SecurityBrief Australia logo
Australia's leading source of cybersecurity and cyber-attack news
Story image

The rise of ransomware and how businesses can prevent it from happening

By Ashton Young
Wed 20 Sep 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Article by Alastair Paterson, CEO and co-founder of Digital Shadows

If you’re familiar with mafia movies then you’re familiar with extortion – the practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force or threats. Extortion has been around for centuries – well before “The Godfather” or “Goodfellas.” Even cyber extortion, which extends this criminal activity into the digital world, isn’t new. What is new, however, is the wide variety of methods that are used by the bad guys to get their money.

Three main tactics are behind cyber extortion: the threat of distributed denial of service (DDoS), the threat of data compromise and ransomware. DDoS attacks are one of the most popular means to facilitate extortion. These types of attacks typically target business-critical websites in order to increase the likelihood of payment, usually via Bitcoin (BTC), and can have crippling effects on organisations. In certain cases, such as when targeting hosting providers, the threat actor may add more pressure to pay by using the negative publicity associated with service downtime as a threat.

A second method of extortion involves the potential release of compromised data. This method is dependent on the fact that the target’s data has already been compromised. The threat of its release to the public domain is used as blackmail in order to extort money from the affected entity.

A third type of extortion, and the one most often in the news as of late, is ransomware – malicious software (malware) that restricts access to the computer system it has infected. The malware demands that a ransom be paid before restoring access to affected resources. Ransomware can prevent access to many features of a victim’s machine, including files, applications and the operating system itself. Because ransomware is an ever-evolving threat that can be more challenging to address than other cyber extortion tactics, let’s take a closer look at how it works and how to prevent and mitigate it.

At a high-level, the ransomware process is fairly standard. Files are encrypted and the attackers, who hold the decryption key, will only allow the target to decrypt the files after the required BTC ransom is paid. Specific details of the attack, however, will depend on the variant.

Until recently ransomware has been delivered most commonly via drive-by-downloads from exploit kits, or through spam emails that either contain malicious attachments or encourage recipients to visit websites hosting malicious content. But we see that starting to change with threat actors using more targeted methods to achieve their objective, such as spear-phishing emails purporting to be from a job applicant or including the name, job title and job-relevant information of the recipient. The disclosure that some organizations are paying the fee to unencrypt data likely provides further motivation for these types of attacks. In fact, when the actor estimates there’s a high likelihood of payment of the ransom fee they invest in more reconnaissance which can further increase the likelihood of infection.

As ransomware becomes big business, research on the dark web reveals a number of services being advertised to make it easy for beginners with low technical understanding to execute ransomware attacks with success. Everything they need is available on a USB stick for $1,200 or they can take advantage of a hosted service in return for 5 percent commission on the ransom payments received.

So how can you combat cyber extortion? Cyber situational awareness can give you greater insights into the tools and processes used by actors that employ DDoS-based extortion and compromised data release extortion. Advanced knowledge of the typical demands of a threat actor and their capabilities can help you make difficult decisions if presented with such a scenario and help you prevent future attacks.

Mitigating ransomware threats is more complex. It requires a combination of technical and process controls and company-wide engagement – from employees, to executives, to IT security teams. Cyber situational awareness can help you understand the infection vectors of the malware and apply the appropriate security controls to mitigate the risk of infection. This includes insights you can use to raise staff awareness of how ransomware attacks occur and help you devise technical and procedural controls to prevent infection and to develop ransomware response procedures in the case of infection. Of course ensuring that backups are maintained and are separate from the network can increase resilience to such attacks. In addition, several decryption tools have been released but, in the cat and mouse game between ransomware and such tools, their effectiveness tends to be short-lived; ransomware developers are continuously developing encryption methods to evade them.

As defenders, staying up-to-date with the latest trends and innovation can be hard, but it is essential in order to effectively prevent and mitigate the effects of extortion on your business. With cyber situational awareness you can learn about the actors involved in extortion and their tactics, tools and motivations. With this knowledge you can more effectively align your defenses and make better decisions in the face of an attack.

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Employment
Tech job moves - Forcepoint, Malwarebytes, SolarWinds & VMware
We round up all job appointments from May 13-20, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Migration
Let’s clear the cloud visibility haze with app awareness
Increasingly, organisations are heading for the cloud, initiating new born-in-the-cloud architectures and migrating existing applications via ‘lift and shift’ or refactoring.
Story image
Remote Working
Successful digital transformation in the hybrid work era is about embracing shifting goalposts
As organisations embraced remote working, many discovered they lacked the infrastructure needed to support history’s first global load test of remote work capabilities.
Story image
Vectra AI
Understanding the weight on security leader’s shoulders, and how to shift it
Millions of dollars of government funding and internal budgets are being funnelled into cybersecurity to build resilience against sophisticated threats, indicating how serious this issue has become.
Story image
Phishing
KnowBe4 celebrates reaching 50,000 customers worldwide
KnowBe4 has reached the milestone of 50,000 customers, adding nearly 2,500 in the first quarter of 2022 alone.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
ForgeRock releases Autonomous Access solution powered by AI
ForgeRock has officially introduced ForgeRock Autonomous Access, a new solution that uses AI to prevent identity-based cyber attacks and fraud.
Story image
BeyondTrust
BeyondTrust integrates Password Safe solution with SailPoint
BeyondTrust has announced the integration of BeyondTrust Password Safe with SailPoint identity security offerings.
Story image
Ransomware
A third of companies paying ransom don’t recover data - report
Veeam's report finds 76% of businesses who are victims of cyberattacks paid the ransom to recover data, but a third were still unable to get their information back.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Noname Security partners with Netpoleon to target API issues
Specialist API security firm Noname Security has appointed Netpoleon as its distributor in Australia and New Zealand.
Story image
Cybersecurity
CyberArk launches $30M investment fund to advance security
CyberArk has announced the launch of CyberArk Ventures, a $30 million global investment fund dedicated to advancing the next generation of security disruptors.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Hard numbers: Why ambiguity in cybersecurity no longer adds up
As cybersecurity costs and risks continue to escalate, CEOs continue to struggle with what their investment in cyber protection buys. Getting rid of ambiguity becomes necessary.
Story image
ChildFund
ChildFund launches new campaign to protect children online
ChildFund says WEB Safe & Wise aims to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse online while also empowering them to become digitally savvy. 
Story image
Ransomware
Alarming surge in Conti Ransomware Group activity - report
A new report has identified a 7.6 per cent increase in the number of vulnerabilities tied to ransomware in Q1 2022.
Story image
trust
9/10 Aussies to stop spending if personal data compromised
"Based on the patterns we are seeing among Australian consumers, it is evident that trust in a brand is exceptionally important."
Story image
Phishing
Google reveals new safety and security measures for users
Google's new measures include automatic two step verification, virtual cards and making it easier to remove contact information on Google Search results.
Story image
Digital Transformation
How to modernise legacy apps without compromising security
At a time when digital transformation has become central to business, even the most important applications come with a ‘use-by’ date.
Story image
Digital Transformation
Physical security systems guide the hybrid workplace to new heights
Organisations are reviewing how data gathered from their physical security systems can optimise, protect and enhance their business operations in unique ways.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Managed service providers: effective scoping to avoid costly vendor pitfalls
Managed security services are outsourced services focusing on the security and resilience of business networks.
Story image
SaaS
Rubrik Security Cloud marks 'next frontier' in cybersecurity
"The next frontier in cybersecurity pairs the investments in infrastructure security with data security giving companies security from the point of data."
Story image
SaaS
Absolute Software expands Secure Access product offering
Absolute Software is enhancing its Secure Access product portfolio, enabling minimised risk exposure and optimised user experiences in the hybrid working environment.
Story image
Data Protection
Barracuda launches new capabilities for API Protection
"Every business needs this type of critical protection against API vulnerabilities and automated bot attacks," Barracuda says.
Story image
Remote Working
Australia’s remote workers face connectivity and security issues
SOTI's new report finds better video conferencing technology and improved security measures are top concerns for remote workers in Australia.
Story image
Cybersecurity
A10 Networks finds over 15 million DDoS weapons in 2021
A10 Networks notes that in the 2H 2021 reporting period, its security research team tracked more than 15.4 million Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) weapons.
Story image
VPN
Palo Alto Networks says ZTNA 1.0 not secure enough
Palo Alto Networks is urging the industry to move to Zero Trust Network Access 2.0 because previous versions have major gaps in security protection.
Story image
Remote Working
How zero trust and SD-WANs can support productive remote working
The way people connect with applications and data has changed, users are remotely accessing resources that could be stored anywhere from a corporate data center to the cloud.
Story image
Application Security
What are the DDoS attack trend predictions for 2022?
Mitigation and recovery are vital to ensuring brand reputation remains solid in the face of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack and that business growth and innovation can continue.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
AI-based email security platform Abnormal Security valued at $4B
"A new breed of cybersecurity solutions that leverage AI is required to change the game and stop the rising threat of sophisticated and targeted email attacks."
Story image
Nozomi Networks
Nozomi Networks, Siemens reveal software integration
Nozomi Networks and Siemens have extended their partnership by embedding Nozomi Networks’ software into the Siemens Scalance LPE local processing engine.
Story image
Apricorn
Data backup plans inadequate, data still at risk - study
The Apricorn 2022 Global IT Security Survey revealed that while the majority organisations have data backup plans in place, data for many are at risk.
Story image
Cybersecurity
The 'A-B-C' of effective application security
Software applications have been a key tool for businesses for decades, but the way they are designed and operated has changed during the past few years.
Story image
Malware
New vulnerabilities found in Nuspire’s Q1 2022 Threat Report
“Threat actors are quickly adjusting their tactics and these exploits tend to get industry attention, but the threat posed by older and attacks still persists."
Story image
Tech job moves
Tech job moves - Datacom, Micro Focus, SnapLogic and VMware
We round up all job appointments from May 6-12, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Ivanti
Ivanti and Lookout bring zero trust security to hybrid work
Ivanti and Lookout have joined forces to help organisations accelerate cloud adoption and mature their zero trust security posture in the everywhere workplace.
Story image
Supply chain
Jetstack promotes better security with supply chain toolkit
The web-based resource is designed to help organisations evaluate and plan the crucial steps they need to establish effective software supply chain security.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Updates from Google Workspace set to ease hybrid working troubles
Google Workspace has announced a variety of new features which will utilise Google AI capabilities to help make hybrid working situations more efficient and effective.
Story image
Ransomware
Cybersecurity starts with education
In 2021, 80% of Australian organisations responding to the Sophos State of Ransomware study reported being hit by ransomware. 
Story image
Cloud Security
Aqua Security createa unified scanner for cloud native security
“By integrating more cloud native scanning targets into Trivy, such as Kubernetes, we are simplifying cloud native security."
Story image
Customer experience
Gartner recognises Okta for abilities in Access Management
Okta has announced it has been recognised as a Customers' Choice for the fourth time in a row in the Gartner Peer Insights "Voice of the Customer" report.
Story image
Qualys
Qualys updates Cloud Platform solution with rapid remediation
The new update is designed to enable organisations to fix asset misconfigurations, patch OS and third-party applications, and deploy custom software.
Story image
Sift
Sift shares crucial advice for preventing serious ATO breaches
Are you or your business struggling with Account Takeover Fraud (ATO)? One of the latest ebooks from Sift can provide readers with the tools and expertise to help launch them into the new era of account security.
Story image
Cybersecurity
BlackBerry offers Kaspersky replacement cybersecurity for the channel
BlackBerry advises that users of Kaspersky software in Australia and New Zealand undertake a rigorous risk analysis of their current security posture.
Story image
Amazon Web Services / AWS
RedShield leverages AWS to scale cybersecurity services
"Working with AWS gives RedShield the ability to mitigate significant application layer DDoS attacks, helping leaders adopt best practices and security architectures."
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
How to ensure ethical deployment of AI implementations
The increase in automation and machine technology such as AI and machine learning has unlocked a whole new level of scale and service to organisations. 
Story image
Cybersecurity
Infoblox's State of Security Report spotlights Australian remote work hazards
Attackers exploit weak WiFi, remote endpoints, and the cloud, costing 50% of organisations over $1.3 million in breach damages.