2019’s Ransomware epidemic claims more victims

Ransomware has come back with a vengeance in 2019, with the news headlines filled with victims; the latest being the shipping and mailing giant Pitney Bowes.

The ransomware attack reportedly impacted a number of the business’ systems and disrupted some of its client services. Customers were unable to access the company’s online store or top up the credit on the company’s postage meter products. 

The latest of many

The attack on Pitney Bowes is just the latest in a recent string against high-profile businesses. Since the start of 2019 the aluminium maker Norsk Hydro, the drinks giant Arizona Beverages, science services company Eurofins and Finnish oil refiner Neste have all fallen victim to ransomware. In France, media company Groupe M6 was hit by an attack that forced it to shut down its servers and phone lines. The ransomware reportedly only caused mild disruption but TV station TF1 said via social media that it had stopped all email communication with Groupe M6 in case the ransomware spread. 


Not just big names falling victim

As well as big-name businesses, dozens of healthcare organisations in the USA, Australia and Europe were also forced to close down some of their operations as a result of ransomware. Over the last 10 months, 140 local governments, police stations and hospitals in the USA have been impacted by ransomware.

The situation in the USA has got so bad that the FBI recently issued a public service announcement entitled ‘High Impact Ransomware Attacks Threaten US Businesses and Organisations.’ 

The announcement warns – “Ransomware attacks are becoming more targeted, sophisticated, and costly, even as the overall frequency of attacks remains consistent. Since early 2018, the incidence of broad, indiscriminate ransomware campaigns has sharply declined, but the losses from ransomware attacks have increased significantly, according to complaints received by IC3 [the Internet Crime Complaint Centre] and FBI case information.”

In the UK, a report released by Databarracks showed that a third of UK organisations were victims to this type of an attack in the past year. The report also suggests that the number of ransomware attacks is back on the rise and seems to be targeting companies regardless of size or sector.

How to reduce the threat from Ransomware

There are a few ways you can reduce the risks posed by ransomware. These include:

  • Create and implement an incident response plan as this allows you to respond faster and more efficiently if the worst should happen. For more info click here 
  • Backup your data – Make sure you have online and offline copies of your most valuable data. That way if ransomware does encrypt your data disruption will be at a minimum.
  • Audit your systems – Assess your network and systems to find if any are out of date or legacy systems. Older versions of Windows such as XP no longer receive patch support, making them highly vulnerable to the latest strains of malware and ransomware. If such a device is vital to the running of your business, be sure to isolate it from the rest of the network and monitor it closely (or better yet replace it!).
  • Continuous awareness training – Humans are the weakest link in any organisation when it comes to cybersecurity. Using training programmes and services such as CybSafe continuously tests your staff on their cyber knowledge.
  • Implement a Patch management system – Having a system in place or using services such as CyberScore helps ensure that your systems are kept up to date with the latest security patches. You should also ensure that any third-party tools are also patched regularly.
  • Cyber Posture Assessments - They test your current defences, allowing an organisation to accurately budget towards those areas most at risk and allows them to see how potentially vulnerable they are to attacks. 

By doing the above you can reduce the ransomware threat, but one thing is certain, if 2019’s trend continues we could potentially see a record-breaking year for ransomware. 


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