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Cyber Security

Ransomware Reality is Biting, So How Do Businesses Bite Back?

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Written by Dave Russell, VP, Enterprise Strategy, Veeam

Ransomware attacks have bitten a gaping hole in the pockets of businesses that are having to pay extortionate ransoms in response to highly targeted attacks by sophisticated criminal organisations. The problem has only worsened with the onset of mass remote working. The extension of the office’s boundaries into online and remote locations has exposed severe vulnerabilities, and criminals are all too willing to take advantage.

Right now, a new ransomware attack will occur every 11 seconds. To put this in context, in the five minutes it takes you to read this article, 27 businesses will have been attacked by ransomware. The best piece of advice on ransomware is not to give in and pay. But despite the majority of businesses will pay the ransom that this attack demands. Many feel under extreme pressure to limit the damage of downtime caused by ransomware, and the quickest resolution is to pay up.

It’s not a surprise that so many have chosen to pay when they’re already grappling with the challenges and pressures of operating throughout the risky business terrain that COVID-19 has created. However, this is simply encouraging cyber-attackers to continue exploiting this lucrative illegal market, as is evident from the 600% uplift in attacks since COVID-19 first emerged.

On a positive note, businesses and governments have recognised that this can’t continue. Ransomware is now on the agenda of every boardroom and even made the cut for discussion at the G7, as well as numerous other diplomatic talks between global leaders. Now is the time to think about modern data protection and its future. And now is the time to bite ransomware back.

This is organised crime
It’s easy to forget that there’s a criminal behind the ransomware that makes itself at home within your business system. While it may once have been deemed something loitering on the web and only harmful if clicked on, many are starting to recognise the severe, complex, and targeted nature that ransomware really has. This is organised crime, and it works innovatively to infiltrate your business and your supply chain. It quite honestly poses a genuine threat to entire industries and communities.

So how can we start clamping down on the perpetrators behind this? The downside to such a connected and digital world means an attacker can operate in completely different areas of the world, making it difficult to prosecute using the same legal system your business is subject to. The reality is that a clampdown of this scale is going to require international cooperation and government action beyond anything we’ve seen in the cybersecurity sphere. And of course, this is going to take time, which, as you know, is something businesses don’t have when facing constant threats.

Therefore, while we wait for these political interventions to happen, businesses must be fully prepared for the ongoing onslaught of ransomware attacks, especially now they’re operating in remote locations. Previous cybersecurity measures won’t be enough, we have to adapt to the enemy by deploying modern data protection measures.

Think like a hacker
In the same way that a detective has to think like a criminal to solve a crime, the only way businesses will successfully protect themselves sufficiently from cyberattacks is to think like hackers. They’re relentless, hyper-aware, and stringent. Employers and employees must act the same to stop vulnerabilities from opening up.

Good digital hygiene must become second nature, as opposed to something practiced for a week following annual cybersecurity training, and forgotten about until the next one. Failure to patch software should create the same attention as failing to lock up the office overnight. Not having a disaster recovery plan is akin to skipping contents insurance. We can’t simply think about security in the physical space because the enemies are operating in the digital one.

Another important aspect is thinking about the hacker’s success rate. In many cases, they’ll spend all day attacking systems. They dedicate their time to evolve and innovate their attacks to overcome the security barriers that are holding them back. We need to anticipate they will eventually be able to do this, even if the best cybersecurity defences are in place. As we can see from the number of businesses paying ransoms, an attack can cause enough damage to push businesses into paying out rather than taking alternative routes.

It’s up to every organisation across every industry to invest in modern data protection practices to minimise the impact of ransomware attacks. Viewing attacks as an inevitability is the first step towards creating a more cyber-secure culture, with employees who are more educated and aware of ransomware. At the same time, businesses need to have the right safeguards in place to minimise disruption, including anti-virus software and firewalls, plus continuous backup and recovery to offer adequate insurance against the crippling effects of ransomware.

If the worst happens, and your systems are compromised, the business won’t collapse, and the attacker won’t get everything they want. The cybersecurity landscape may feel rocky right now, but there are steps we can and should take to better protect ourselves from the damages. It’s time to bite the ransomware hackers back.

Channel Talk

Entrust Signs Up CyberKnight as New Distributor for the Middle East Region

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Entrust has announced its new distribution partnership with CyberKnight to address compliance and simplify cyber threat management. In line with evolving regional compliance regulations and standards, Entrust’s new partnership with CyberKnight as its newest regional distributor will see the two companies jointly build solutions for the Middle East market that achieve the highest standards of cyber security.

Entrust and CyberKnight are strategically aligned on their security vision with a ‘Zero Trust’ philosophy at its core. With the aim of increasing access to the highest standards of security for Middle East customers, Entrust’s new partnership with CyberKnight will further enable the delivery of digital security solutions to customers, by tapping into CyberKnight’s local network to offer advice, education, expertise, and confidence.

“Digital transformation in the Middle East continues to evolve at a phenomenal pace, especially as the demands of the past two years called for a rapid implementation of cloud-based systems to manage the unprecedented shift to remote workforces,” said Scott Kemish, Global Vice President Channel Sales, Entrust. “In order to support local customers championing cloud adoption while meeting the requirements of local compliance regulations, as well as protecting themselves against an all-time-high of cybercrime, we have entered a stage of channel development that requires our channel distribution partners to stand up and make a difference; CyberKnight has all of the right attributes that we are looking for in the market.”

“Our partnership with CyberKnight further cements our commitment to the region, and we look forward to helping more customers transform their digital security in line with the requirements of this new age,” Scott continued. Over the last two years, the rapid adoption of cloud solutions to enable remote working resulted in an increase in cybercrime globally, as it provided cybercriminals more opportunities to target victims at home. Cybercrime is set to cost the global economy $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. And industry research reveals that, in the UAE, the average cost of remediating a ransomware attack is over $500,000.

“The pandemic has reminded us that cybercriminals are constantly fine-tuning their skills and techniques. If we do not help our customers do the same, then they will be playing catch-up,” said Avinash Advani, Founder & CEO of CyberKnight. “Our partnership with Entrust as our newest vendor will enable us to continue helping customers fill the existing gap between their digital transformation efforts, and their security posture by securing their digital ecosystems as well as supporting them with their zero-trust security journey. We are very excited about working with them to further support our local customers across the region.

Entrust’s certificate solutions, PKI, identity and access management, encryption key management and hardware security modules are available to local customers through the partnership. Later this year, Entrust will join CyberKnight’s annual roadshow, set to take place in November 2022.

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Cyber Security

The Rising Risk of Ransomware Attacks on Organisations and How to Mitigate it

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According to the 2022 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report, “ransomware volume increased 105% year over year and is up 232% since 2019.” With the risk of ransomware attacks continuing to rise, it’s crucial to shield your organization from these attacks to avoid unwanted financial fallout.

Ransomware attacks commonly target an organization’s file servers and databases using malicious code to encrypt files such as documents, images, and videos on the system. Ransomware can also be programmed to find vulnerabilities on the network and use these to spread to other systems in an organization. Ransomware attacks are typically executed through social engineering like widespread phishing attacks, but cybercriminals can also specifically target a certain entity, sometimes a popular one. These attacks have the potential to cripple an entire organization’s database.

Once encrypted by ransomware, files are almost impossible to retrieve without the decryption key. To get this key, the victim is demanded to pay a ransom—often millions of dollars—within a short timeframe, usually 24 to 48 hours. If the victim organization keeps a backup of its files, then it’ll be able to restore those files and avoid paying the ransom. If not, the organization often has no option but to pay the ransom.

However, if you fall victim to a ransomware attack, it’s strongly recommended that you don’t pay the ransom to regain access to your encrypted files. This is because you are relying on the integrity of a cybercriminal. The cybercriminal may not give you the decryption key after the transaction or, even worse, they may continue to target your organization and repeatedly demand higher ransoms now that they know you’re willing to pay.

In recent years, it has become much easier to develop ransomware, resulting in the continued rise in ransomware attacks. Cybercriminals can develop and execute a ransomware attack with readily available open-source code and with easy-to-use drag-and-drop platforms. It is also hard to track these cybercriminals because transactions involving ransomware are commonly made using cryptocurrency.

Ransomware attacks can result in exploitation and loss of your organization’s critical and confidential data. But there are steps you can take to prevent and mitigate these attacks.

Back-Up Your Data
Take regular backups of all your files and data; this way, even if your system is infected, you can erase the infected files and recover them using your backups. This cannot prevent a ransomware attack, but it can mitigate the risk of losing all your data.

Keep Your System and Software Up-to-Date
Maintain a healthy patching routine. This includes updating your software as soon as possible when patches for security vulnerabilities are released by vendors. To keep your device secure from ransomware attacks, use a security solution that can identify these attacks at their earliest stages and mitigate their impact.

Be Careful Where You Click
Beware of social engineering attacks and email scams, and avoid downloading files from untrusted sources as these can result in your system being exploited by malicious software like ransomware. What makes social engineering attacks so dangerous is that they take advantage of human error rather than system vulnerabilities.

Create Awareness Among Employees About Ransomware Attacks
Since human error is a major vector cybercriminal manipulate to carry out ransomware attacks, it is essential to educate and train employees on social engineering and email phishing attacks to effectively secure your organization against them.

ManageEngine’s security information and event management (SIEM) solutions protect your enterprise network from cyberattacks and insider threats. SIEM solutions collect and analyze the security data generated by your devices in real-time, alerting you about vulnerabilities, indicators of compromise, and any suspicious activity to help you mitigate the risk of ransomware attacks.

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Cyber Security

Ransomware Hit 59% of UAE Organizations Surveyed for Sophos’ Annual “State of Ransomware 2022”

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Sophos has released its annual international survey and review of real-world ransomware experiences in the State of Ransomware 2022. The report shows that 59% of UAE organizations surveyed were hit with ransomware in 2021, up from 38% in 2020.

The report summarizes the impact of ransomware on 5,600 mid-sized organizations in 31 countries across Europe, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, and Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. The main findings for the UAE in the State of Ransomware 2022 global survey, which covers ransomware incidents experienced during 2021, as well as related cyber insurance issues, include:

  • Many organizations rely on cyber insurance to help them recover from a ransomware attack – 85% of mid-sized organizations had cyber insurance that covers them in the event of a ransomware attack – and, in 100% of incidents, the insurer paid some or all the costs incurred.
  • Ninety-eight percent of those with cyber insurance said that their experience of getting it has changed over the last 12 months, with higher demands for cybersecurity measures, more complex or expensive policies, and fewer organizations offering insurance protection.

“The findings suggest we may have reached a peak in the evolutionary journey of ransomware, where attackers’ greed for ever higher ransom payments is colliding head-on with a hardening of the cyber insurance market as insurers increasingly seek to reduce their ransomware risk and exposure,” said Wisniewski. “In recent years, it has become increasingly easy for cybercriminals to deploy ransomware, with almost everything available as-a-service. Second, many cyber insurance providers have covered a wide range of ransomware recovery costs, including the ransom, likely contributing to ever higher ransom demands. However, the results indicate that cyber insurance is getting tougher and in the future ransomware victims may become less willing or less able to pay sky-high ransoms. Sadly, this is unlikely to reduce the overall risk of a ransomware attack. Ransomware attacks are not as resource intensive as some other, more hand-crafted cyberattacks, so any return is a return worth grabbing and cybercriminals will continue to go after the low hanging fruit.”

Sophos recommends the following best practices to help defend against ransomware and related cyberattacks:

  1. Install and maintain high-quality defenses across all points in the organization’s environment. Review security controls regularly and make sure they continue to meet the organization’s needs.
  2. Proactively hunt for threats to identify and stop adversaries before they can execute their attack – if the team lacks the time or skills to do this in house, outsource to a Managed Detection and Response (MDR) specialist.
  3. Harden the IT environment by searching for and closing key security gaps: unpatched devices, unprotected machines, open RDP ports, etc. Extended Detection and Response (XDR) solutions are ideal for this purpose.
  4. Prepare for the worst. Know what to do if a cyber incident occurs and keep the plan updated.
  5. Make backups, and practice restoring from them so that the organization can get back up and running as soon as possible, with minimum disruption.
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