While it may be hard to believe, the first ransomware attack was planned and executed by an American biologist, Dr. Joseph Popp, who held a Ph.D. from Harvard. Dr. Popp launched the attack using encryption software by concealing it within a floppy disk.
Although the infiltration tactics used by cybercriminals continue to evolve, the goal behind executing a ransomware attack has remained unchanged since its inception: extorting money from victims by blocking their access to the system. Paying the ransom does not necessarily guarantee that victims will regain access to their files and system; in some cases, the victims may still lose the data forever.
Ransomware attacks have become increasingly prevalent in recent times and continue to top the list of the most common types of cyberattacks that many organisations across the globe must deal with. This article aims to educate you on the most common potential sources of ransomware and some of the hidden costs associated with such attacks so that you are not one amongst those reactive organizations and wait until they are attacked before implementing robust security measures.
Potential Sources of Ransomware
There are several ways ransomware can get into your system, and merely a single careless move is all it takes to set off a ransomware attack. At the same time, it’s practically impossible to predict how cybercriminals may choose to infiltrate and block your access to the system. Some of the most popular sources of ransomware are listed below to help you get started on reducing your exposure to potential attacks.
One of the most common tactics attackers employ to accomplish their destructive goals is emails. Masquerading as legitimate entities, attackers send emails to users, prompting them to click on malicious links and download infected attachments within the email to access their system.
Malicious websites often appear like authentic websites. There are times when users inadvertently visit such compromised websites and may end up downloading malicious software or content on their machine, thereby unknowingly giving the attacker access to the system. When browsing websites, or when looking to download any type of software or any other content over your computer, we recommend always look for a padlock icon next to the URL as this symbolises a secure website.
You may not always come across malicious files or software through emails or websites. Portable devices, like USBs and hard drives, are popular among attackers to distribute ransomware and reach their target system. The attacker obtains control of a user's PC when the user plugs in the infected portable device. As such, untrusted storage devices shouldn’t be plugged into workstations to avoid this type of risk.
System or program vulnerability
A security flaw existing within a system, or a program can be an easy pathway for cybercriminals to penetrate and exploit any machine. Because attackers often target vulnerabilities inside the system or application, any device that lacks the most recent security updates or has unpatched software installed is more likely to fall prey to this technique.
Suppose you have ever received pop-up warnings about ‘malware being detected in your system’ while browsing the internet and clicking on the ad. In that case, you may have unknowingly downloaded malware onto your computer. Perpetrators conceal malicious codes in such pop-ups, and when users click on the ad, the code is run, and malware is installed on the user’s device.
Understanding prevalent sources of ransomware will not only help you protect your sensitive data when working. It could also save your organisation from paying for the costs associated with a ransomware attack.
Speaking about costs brings us to our next section. Have you ever wondered how a ransomware attack impacts its victims in the long run? Or what price does a ransomware attack victim pay?
Hidden costs of a Ransomware attack
Bowing to the cybercriminal’s demands and paying out the ransom does not alleviate the misery for businesses since paying the ransom money is just one of the many costs a victim must face due to being targeted. Aside from the ransom itself, some of the other costs associated with a ransomware attack include:
Loss of Trust and Reputation
Ransomware costs businesses large sums of money and carries a negative impact on its brand image and reputation. Customers may lose trust in an organisation that cannot secure their private and confidential data and may no longer view it in the same light as before. Some may even choose to stop doing business with such an organisation.
While there is a likelihood that the attacker will choose to share the decryption key in exchange for the ransom paid so that the victim can reaccess their data, there is also a possibility that they may refuse to provide the decryption key, causing the victim to lose large sums of money and lose their critical data forever.
The downtime caused by a ransomware attack negatively impacts the company’s income and profits and results in wasted staff hours and productivity. Moreover, following a ransomware attack, businesses must spend additional funds on disaster recovery and rebuilding the devices exploited by the attacker.
Fear of Data Leak and Double Extortion
Paying the ransom the first time you are attacked does not guarantee your business any security from future attacks. There is always a possibility that the cybercriminals may re-target your organisation and threaten to leak the data obtained from the past attack or use it as a resource to blackmail the victim for additional monies.
Ransomware has emerged as a significant threat to organisations and individuals worldwide. The overt and covert costs of a ransomware attack make it far more expensive than it appears from the outside, necessitating businesses to be proactive when making decisions about the security of their organisation’s infrastructure.
Prevent Ransomware Attacks with F1 Solutions
According to the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), self-reported losses from cybercrime amounted to more than $33 billion last year.
With attackers innovating their tactics to infiltrate your systems regularly, organisations need to realise that paying out ransom does not guarantee you’ll regain access to your encrypted data, nor does it secure you from future attacks making it more critical than ever to implement strong security measures within the organisation.
F1 Solutions, as an experienced managed service provider, works to protect Australian businesses from security breaches or events, taking swift action in the event of an attack.
Contact us today to discuss your security assessment.