A report from Palo Alto Networks’ Unit 42 found that data theft extortion occurred in 70% of ransomware attacks in 2022, compared to 40% in 2021. The researchers examined the four most common methods of cyber extortion (encryption, data theft, harassment, and DDoS attacks) noting that threat actors often combine these tactics within a single attack campaign.
“Often, the threat of disclosure of sensitive data is what coerces organizations to pay the ransom,” the researchers write. “Such leaks can cause reputational damage, loss of confidence from consumers and partners, and potential fines and sanctions from regulators and authorities—none of which can be prevented by backups. We’ve also seen incidents in which organizations decided not to pay ransom because they had strong backups, but the threat actors followed up with harassment campaigns so intense that the resulting costs exceeded the ransom demanded.”
Unit 42 says organizations need to have a comprehensive strategy to prepare for these types of attacks, including providing employee training.
“During an active extortion incident, rapid support from your incident response partner and outside legal counsel is critical,” the researchers write. “From a mitigation perspective, having a comprehensive incident response plan with corresponding crisis communication protocols will greatly reduce uncertainty. It’s important to know which stakeholders should be involved, and the process to make decisions promptly (e.g., whether or not to pay, or who is authorized to approve payments).
The crisis communication plan should also cover what to do (or avoid doing) in the event that employees or clients are being harassed. Ransomware harassment awareness training should be delivered to an organization’s staff to equip them with tools and processes to follow during an active harassment incident.”
Many ransomware and extortion attacks begin with phishing or other social engineering techniques. New-school security awareness training can enable your employees to thwart these attacks.
Unit 42 has the story.