How Ransomware Has Changed to Make Prevention the Top Priority

Every year, ransomware evolves to become a greater threat to the security of organizations. In 2020, ransomware attacks grew by 150%, and are growing even faster in 2021, and with costs to repair the damage they cause in the millions of dollars, many organizations are desperate for solutions. Rather than paying the ransom, or losing precious time and resources trying to recover lost data, prevention has become far more important than recovery when it comes to ransomware. Even if an organization is able to get all their encrypted files returned through paying the hacker or using a backup, ransomware comes at a heavy cost that exceeds just the financial aspect. If an organization is the victim of a ransomware attack, hackers may release private data to the world like credit cards, private emails, etc.

Once the ransomware has successfully encrypted the stolen files, the organization is already in a crisis, and even strong recovery tools can only go so far—but with stronger authentication controls, security teams can win in the fight against ransomware.

Effects of Ransomware

The effects of ransomware can linger like a dark cloud over organizations for years to come. Some of these effects include:

  • Financial loss: The average demand from hackers is around $220,000, but even if the ransom is paid, the recovery costs can be nearly $2 million.
  • Loss of company data: only around 8% of organizations get their data back after a ransomware attack, and that’s IF they pay.
  • Reputational damage: while stock prices typically do recover (eventually) after a security incident, that doesn’t exempt stakeholders from feeling wary in the future.
  • Lateral movement: once an attacker has gotten a system stronghold, they can easily bypass restrictions, and grant themselves access to other applications and sensitive information.
  • Downtime: not only will downtime of systems cause financial loss, but also internal and external distress, frustration, and become a massive operational undertaking to correct.

Adequate prevention has become more crucial than ever before to stop these attacks before they have a chance to take hold.

Ransomware Attack Methods Over the Years

Since the first ransomware attack in 1989, the methods hackers use to infiltrate your systems have changed, but the effect remains the same: to paralyze organizations until they surrender to the adversary. The first ransomware attacks were as simple as malware installed from a floppy disk and came with speedy solutions, but by the 2010s, blockers rose in popularity in the hacker community. Attackers shifted from personal attacks to corporations, realizing that they could extort larger financial sums from frantic businesses than frustrated individuals. As ransomware became more prolific and a greater threat to organizational security, so did the hackers’ financial demands—the average cost for a ransomware attack is now nearing $2 million for organizations that pay.

One of the most popular methods of ransomware attack is through the use of Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). RDP is a legitimate service that allows users to remotely connect to and control a remote system, such as when you have an IT problem that requires assistance, but if left exposed, can wreak havoc on your network. If RDP is exposed on your device or cloud instance, or if connected to the internet. RDP accounts for more than 32% of overall security issues across more than 50 global organizations, making it a huge liability to all corporations if left vulnerable.

Ransomware is no longer about damage control after the attack has transpired, but from stopping it before it has begun.The rise in popularity of ransomware as a service (RaaS) has proven to also escalate the frequency and damage of ransomware attacks. With RaaS subscription models, hackers don’t need technical skills in order to execute ransomware attacks, and with that low barrier to entry, any organization is susceptible. Additionally, while hackers in the past have used the model of holding data hostage until the organization paid up, the new threat is releasing sensitive data, like credit cards, private emails, etc. Prevention is more essential than ever before, because hackers aren’t just encrypting data now, they’re keeping it on standby for release.

Old Methods of Preventing Ransomware Attacks

While organizations understand that the way we stop ransomware has changed, many still employ outdated, ineffective methods of preventing it, such as:

  • The human element: regardless of your security trainings, the figures speak for themselves—more than 88% of ransomware attacks are rooted in human error
  • Anti-phishing software: while anti-phishing software can typically identify and quarantine threats, it doesn’t catch them all, or even many
  • Changing passwords: we know that passwords are fundamentally insecure, so regardless of how many times you change them, the risk remains the same

While these methods may provide some level of protection from adversaries, the best solution to stopping ransomware attacks is preventing them in the first place through strong authentication.

Why Prevention is Key

As Benjamin Franklin once famously said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Passwords are the number one cause of ransomware attacks and other data breaches, and stolen credentials result in 85% of all cyberattacks. With passwordless MFA, ransomware and other password-based attacks are stopped in their tracks. With no passwords, there are no credentials to steal remotely.

Passwordless authentication also prevents lateral movement between applications and systems from hackers. By completely eliminating passwords, hackers are unable to move throughout your applications by way of using the same credentials they have stolen. By verifying identity at every login attempt, it is much more difficult to break into your crown jewels.

Beyond Identity provides secure authentication without adding friction for users, and by eliminating passwords, leaves no credentials for malicious threat actors to steal completely from the directory. Beyond Identity verifies users and identities using the same cryptography tools that TLS uses to secure trillions of dollars of transactions daily. It’s time that every organization remembers the one ransomware prevention tip that actually works… get rid of passwords once and for all.



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