Access and Feeds

Security: Extortion by Ransomware Cases Expected to Increase

By Dick Weisinger

Ransomware.  It’s a new type of malware/cyber attack that has recently been in the news and which is causing serious damage to some organizations.  While encryption is typically used defensively to hide and secure information, ransomware offensively applies encryption to data stored on a computer, making it unreadable to the owners of the data.  The owner are then forced to pay  a ransom before being able to regain access to their data. Attackers typically demand payment in bitcoin because it can’t be traced. This kind of cyber attack basically turns the use of encryption on its head.

According to the FBI, in 2015 there were 2453 reported cases of ransomware incidents and payments of move than $24 million were made to regain data.

The solution to ransomware is to maintain good backups of data and to frequently monitor network activity.  But backups should be on external disks are stored remotely or else they may end up being attacked as well as the live data.

Mac McMillan, CEO of CynegisTek , said that “organizations with a good defense-in-depth strategy, advanced detection capabilities and solid response and contingency plans will fare far better when attacked. Make no mistake about it. Protecting information assets is a business issue and organizations that don’t recognize this will pay for it.”

Brian Spector, CEO of MIRACL, said that “public institutions like hospitals are a key target for hackers because they hold such a treasure trove of personal data. In the US, the potential bounty is even larger, due to the additional layer of financial transactions taking place.”

Travis Smith, senior security researcher at Tripwire, said that “since most ransomware samples we have seen have a time limit to pay, it’s important to have confidence that you can restore the majority of data on short notice. Organizations should focus on improving backup and restoration procedures to reduce the cost of restoring data and services after a potential breach.”

Chris Stangl, a section chief at the FBI’s Cyber Division, said that ransomware cases are “a prevalent, increasing threat, [but] the only reason why these campaigns are successful is because people pay.”


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