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Ransomware: King of Cybersecurity Threats

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Courtesy Aprio

Ransomware continues to dominate as one of the fastest-growing threats on security lists, with frequency doubling in 2021. The landscape has changed quickly and drastically. Prior to 2018 if an organization did not manage personally identifiable information, there was really no need for them to have sophisticated security programs in place. With the onset of ransomware, these companies face a new threat, and they need to update their networks to address the new risk profile.

Threat actors have proven they are professionals at playing the long game, taking small, calculated steps and evolving their techniques for the ultimate prize of gaining full access to networks and infrastructures. They’ve shown us time and time again that no business or industry is immune to risk. Last year, the Colonial Pipeline demonstrated that even a company of their stature fell hard for a ransomware attack that ultimately impacted the flow of oil across the U.S.

This attack proved just how vulnerable every company is to a ransomware attack. And make no mistake, threat actors aren’t slowing down. So, what does ransomware look like? We break down three of the most common ransomware attacks companies are experiencing today:

  1. Phishing continues to be the primary channel for threat actors to obtain sensitive information. It’s a common method where a hacker will plant a seed to a larger attack to deploy ransomware within a company’s network. While many of us were forgetting to mute ourselves on Zoom these past two years, threat actors were taking advantage of the mass shift to remote work, the adoption of Office 365 and other internet hosted software. Everything quickly moved to the cloud, where data is available to everybody. When systems and infrastructures were internally hosted hackers had to, in essence, try harder to get onto a network. Now, everything is directly connected to the internet making it easier for threat actors to gain access and compromise a network. The most used method is email phishing, which is masquerading as a trusted entity to trick the end user (aka the human) into providing login credentials. While offering training to your entire organization is still important, it only gets you so far as it’s clearly not putting an end to phishing attacks. However, making sure the right tools are in place, such as setting up multi-factor authentication for all internet-based software and an advanced threat protection tool for email can help in the defense against phishing.
  2. Malware encompasses a variety of malicious software, but at its core, it’s different versions of the same thing used to gain access to your systems. In some aspect, every business is familiar with malware. Malware has been generally addressed across the industry, with most companies installing some version of an anti-virus software on all their devices. Don’t stop at anti-virus. It’s important to evaluate vulnerability management. Many organizations struggle to identify vulnerabilities and prioritize remediation efforts. A successful vulnerability program has total endpoint visibility and automation capabilities to scan entire systems to rank vulnerabilities and reduce risk.
  3. Hacking is a broad concept in the terms of a cyberattack, yet it has the biggest exposure because thus far it has not been traditionally addressed. Most companies lack proper security monitoring and visibility, leaving them EXPOSED to hackers attacking their operating systems. To properly address hacking and gain visibility into potential malicious activity within a company’s environment, a lot of data needs to be collected. So, how can you collect the data needed?
    • Deploy end-point technology protection across workstations and servers, PLUS collect sufficient data from cloud environments and infrastructures to analyze and determine the indicators of compromise.
    • Run advanced, automated detectors with capabilities backed by strong counter threat intelligence and machine learning capabilities.
    • Active, 24/7 security analysis and response capability.

The bottom line

While there is no end in sight to ransomware, organizations need to accept that they aren’t immune to cyberattacks. Implementing best practices by adopting the right tools, properly patching your vulnerabilities and gaining better security monitoring and visibility will enable companies to see the attack sooner and reduce the impact of security incidents. Aprio’s Cybersecurity Advisory Team can help advance your security programs to stay ahead of potential cyberattacks.

Stay tuned for the second part of our series on ransomware where we will discuss how to spot ransomware before it takes over your entire network.

Let’s discuss how Aprio can help advance your cybersecurity solutions.

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