The financial impact of ransomware on business can be crippling; some estimates place the total annual cost of attacks globally, including ransom payments and remediation costs, at approximately USD 170 billion. The average cost of a ransomware attack in the UK in 2019, was £800,000. Operational downtime, out-of-hours and stretched resources, ransom payments, third party support and system rebuilds all make such incidents costly to remediate.
Encrypting, stealing, and threatening to leak data is no longer the only extortion method used by ransomware groups. Over the past five months, we have observed an increase in ransomware and other cybercriminal groups using alternative extortion techniques to coerce victims to pay. These range from extortive and disruptive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, to extortive data-wiping attacks, to claims to have planted backdoors in software products, to auctioning or selling stolen data to the highest bidder. Ransomware groups can apply all of these techniques without the need to encrypt victims’ data.
The re-emergence of these alternative techniques demonstrates that cybercriminals are becoming increasingly aggressive in their extortive attacks. In 2021, we expect ransomware groups to continue exploring new and increasingly disruptive methods of extortion. This will almost certainly include the use of emerging technologies, such as deepfakes, which will further enable less skilled cybercriminals to extort businesses, executives, and individuals.
For cybercriminals, there remains a constant trade-off between profits and security against law enforcement and rival groups. For organisations, mitigation measures – built on proactive, threat-led cyber security solutions and well-rehearsed and realistic ransomware crisis scenarios – can prevent increasingly capable ransomware groups from forcing your business into a situation where a ransom payment is an enticing option.
To protect your organizations and assets from ransomware, apply the following nine tips: