Rate of Ransomware Attacks Reaches Epidemic Levels

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They say misery loves company so when it comes to ransomware a new study suggests there’s a lot cold comfort to go around. Thanks to bots another other automation tools the rate at which those attacks will be launched is expected to increase. In fact, Europol, the law enforcement arm of The European Union, in an Internet Organized Crime Threat Assessment 2017 report released this week declared ransomware to be a global epidemic that is being orchestrated by organized criminal syndicates.

A separate ransomware report released this week by Crowd Research Partners finds that the rate at which ransomware attacks provides some additional insight to rate at which ransomware attacks are increasing. The survey of 516 cybersecurity professionals participating in a LinkedIn group managed by Cybersecurity Insiders finds that 75 percent of organizations affected by ransomware have experienced up to five attacks in the last 12 months and that 25 percent experienced six or more attacks.

The good news is that appears IT organizations are getting more adept at responding to ransomware attacks. Over half (54%) the cybersecurity professionals surveyed by Crowd Research Partners say they could recover from a successful ransomware attack within a day. But 39 percent estimate it will still take them more than one day to a few weeks to recover.

The report finds that malicious email attachments (73%), responding to a phishing email (54%) and visiting a compromised website (28%) are the most common vectors used to launch ransomware attacks.

From cybersecurity defense perspective survey respondents identified ransomware attacks were detected via endpoint security tools (83%), email and web gateways (64%), and intrusion detection systems (46%).

Despite these advances, however, a full 80 percent of the respondents ranked ransomware as being either a moderate to extreme threat to their organizations; and only just over half (51%) are slightly to moderately confident in their ability to defend themselves against this type of attack. User awareness training (77%), endpoint security solutions (73%), and patching of operating systems (72%) were identified as the most effective methods for combatting ransomware.

The real challenge, however, may be the simple fact that what has been experienced thus far only represents the first phase of ransomware attacks. It’s already been demonstrated that ransomware attacks are becoming increasingly more sophisticated. The only reliable defense is to continuously backup critical data. Unfortunately, most organizations still treat backup and recovery as an event rather than a process. Instead of regularly backing up data there’s still a tendency to run a backup once or week or so assuming someone remembers to do it. As the volume of ransomware attacks increases IT organizations should be taking greater advantage of inexpensive cloud storage to back up their data on at least a daily basis. More often than not, the most critical data an organization has are the files or records that have been updated in the last 24 hours because they are usually associated with work in progress. It may not be that big a deal to need to re-enter that data on occasion. But once it becomes a regular routine it won’t be too long before end users conclude there must be a better way to respond.

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot.Mike also blogs about emerging cloud technology for Intronis MSP Solutions by Barracuda.

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