Anatomy of a Breach: Inside a Ransomware Attack

Ransomware attacks are on the rise, and businesses are paying the price. What really happens when an organization faces such an attack? And why do some business leaders choose to pay the ransom? How can your company avoid being next? In the latest episode of TechPulse, we take you inside the world of ransomware in “Anatomy of a Breach: Go Inside a Ransomware Attack.” 

What is a ransomware attack?

Ransomware, a type of malware, frequently grabs headlines. Attackers use ransomware to encrypt or lock data in the hopes of causing financial losses and operational disruptions, then demand ransom payments for decryption keys.

Why ransomware attacks are on the rise

Ransomware attacks are spiking because of the accessibility of ransomware code on the dark web. Previously, executing such attacks required significant technical expertise. Today, anyone can purchase ready-to-use ransomware tools and deploy them in minutes. This accessibility has lowered the barrier to entry for cybercriminals, leading to a proliferation of attacks. 

Incidence of ransomware attacks

Per the 2023 FBI Internet Crime Report, ransomware attacks increased by 18% from 2022 to 2023, with reported losses rising 74%, from $34.3 million to $59.6 million. Also, per the report, “the FBI has observed emerging ransomware trends, such as the deployment of multiple ransomware variants against the same victim and the use of data-destruction tactics to increase pressure on victims to negotiate.” 

Ransomware attacks, by critical infrastructure sector 

In 2023, each of the sixteen critical infrastructure sectors were affected by ransomware attacks, with the reality that these figures are underreported, as many attacks go unreported to law enforcement. 

Source: FBI Internet Crime Report 2023 

The role of cyber liability insurance in ransom payments

Contrary to popular belief, businesses often do not negotiate ransom payments directly. Instead, cyber insurance companies step in to assess the situation. These companies conduct a risk assessment to determine whether paying the ransom is more cost-effective than rebuilding the affected systems. 

UnitedHealth recently made headlines by paying a $22 million ransom. The decision was driven by the assessment that rebuilding their systems and enduring prolonged downtime would be more expensive and disruptive. 

“The decision to pay a ransom… was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.” 

— UnitedHealth Group CEO Andrew Witty 

The business model behind ransomware

Ransomware has evolved into a sophisticated business. Cybercriminals infiltrate systems, exfiltrate data, and leave detailed instructions for their victims. These instructions often include timelines and tiered pricing to incentivize quick payment. This business-like approach underscores the need for robust cybersecurity measures. 

Stop an attack before it starts

To avoid falling victim to ransomware attacks, businesses must invest in solid cybersecurity programs. Here are some key steps to consider: 

  • Implement comprehensive cybersecurity measures. Ensure your organization has robust security tools and protocols in place to defend against potential threats. 
  • Invest in cyber insurance. A good cybersecurity insurance policy can provide crucial support during an attack, including risk assessments and negotiations. 
  • Develop and test an incident response plan. Having a well-defined and practiced incident response plan is essential. Your team should be prepared to act swiftly and efficiently in the event of a breach. 

Watch the full episode

To gain deeper insights into the anatomy of a ransomware attack and how to mitigate the risks, watch our latest TechPulse episode: “Anatomy of a Breach: Inside a Ransomware Attack.” Watch now:

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