The Real World Of Cybersecurity Threats

The growing threat of ransomware attacks is astonishing, with experts estimating that an incident occurs every 11 seconds in 2021. The tactics leveraged by cyber threat actors have evolved massively, as they’re now more aggressive and hostile in their attacks.

For instance, criminals now take advantage of every successful ransomware attack to further their malicious expeditions to your business partners, clients, suppliers, etc. That is, besides exploiting your company, they also take control of your entire network infrastructure and use your resources to target your customers and other companies you’re in business with.

And the worst part? These criminals operate in groups of well-structured, well-funded, well-informed, and at times, State-funded cartels. Thus, they have an untouchable status from law enforcement, making it challenging to run investigations after an incident, especially if they’re based overseas.

In this section, we’ll look at the newest strains of ransomware attacks causing a real-world threat to corporations, government agencies and local businesses. We’ll also provide actionable tips and best practices for preventing these attacks. So let’s get down to business!

Newest Ransomware Tricks to Watch Out For

Ransomware threat actors have graduated from the old-school trick of targeting several random organizations and seeing what happens. Today, hackers have become more sophisticated and informed in the sense that they first conduct a 2-3 week reconnaissance to get their facts right before launching an attack against your organization. And that boils down to the fact that these criminal organizations are adequately funded, well-structured, and insulated by their respective Governments, as we mentioned above.

Let us now look at some of the most recent and dangerous ransomware tricks that have been discovered:

DarkSide

DarkSide is a new ransomware strain that first came into light in August 2020. Here’s a quick summary for a clearer understanding of this attack:

  • It’s orchestrated by a group of former ransomware campaign affiliates.
  • The group targets to encrypt your most sensitive data using the Salsa20 and RSA-1024 file encryption algorithm through Ransomware-as-a-Service, RaaS.
  • Threat actors only target English-speaking countries while avoiding the former Soviet nations.
  • They DO NOT target government institutions, hospitals, non-profit organizations, universities, schools, or hospices.
  • Ransom demand from known successful hits ranges from $200,000 to $2,000,000.
  • The attack was responsible for the shutdown of Colonial Pipeline – the largest fuel pipeline company in the U.S. – with the attackers raking a whopping $4.4 million in ransom.

Conti

Conti is also a new ransomware variant that first appeared in May 2020. Attacks by this tactic are incredibly damaging, thanks to the speed at which they spread from one system or organization to another. Essentially, Conti threat actors use a double-extortion tactic to encrypt data from an infected machine. Here’s how it goes down:

  • The attackers send phishing emails that seem to come from the victim’s trusted contact.
  • The email has a Google Drive link that contains a document with a payload.
  • If the victim falls for the trick and downloads the document, they will have introduced the Bazar backdoor malware on their device.
  • This malware connects the victim’s device to the Conti attackers’ command-and-control server.
  • Thus, the attackers encrypt data on an infected machine and use a double-extortion tactic to demand ransom from the victims in exchange for the decryption keys in the first part of the extortion.
  • In the second part, the attackers disclose a small portion of the encrypted data and threaten to release more if you don’t pay a ransom.
  • And the worst part? Conti leverages a multithreading technique, meaning the attack spreads super-fast once the criminals succeed in infecting one network, making it challenging to contain.

N/B: That’s just the tip of the iceberg; there are several new generation ransomware attacks such as Netwalker and REvil, which we’ll discuss comprehensively in a standalone post. But for now, let’s switch focus to ways of preventing these real-world threats.

Tips to Prevent Real-World Ransomware Threats

Let’s face it; at this rate, ransomware will only get a more devastating problem with the lapse of time. One of the significant issues slowing down the fight against cyber threats is the colossal talent shortage currently being experienced. With over 3.5 million open cybersecurity positions, and large companies “poaching” the limited talents available, we indeed have a long way to go.

Thankfully for small and mid-size businesses that can’t afford to hire permanent cybersecurity personnel, reliable MSSPs like Virtual IT have come out to provide on-demand and customizable cybersecurity services at a budget. All the same, here are some actionable cyber threat prevention tips that you can implement in your organization:

  • Ensure to have a Chief Information Security Officer, CISO

For government institutions and large corporations, hiring a full-time CISO that reports directly to the CEO and has veto power over the CIO is a MUST. However, if you’re a small and mid-size business, you don’t have to stretch that far, as it can hurt your finances. Instead of hiring a permanent CISO whose monthly salaries are unimaginable, you can simply partner with a top-quality MSSP to access the same, if not better, cybersecurity services on a budget.

  • Ensure to have a Workload Security Solution for Your Cloud Environment

There’s a common misconception that your security posture skyrockets automatically once you migrate your workload to the cloud. But nothing could be far from the truth. There’s no guarantee that your public cloud provider will 100% protect your data from other tenants who may be ill-intended. The bottom line is, you need cloud workload protection to effectively secure your cloud infrastructure like VMs, serverless functionalities, containers, databases, etc., and every piece of workload hosted on them.

Of course, there are several other well-known strategies you can implement to prevent ransomware and other cybersecurity threats. These include:

  • Backing up data in the cloud
  • Segmenting your network
  • Conducting cyber threat hunting
  • Exposing your employees through security awareness training
  • Implementing multi-factor authentication, MFA
  • Regularly updating software and network security systems
  • Implementing a password management solution
  • Investing in endpoint protection solutions like advanced firewalls, access control, port control, etc.
  • Integrating endpoint protection solutions with network security for better visibility

Virtual IT is Your Go-To Cybersecurity Solutions Partner!

If you’re a small and mid-size enterprise that uses IT in your day-to-day processes, protecting your sensitive data from the prying eyes of cybercriminals is a MUST! Unfortunately, cyber threat actors are targeting more and more SMEs because they’ve realized that most of them lack solid cybersecurity solutions and thus are highly vulnerable.

We’re here to change the narrative! At Virtual IT, we understand that your business may not have the luxury of resources to set up a data center, let alone hire a full-time CISO. And that’s where we come into play by providing the necessary expertise and resources to manage your IT infrastructure as you focus on more business-centric responsibilities.

So contact us today, and let us lift the cybersecurity vulnerability weight off your shoulders.

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