Ransomware is one of the most damaging and nefarious forms of malware out there. It has the capability of rendering a business completely useless. That is, of course, unless said company complies with certain demands made by the attacker. Even then, there’s no guarantee that that will be the end of a business’ misery. But what is ransomware? And is there more than one type? The team here at Nutbourne, who provide both ransomware and broader cybersecurity solutions as part of their work as a managed service provider in London, wanted to explore the topic in more detail.
What Is Ransomware?
As the name might suggest, ransomware is a type of malware that’s predicated on stealing information/data that’s in some way valuable, and holding it ransom. Under the hacker’s possession, the criminal can then extort money from the affected company ‘in return’ (though it often never is) for the compromised information. The nature of encryption and the anonymity of cryptocurrencies mean that neither the recovery of information or the location of the perpetrator is ever able to be guaranteed.
The Different Types Of Ransomware Attack
Broadly speaking, there are two main types of ransomware attack:
The less dangerous of the two major ransomware types (if there is such a thing) is locker ransomware. Rather than encrypting files, once this malware has accessed a server it prevents users from gaining access – in other words, it blocks users out. Locker ransomware is easier to locate and quarantine than crypto ransomware and rarely infects an entire network. Still, though, it can be an incredibly effective and lucrative tool for hackers and should be protected against at all costs.
The really nasty type of ransomware is crypto ransomware. These viruses not only access entire networks and servers, but also encrypt your data and potentially sensitive personal information. The data encrypted could be anything that could conceivably hold value to those being targeted. A multinational corporation’s important financial data might be encrypted, for instance. Though there is no guarantee a paid ransom will result in decryption, victims will often pay out anyway in blind hope, because the alternative can be so much more damaging.
This form of cybercrime has been on the rise for the best part of a decade now, with recent statistics a grim indication that this trend is only set to continue over the coming years. In Germany last year, for instance, there were even reports of the first ransomware-related death, after a hospital’s IT system was compromised by ransomware and meant an ambulance carrying a critically-ill patient had to reroute to a different hospital further away. The extra time it took to reach the other hospital meant the patient tragically passed away shortly after. There’s no guaranteeing, of course, that the patient would have survived had she gone to the intended hospital, but her chances of survival would certainly have been better.
If immense human tragedy sits at one end of the anecdotal spectrum, then fiscal ruin sits at the other. Back in 2019, for instance, global aluminium producer Norsk Hydro lost a staggering £45 million as a result of a ransomware attack. The average cost of ransomware attacks in 2019 was similarly heart-stopping, coming in at $133,000 with costs predicted to reach $20 billion by the end of 2021. The point being that ransomware is a very real and very dangerous threat that requires very proactive cybersecurity solutions.
How To Protect Against Ransomware Attacks
As with all cybersecurity strategies, mitigation and prevention of ransomware attacks revolves around a well-rounded defence. These steps include:
- Making regular backups. Ransomware banks on the fact that once they’ve got your data, you don’t. By regularly backing up your systems, however, you tackle this issue.
- Website and content filtering. Only allow content to enter your system that you would expect to see. This narrows down entry points for any malware and helps address the issue of employee error.
- Implementing an up-to-date enterprise antivirus package. Modern antivirus packages are often adept at dealing with ransomware and will have specific features as standard.
- Have contingency in place in the form of a disaster management/recovery plan. Be prepared in case things do go wrong so that you can act swiftly and efficiently. You can have all the defence in the world and still somehow get beaten by a sophisticated cybercriminal. So, it’s important that you have contingency in place just in case.
So, if you’d like to find out more about our ransomware and cybersecurity solutions, then get in touch! Contact Nutbourne today on +44 (0) 203 137 7273 or by filling in one of our online enquiry forms.