Ransomware. It’s a top-of-mind topic in every organization today and rightfully so. Recent market studies indicate that a staggering 85% of organizations have experienced a ransomware attack. Why is this continually growing as an issue?
The Rise of Ransomware: A Growing Threat Landscape
Criminals today can fleece any organization in the world, with a relatively high chance of success and an astonishingly low chance of being caught. There is no physical danger involved, and all that’s required is a laptop and an internet connection.
2023 has seen a further increase in ransomware attacks, with successful attacks in March nearly doubling those in the previous April, and current levels at 1.6 times more than the peak of 2022.
The continuing rise of ransomware is driven by multiple factors, some of which include:
Improved targeting: whereas in the past, malicious actors would attempt to deploy ransomware to as many organizations as possible (the “spray-and-pray” approach), today they target specific organizations with more personalized attacks. This makes it more difficult to spot and prevent such attempts, and increases the chances of their success. Moreover, attackers have shifted from going after the largest – and best-protected – organizations, to one or two tiers below these, where there may not be as big a full-time security complement, and a ransomware attack would be much more devastating.
The human factor: the weak link when it comes to keeping ransomware out of an organization is often the human factor. Many ransomware attacks rely on social engineering to trick employees into giving up their credentials or allowing the deployment of ransomware in some other form. This continues to be a challenge and is a key reason why ransomware attacks continue to increase.
Malware automation: just as novel technologies can help protect against ransomware attacks, they can also be used to perpetrate these very attacks and evade existing security measures. With malware automation, there is a continuously “moving target” that makes it difficult for defensive products to detect and block.
Ransomware kits and Ransomware-as-a-service: we discuss these in more detail, but essentially ready-made “kits” containing everything needed to perpetrate a ransomware attack are readily available, and ransomware strikes can even be outsourced to affiliates who take a portion of the ransom.
How Ransomware Enters Cloud Environments
There are a number of ways that ransomware can enter cloud environments. Among these are:
Phishing attacks: phishing attacks primarily use email impersonation to get through human and technological defenses. They rely on users opening malicious attachments or clicking weaponized links, which opens the door to ransomware deployment. Once one user is compromised, attackers can infect the entire cloud environment.
Exploiting vulnerabilities: vulnerabilities can include unpatched software or misconfigurations, and these can be exploited to gain access to the cloud.
Compromised credentials: were an attacker to obtain an employee’s credentials, they would be able to access that employee’s cloud environment, and potentially move laterally and/or with increasing levels of access to access more and more of the organization’s cloud storage. These credentials can be obtained through phishing attacks, or even by brute-forcing passwords or using credential-stealing malware.
Compromising the supply chain: many cloud environments rely on third-parties to provide a range of services. If one of these is compromised, it can put the entire cloud at risk. For example, a software library can be compromised, allowing ransomware to make its way into the entire cloud environment.
Ransomware-as-a-Service increases the risk of a slow cloud attack
Ransomware used to be simpler. Unknowing recipients would click on a link in an email, and immediately everything on their network would get encrypted. Admins knew when the attack occurred and exactly from when they needed to restore data. Now, ransomware has become much more complex. Attackers can gain access to a network and sometimes wait weeks or even months before they decide to deploy their malware. The problem with this is that it can be challenging to know how far back you have to go to get a copy of your data before they have access to your system.
Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) increases the threat of a slow attack. This tactic uses out-of-the-box ransomware tools sold via subscription services to affiliates who execute the attacks. These affiliates earn a percentage from each successful ransom payment as a result of an attack. These threats continue to evolve, driven by the potential money they can make. Once these human-operated attacks occur, the attackers can make calculated decisions informed by the data available to them due to their infiltration. This method allows them to use varied attack patterns designed to make the most of their attack on the system.
The Ransomware-as-a-Service model allows more criminals, without the expertise, to pull off a ransomware attack. RaaS lets them employ ransomware and then let someone else manage it.
So is there any hope in fighting against these attacks? One of the keys to providing ransomware protection is keeping clean copies of your data to ensure they are protected.
How do you stop ransomware cloud attacks?
To prevent ransomware attacks, you need ransomware attack protection for detection and remediation. It is essential to detect the attack early and discover which files are affected. Ransomware detection uses automation and malware analysis to find malicious files. Remediation allows you to neutralize the attack and instantly roll back your files to a secure version.
Traditional distributed file system architectures are highly susceptible to ransomware attacks since the files are sitting on a share that is accessible to the network. Once launched, it becomes effortless for the attacker to know all file locations. One of the keys to ransomware protection is the need for cyber resilient file services that maintain an immutable copy of your files that you can use to restore them in case of an attack. According to Gartner, by 2025, 40% of enterprises will require their storage products to have integrated ransomware defense mechanisms.
To protect their files, organizations also need to consider backing up to the cloud to have both logical and physical separation, but that’s not enough. Backup and recovery tools are starting to support immutable backups in the cloud to have a safe, persistent copy. When looking at backup options, CIOs need to keep a sharp eye on hidden costs because oftentimes there are both storage and costs of data egress.
One method to help manage data more efficiently is to move your authoritative copy of the data from the edge to the cloud, and by doing so, improve your organization’s cyber resiliency and become less susceptible to ransomware attacks. Combining this with edge caching techniques allows you to meet performance requirements and control cloud egress cost, ensuring minimal retrieval of data from the cloud (especially when using a block level, compressed, globally de-duplicated transfer). Making use of enterprise file services can significantly boost your organization’s resilience when it comes to ransomware attacks.
Impact of Ransomware Attacks on Cloud Services
- Successful ransomware attacks can have a significant impact on cloud services. These consequences include:
- Data loss: cloud systems can become inaccessible, and key data can become lost or corrupted.
- Disruption: employees or customers may be unable to access cloud services.
- Financial consequences: for service providers specifically this can include loss of customers, legal action, long-term reputational damage, and the cost of a ransomware payment itself – not to mention recovery costs.
- Compliance issues: ransomware and other data-related breaches trigger a number of regulatory elements, especially in terms of reporting the incident and mitigating its effects as quickly as possible.
CTERA solution: ransomware attack protection for your file storage
With the increasing number of ransomware attacks on corporate networks, it becomes imperative to build a cyber-resilient infrastructure for ransomware protection. Traditional file storage devices are vulnerable to ransomware attacks and are easy targets for someone using Ransomware-as-a-Service. This is especially true as more data is generated out at the edge of networks.
For a complete risk management strategy, check out CTERA’s Ransomware Solution sheet.
Ransomware attack prevention FAQs
How does ransomware protection work?
Leading ransomware protection solutions, such as that offered by CTERA, provide the ability to identify, block, and recover from ransomware attacks. With CTERA Ransom Protect, real-time AI sensors alert on behavioral anomalies, incident management provides evidence logging and forensics, and instant recovery allows granular rollback to safe snapshots from air-gapped immutable storage. What are some effective preventive measures for ransomware attack protection?
To effectively prevent successful ransomware attacks, organizations should:
- Ensure all patching is up-to-date
- Educate users, specifically when it comes to phishing attacks
- Use a global file system that incorporates ransomware protection and mitigation, including instant disaster recovery
How important is employee training in ransomware attack protection?
Employee training is critical when it comes to ransomware protection. In many instances, ransomware is first deployed by compromising an employee, usually using some form of social engineering. By educating employees on the dangers and methods used in ransomware attacks, organizations can improve their overall cybersecurity posture.
What role does data backup play in ransomware attack protection?
Ransomware’s success is predicated on the fact that the victim will be unable to access any of their information. By having effective backup in place, the attacker has much less leverage and the target company can continue functioning effectively.