On May 12, 2017, the largest ransomware epidemic in history, WannaCry, reached its peak. Three years later, this and other ransomware threats are still affecting people and companies. A recent Kaspersky research has revealed that in 2019, WannaCry kept its position at the top of the most prevalent ransomware families, while almost a third (30%) of those targeted by ransomware were corporate users.
On May 12, 2020, Kaspersky and Interpol urged organizations to think about backing up their data and adopting relevant protection so that they could avoid any potential ransomware siege and a catastrophe similar to WannaCry doesn’t happen again.
Ransomware has become a big challenge for many organizations. Even though this is not the most advanced threat from a technical perspective, it allows threat actors to disrupt business operations and extort money. As a result of a ransomware incident, organizations lost on average $1.46 million in 2019 which included costs for downtime, fines, and reputational damage.
The WannaCry attack became the most noticeable of its kind, spreading with the help of an advanced cyber-weapon, EternalBlue, which is a complex and effective exploit used to target the unpatched vulnerability in Windows. As a result, WannaCry caused a real worldwide cyber-epidemic.
However, there is little reason to give up as protection from ransomware is possible through feasible security measures.
“Since the outbreak of WannaCry, cybercriminals have diversified their attack vectors to launch ransomware attacks. Their focus and attacks have become more targeted and moved to businesses, governmental, and healthcare organizations where the information is critical, so as to demand a higher ransom. Hospitals were the most vulnerable amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as those attacked have lost access to critical medical equipment and patient information. Interpol Global Cybercrime Programme has supported those victim organizations to recover from the attacks and prevent any further damages, “ said Craig Jones, director, Interpol Cybercrime Directorate
According to Kaspersky’s research, a total of 767,907 users were attacked by encryptors in 2019 with almost a third of them (30%) being in businesses. Of all the encryption families, WannaCry still was the most common – in 2019, it attacked 164,433 users and accounted for 21% of all detected attacks. With a significant margin, it was followed by other families such as GandCrab (11%) and Stop (4%). The first one is a well-known ransomware-as-a-service, developed by a team of criminals and rented to the broader community and has been distributed for years. The Stop ransomware campaign is also a well-known threat spread through compromised software and websites, as well as adware.
“Now, we are working closely with our member countries and private partners, including Kaspersky, to raise public awareness for the mitigation and prevention of cyberthreats by running a global awareness campaign during May 2020. The campaign, which encourages the public to keep good cyber hygiene and to #WashYourCyberHands, focuses on ransomware this week to support Anti-Ransomware Day,” Jones said.
“The WannaCry epidemic, which saw companies lose millions because of downtime or costs related to reputational damage, demonstrated what can happen if ransomware happens on such a large scale. The threat remains relevant today, as there will be users out there who still may not know much about it and can become a victim. The good news is that the right security approach and relevant measures can make ransomware yet another non-critical threat. And we would like Anti-Ransomware Day on May 12 to become the day when businesses and users globally no longer face challenges with ransomware,” said Sergey Martsynkyan, head of B2B Product Marketing, Kaspersky.
To help businesses stay protected from ransomware, experts suggest that organizations should take the following anti-ransomware measures as soon as possible:
• Explain to employees how following simple rules can help a company avoid ransomware incidents. Dedicated training courses can help, such as the ones provided in the Kaspersky Automated Security Awareness Platform.
• Always have fresh back-up copies of your files so you can replace them in case they are lost (e.g. due to malware or a broken device) and store them not only on the physical object but also in cloud storage for greater reliability. Make sure you can quickly access them in an emergency when needed.
• It is essential to install all security updates as soon as they become available. Always update your operating system and software to eliminate recent vulnerabilities.
• Try the free Kaspersky Anti-Ransomware Tool for Business. Its recently updated version contains an exploit prevention feature to prevent ransomware and other threats from exploiting vulnerabilities in software and applications. It is also helpful for customers that use Windows 7: with the end of support of Windows 7, new vulnerabilities in this system won’t be patched by the developer.
• If a corporate device is encrypted, remember that ransomware is a criminal offense. You shouldn’t pay the ransom the attacks demand. If you become a victim, report it to your local law enforcement agency. Try to find a decryptor on the internet first – some of them are available for free here.