Ransomware: The Biggest Cyber Threat In 2021

Criminal hiding behind a mask turns up on computer screen asking the owner for money. Concept of phishing and ransomware, where the computer has all files on the hard drive encrypted and the victims need to pay a ransom in order to get their files unlocked.

Written by: Jay H.

Ask anyone what the most notable story was for 2020, and they will likely tell you it was the coronavirus global pandemic. However, a massive digital transformation also took place, with cybercrime rates spiking to all-time highs. Cybercriminals directed ransomware attacks at sensitive industries such as health care, education, and government institutes. Unfortunately, these attacks show no sign of slowing down this year. According to Wired, ransomware is the biggest cyber threat of 2021.

What Is Ransomware?

Ransomware involves cybercriminals distributing malware that encrypts and blocks access to a user’s data. Then, the attackers force the victim to pay a ransom for the data’s release – or else threaten to delete it forever. A growing variant of ransomware is extortionware, in which the perpetrators threaten to publish the information publically if the fee isn’t paid. Considering that the global cost associated with ransomware is expected to surpass $20 billion this year, it is no surprise that the number of attacks is only increasing.

Ransomware in 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the world, hackers quickly got to work to exploit the chaos for personal gain. When lockdowns and panic began in March, coronavirus-related email scams surged 667 percent! Cybercriminals indeed had a heyday as they took advantage of the widespread chaos. Attackers bombarded health centres, schools, and governments looking to exploit them for significant ransoms. According to antivirus firm Emsisoft, the average requested fee has increased from around $5,000 in 2018 to $200,000 in 2020.

Supporting these attacks is a sophisticated underground ransomware economy. Cybercriminals can buy ransomware vectors on the darknet and provide “support services like stolen credentials or even consulting time with network access specialists.” The ransomware black market is booming, and as malware distributors become more and more readily available, the number of attacks will only increase.

Best Ransomware Defences

Ransomware is the biggest cyber threat in 2021 that organizations need to combat. To minimize the risk and impact of ransomware, implement the following cyber hygiene practices:

  • Educate your employees. Cybercriminals don’t just exploit weaknesses in technology – they also target unaware employees. Educate your organization on ransomware and the standard methods cybercriminals use to distribute malware, such as email phishing.
  • Install antivirus software to detect malware. We recommend Malwarebytes.
  • Back up your files frequently and store them offline. Also, encrypt and password-protect your backups.
  • Update software to patch security holes and gain new features.
  • Create and maintain a disaster recovery plan (DRP) that includes details on what to do in case of ransomware attacks.
  • Hire a credible MSP such as Design2Web to handle your IT security needs.

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