it. These attacks are becoming more and more common, even extorting money from police departments. Ransomware can affect both ordinary computers and phones—and it won’t be long until Internet of Things devices face the same alarming consequences.