Cryptocurrency and the rise in ransomware attacks
The vast majority of successful businesses have become an increasingly attractive target for ransom attacks where hackers hold data hostage, and lock entire infrastructures in demand of ransom payment.
Unfortunately up until now, a number of corporate executives consider ransomware attacks to be just “another virus” not realizing the dire consequences it can have for an organization. Companies aren’t prepared for it and management has hardly set a budget, if at all to tackle the issue.
Due to the subject matter, it is important to understand the reluctance of those who fall victim to ransomware. When a ransomware attack occurs, all data, reputation and confidence along with creditworthiness of the company is at the mercy of attackers. Information is the answer when critical situations such as a network breach and cessation of operations due to ransomware occurs. Unfortunately, the topic is extremely complex.
Ransomware has existed for decades, but only recently has it become relatively commonplace.
Cryptocurrency and the rise of ransomware incidents
Cryptocurrency and ransomware attacks are like a match made in hackers’ heaven. What a perfect way of getting paid while remaining anonymous? Many experts even go on to blame the wide acceptance of cryptocurrencies as the single biggest factor in the rise of ransomware attacks.
Cryptocurrency has served to embolden hackers that dream of a modern day pirate’s life. This is not to say that cryptocurrency is solely a tool for illicit activities. Cryptocurrency has modernized the world in many ways, from facilitating the use of extremely large public ledgers of information to allowing the most efficient remittances that the world has ever seen.
One could argue that every great invention has been initially misused prior to its mass adoption and proper implementation. And that unfortunately is the case with cryptocurrency.
So how do Cryptocurrencies fuel Ransomware attacks?
The ability to remain anonymous and make it impossible for agencies to track transactions and activities, has made cryptocurrencies the most viable option for hackers looking to transact in nefarious schemes. According to a study, ransomware attacks have globally increased by 200% since 2018. And the payment method in these attacks? You guessed it right, Bitcoin (or any other cryptocurrency for that matter).
The WannaCry Ransomware attacks that shook the core of corporations around the world in 2017 demanded ransom payments in bitcoin. That was the first and most widely use cryptocurrency for extorting money from victims. And since then, it has only continued rising.
It isn’t the secrecy of the cryptocurrency network, but the efficiency that makes it the most preferred option for hackers to store ransom money. In fact, a study highlighted that storing ransom money in a bitcoin network is transparent, however anyone can watch a transaction take place in realtime.
For example, a $50,000 ransomware payment can be seen taking place on the network. But everything that takes place after this point is what’s critical for hackers. Hackers now also need a way to cash out that bitcoin payment, and that’s where law enforcement authorities can potentially trace the cyber criminals.
Ransomware payments; the do’s and the don’ts
FBI, Interpol, cyber security experts and law enforcement authorities all strongly recommend not to pay the ransom. The justification is valid. A corporation may become a repeat target of ransomware attacks because they paid a ransom. It not only helps hackers to keep growing, but also continue attacking other businesses.
But not paying the ransom at times, can be far costlier than anything else. The city of Atlanta back in 2018 chose not to pay the $50,000 ransom payment. Eventually the municipal courts and the offices had to rely on pen and paper to do their tasks. The government went on to spend a whopping $2.6 million in cleanup costs to mitigate the effects of ransomware.
While there is no guarantee that hackers would send a decryptor to decrypt the data after paying the ransom amount, professional ransomware recovery firms have been able to help victims deal with a situation in which a ransom payment is the only option.
Why Business leaders need budget for cybersecurity?
A company’s leadership is left with a few options when time is running out. Should they pay the extortion amount themselves and get their data back? How about calling in a specialist data recovery firm? Or, not pay the ransom amount and attempt to continue with business operations as usual?
The last option is the most difficult one to choose. Many business leaders believe that simply not paying the ransom, and starting from scratch will save them great expense. What they don’t realize is the dire consequences that will follow, such as tarnished business reputation, sale of confidential data on dark web forums, and subsequent cleanup costs.
Having a cyber insurance policy in place helps in covering most of the costs associated with a ransomware attack. However, it is up to the management to safeguard their business. The sooner they realize the importance of having a cybersecurity budget, the better it will be for the business.
Best Practices for Corporations to prevent ransomware attacks
Here are some tips to help you in preventing ransomware attacks:
- Use strong passwords – Employees should be using strong passwords with uppercare, lowercase, number and a character to make it difficult for hackers to break the security.
- Use a VPN – Using a VPN for remote access creates an extra layer of protection between you and the hackers.
- Regularly backup your data – Nothing is more precious than data. Regularly backup and store them on drives isolated from the network.
- Use updated antivirus programs – Keep your entire network secure by updating your antivirus programs.