As cyber thieves discover new tactics to make cyberattacks more effective and boost their chances of successfully demanding a ransom payment, ransomware operations are becoming more complex.
Europol, the European law enforcement organization, states that ransom payments increased by 300 percent between 2019 and 2020. That doesn’t account 2021, which will be another golden year for cybercriminals launching ransomware attacks, as they exploit security flaws created by the surge in remote working.
As cybercrime continues to grow, ransomware attacks have caused substantial disruption over the past year, according to Europol’s Internet Organized Crime Threat Assessment (IOCT). Several high-profile events in which cyber thieves attacked supply chains, vital infrastructure, hospitals, and other targets have demonstrated the devastation that a successful ransomware attack can cause.
Cyber thieves have grown more hands-on with campaigns, which is one of the reasons ransomware operations have become more effective. Instead of spreading ransomware widely in the hopes that some attacks would succeed, cybercriminals target a smaller number of people who can pay a ransom.
The ransomware gangs Conti, Maze, Avaddon, and Babuk are among those who use these techniques. The emphasis on a smaller number of targets also allows cyber thieves to devote more time to planning attacks to be as disruptive as possible, such as acquiring more login credentials to move about the network and encrypting as many files and servers as feasible. The more encrypted data there is, the more likely a victim will have to pay the ransom.
Furthermore, if the ransom is not paid, cyber hackers will take data and threaten to publicize it. The use of double extortion operations against organizations that don’t want critical information made public has proven effective. According to the publication, some ransomware operations have begun to threaten victims with more interruption via DDoS attacks if they do not pay the ransom.
While ransomware and other forms of cybercrime continue to be a major concern for businesses, there have been some triumphs in the previous year. The report explains how a multinational effort comprising Europol, the FBI, and others helped shut down the Emotet botnet, stopping cybercriminals from exploiting it as a launchpad for ransomware strikes — even if they eventually switched to other ways of distribution.