The virtual working environments of many employees during the pandemic have exposed numerous companies’ vulnerabilities to the threat of ransomware. As more and more companies operate remotely, the number of threat actors targeting these businesses will continue to rise. Unsecure systems and unsuspecting employees are vulnerable to ransomware attacks. In fact, during the first half of this year, ransomware attacks increased by nearly 900%. Overall, 2020 has been a cybersecurity pandemic all its own, with a 72% increase in ransomware growth due to COVID-19.
Ransomware attacks were on the rise long before the pandemic. Over the last two years, ransomware attacks have risen by 200% – they are becoming more frequent, more expensive, and more sophisticated. This issue is anticipated to continue throughout 2021 and why businesses must be proactive to manage threats and other actionable steps to mitigate any damage.
Advice for What to Do About the Ever-Evolving Cryptocurrency Ransomware Threat
Ransomware strikes at the heart of a company’s daily operations, forcing leaders to experience loss of business during and after an attack. Taking proactive steps to protect your company from cryptocurrency ransomware attacks will not only safeguard your sensitive data, finances, and operations; it will also defend your organization’s reputation. That is why you must carefully consider the following tips when dealing with cryptocurrency ransomware.
1. Educate employees and yourself about ransomware.
You need to have a comprehensive cybersecurity training program in place to educate your team about online threats (phishing schemes, etc.) and cybercrimes. The best way to avoid a ransomware attack is to inform employees and increase awareness. Teams need to understand what ransomware is, its potential negative impact on the business, and what they can do to prevent it. As you develop such a training program, you need to regularly update it with the latest developments and trends in the industry since ransomware is continuously evolving.
Paying the ransom during an attack should be a last-resort option. If a ransomware attack happens to you, consider hiring a reputable cyber incident response company with a substantial technical background to investigate the crime and figure out how to resolve the attack before paying the ransom. Keep in mind that the best defense is a proactive approach. Preparing yourself with initial consultations from expert cyber incident firms before a ransomware attack will help you determine vulnerabilities within your company.
2. Enlist the support of a cyber incident response team and keep their services separate from a cryptocurrency ransomware settlement provider.
When your company is forced to pay a ransomware settlement, preventing conflicts of interest is often overlooked. If you experience a ransomware incident, immediately hire a reputable cyber incident response firm to analyze the situation and determine whether there is a way to avoid paying the ransom. If your incident response firm decides there is no way to avoid paying the ransom, hire a separate ransomware settlement provider to acquire the necessary cryptocurrency. A ransomware settlement provider is a firm whose sole responsibility is to acquire cryptocurrency on the behalf of their client.
If you hire one company to handle the initial response as well as the final settlement, you run the risk of your incident response firm withholding potential cost-free solutions in an attempt to drive up their final commission by using their own settlement services. A distinct separation of the two consultants and their functions (response and settlement) will ensure there are no conflicts of interest in dealing with your ransomware problem. Although you're hiring a separate settlement provider, your cyber incident response team is an excellent resource for experienced settlement providers that they’ve worked with previously.
3. If necessary, find a credible partner to help with cyber ransom settlement.
If paying the ransom is the only way to remedy the situation, it is essential to select an experienced and credible ransomware settlement provider. Fast, frequent, and substantial cryptocurrency transactions are seen as suspicious by financial institutions and regulatory organizations. If you set off any red-flags with these unusual and exorbitant transactions, you might have an entirely different problem on your hands. That is why it is crucial to find the right provider for the ransomware settlement. Overall, your ransomware settlement partner must:
- Have strong relationships with financial organizations that deal in cryptocurrency - If your cyber settlement partner does not conduct cryptocurrency transactions regularly with financial institutions that focus on such transactions, then you are faced with the same problem you would have if you were trying to settle the ransom yourself: setting off red-flags. Look for a cyber settlement financial services firm with established relationships with institutions and exchanges that regularly handle cryptocurrency transactions.
- Be transparent - Your settlement partner needs to have an extensive history of exhaustively documenting every cryptocurrency transaction. Not only does this avoid possible red-flags, but it also provides proof of every action taken to settle the ransomware attack should they require further investigation by the legal and regulatory authorities.
- Possess considerable Anti-Money Laundering (AML) background and stringent compliance programs - The cyber settlement partner should comply with all the appropriate regulatory bodies and guidelines. This includes:
- Anti-Money Laundering (AML)
- Bank Secrecy Act (BSA)
- Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)
- Other federal and state regulatory guidelines
Your settlement provider should have programs in place to keep them in compliance with all these regulations. Due to the nature of cryptocurrency, if the financial transactions you conduct to settle the ransom do not comply with the rules and regulations, you might be viewed the same way as the hackers themselves.
The Takeaway: Ransomware Will Only Continue to Get Worse, So Prepare Yourself
Unfortunately, the rise in ransomware attacks will continue to boom in 2021. The truth is that this upcoming year is going to be equally challenging, if not more difficult, for companies of all sizes in terms of cybersecurity. That is why business leaders need to take actionable steps now. Connect with cybersecurity and incident response organizations to learn how you can proactively secure your data and educate your employees on cyber-attacks. You must be prepared for a continued and persistent onslaught of cryptocurrency ransomware attacks, a threat that is evolving to become even more dangerous and expensive.