Did you know that ransomware attacks occur every 11 seconds? This means that by the time you finish reading this sentence, a business might become a victim of a ransomware attack. This makes ransomware one of the most prominent cybersecurity threats in the world. Sadly, this is just half the story.
The best way to protect your business from ransomware attacks is to think like cyberattackers. Understand ransomware operations and different tactics they use. How do cybercrattackers organize their teams to launch ransomware attacks? To give you a better idea about how it all works, here is a step by step process that they follow
Hire people who can write file encryption programs and do a background check to those people you’ve hired
Create and maintain payment and leak websites
Perform manual hacking to move laterally through your network to deploy ransomware
Spread the word about their success
You can clearly see that there are many parties involved in the whole process. I don’t blame you if you mistake them for fully functional companies with different departments performing specific tasks. In fact, there are suppliers and buyers of different things and it also works the same way as our economy does. There is also a hierarchy, which means that lower level criminals report to those higher up in the hierarchy. Just as revenue is lifeblood for business, so does the ransom payments for cyberattackers.
Ransomware Attacker Becoming Smarter
In general, cyberattackers are one step ahead of cybersecurity professionals which is why we constantly hear the news of cybersecurity attacks and data breaches impacting businesses. They are great at finding vulnerabilities and exploiting them before cybersecurity professionals can patch those holes. To make matters worse, businesses don’t have the right cybersecurity protection such as DDoS protection or malware protection in place.
The number of ransomware attacks have decreased over the years but they have grown in sophistication. Instead of launching more attacks, they are targeting crucial and high value installations such as financial services, national grid and governmental facilities. Another noticeable trend is that hackers are trying to launch ransomware attacks that fly under the radar without getting detected. This allows them to steal money without getting caught.
Adapting To Changing Dynamics
Most businesses don’t think of ransomware as that big of a threat as it once was just by looking at the declining numbers. Don’t let these dipping ransomware numbers and news of ransomware groups shutting down their operations fool you. This could be a tactic they might be using to escape detection.
Sometimes, the group might get disbanded but they are neither punished nor wiped out from the ecosystem, which means the risk is still there. In other cases, they might exchange roles. Once a ransomware group starts to get too much attention, they announce that they are closing operations. Instead, they form a new group with a new name to evade detection.
You might also see some members of the past group become venture capitalists in the new group. This makes it extremely difficult for law enforcement agencies to catch them or take action against them. Ransomware is so financially rewarding that you can not expect ransomware group members to stop doing what they have been doing for years. With the majority of businesses paying ransom to get access to their data back, the success ratio is also higher, which encourages them to continue their malicious act.
There are instances when ransomware groups merge into other groups or acquire other groups just like traditional companies do. This allows them to acquire skills and talent from other groups and leverage them to their advantage. You will see a close connection between old and new groups as some latest ransomware strain might come from older groups.
Sometimes, we might see lesser known cyber criminals graduate to more popular ransomware groups based on their performance in the previous offensive missions. Think of them as employees who are evaluated on their skills, past performance and experience. This also helps them skip detection and continue their operations undercover. Ransomware attackers are great at adapting to the situation and responding to the changing dynamics.
Targeted Operation Required
Law enforcement agencies need to perform targeted operations in order to catch these cybercriminals. Ransomware is a global issue so even if one government cracks down on these ransomware gangs, they can migrate and hide in a different country where the rules might be different. Since every country has their own policies and rules, this might work in the attackers favor.
Another big issue is that the national infrastructure is not ready to cope up with ransomware threats. Without the right protection in place, you can never be able to deal with commercial cybercrime as well as state sponsored cyberattack. Sometimes, state might sponsor these groups to launch attacks on adversaries but they should also be well prepared to face similar attacks from the adversaries.
How are ransomware attacks impacting your business? Share it with us in the comments section below.