The Impact of Ransomware Cyberattacks on Large Companies
Ransomware attacks on large companies are spiking at an alarming rate, and it’s high time relevant stakeholders fully implemented the necessary cybersecurity measures. It is worrying that a month barely passes by without the news of a big company falling victim to a cyberattack hitting the headlines.
The latest ransomware attack targeted JBS SA – the world’s largest meat processing company. This led to massive production disruption across the globe, with a Russian criminal organization believed to be the masterminds behind the attack. Before that, other large companies like Molson Moors, Campari Group, and Colonial Pipeline also registered devastating ransomware attacks on their systems.
This is a clear indication that more and more large corporations risk suffering a ransomware attack unless they act proactively to implement preventive measures – that you’ll discover below. The big question is, are you ready to ward off cyber threat actors should they come without notice? This article takes a deeper dive at:
- The impacts of ransomware attacks
- How ransomware attacks have become more sophisticated
- What to do in case of a ransomware attack
- How to prevent ransomware attacks
So let’s dive right in!
The Impacts of Ransomware Attacks on Companies
A ransomware attack can impact the company’s reputation, finances, workforce, valuation, and operations. Let’s explain further:
Impact on Finances
After the attackers block your entry into the system or encrypt your sensitive data, they usually demand a particular ransom in exchange for the decryption key. Failing to provide the ransom within a specified period may result in your confidential information getting posted on the dark web, sold to your competitors, or used to hack other systems. In essence, the ransom demanded usually extends to tens of millions of dollars, leaving a substantial financial burden on your organization.
Impact on Reputation
Trust and consumer credibility takes lots of time to build but can be lost instantly following a cyberattack. More so, if your organization handles personal consumer information (PCI) like email addresses, account names, social security, and IP addresses, you may suffer huge reputational damage. And it may be hard for consumers to trust you with their data again.
Impact on Operations
A ransomware attack may cause massive production or productivity disruptions as it takes time and money to recover data, acquire and install new software and hardware infrastructure, etc. Besides, it’s in the company’s best interests to temporarily shut down the system to prevent further attacks.
Impact on Valuation
Besides the financial loss (ransom) that you’re likely to incur, your equity shares may also take the downward trend, decreasing your valuation if you’re a publicly-traded company. This is further enabled by the reputational damage you’ve already suffered before the public.
Impact on the Workforce
You may have no choice but to lay off some of your staff following a cyberattack to ease the financial burden and rebuild.
How Ransomware Attacks Have Become More Sophisticated
Times have changed – and so has threat actors’ approach towards ransomware attack execution. Previously, it was as straightforward as deploying malware on the company’s systems by sending phishing emails to unsuspecting employees and hoping to open it and click on the link attached. Thus, the perpetrators would encrypt the company’s servers and demand a hefty ransom (to be paid via Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency) in exchange for the decryption key.
But that’s an orthodox trick that ransomware attackers are no longer banking on – at least not solely. Today, the tactic has changed, and the perpetrators are focusing more on exfiltrating sensitive company information. And not only that; instead of acting solo, threat actors have formed different organized criminal organizations to launch their attacks in a more planned manner.
Before targeting a company, they study its financial standings, the industry it belongs to, and techniques for exploiting it optimally. Besides encrypting the company’s servers (and sometimes targeting even the backup systems), the threat actors investigate in advance the company files to exfiltrate as large data amounts as possible.
The criminals then play the “pay up or else” card on your company, slapping you with an extortion demand. So it’s either you pay them the ransom in cryptocurrency (it’s anonymous and untraceable) or risk having your company’s confidential information, including intellectual property and consumer/staff data, posted on the dark web.
What to do in case of a Ransomware Attack
There are clear-cut systematic actions to take after a ransomware attack or any other cyber extortion act. These include:
1. Enact Your Incident Response Plan
Cisco defines an incident response plan as “a set of instructions to help IT staff detect, respond to, and recover from network security incidents.” part of the plan should be to notify the C-level executives and the legal department about the situation. Getting the company lawyer involved from the start guarantees that the investigation is protected through attorney-client privilege, reducing the risk of being sued later on in the event of a data breach.
2. Alert Your Insurance Carrier
Cyber insurance is a vital coverage in this era of rampant cyberattacks, and it’s paramount that you acquire the policy if you don’t have one already. You should alert your insurer after an attack to determine whether the incident is covered under your existing cyber insurance policy. Plus, if you’re considering paying a ransom, you should communicate your thoughts to the insurer before contacting the threat actors.
3. Decide on Whether to Pay a Ransom
Below are some questions to help the company’s senior management deliberate and decide whether paying the ransom is a wise idea:
- How much do you have in insurance money?
- How sensitive is the exfiltrated information?
- Does the company have backups to the exfiltrated information?
- Does the cost of paying the ransom exceed the cost of refusing to cooperate with the criminals?
- Do you have (or can access) the decryption keys?
4. File a Report with the FBI
If you have substantial indicators of compromise (IOCs) and the attack is too severe to cause a significant shakedown in your company, you can file an online with the FBI to aid with the investigations. Hopefully, this can lead to the threat actors being brought to justice and indicted for their offenses.
How to Reduce the Risk of a Ransomware Attack
Here are some actionable tactics and best practices to avoid becoming a victim of a ransomware attack or any other cyber extortion act:
- Ensure to enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) in all your company accounts to add an extra security layer and block unauthorized users from accessing your system.
- Ensure to have backup systems and test them often to confirm they’re functioning optimally. You also want to verify that they’re segregated from other company systems.
- Assess your vendors’ cybersecurity programs and protocols to check whether they’re prepared to thwart an attempt on their systems.
- Identify and keep track of high-risk employees, i.e., those with administrative rights to your systems – they may help engineer an insider attack.
- Create a communication channel on a secure messaging app where the senior management can keep in touch if the attacker compromises the company’s email system.
- Partner with a reliable cybersecurity solution expert like Teamspring to offer your employees security awareness training and a phishing simulation test. This educates the staff on detecting malicious emails and dealing with threat actors who may attempt to dupe them.
Teamspring is Your No.1 Cybersecurity Solutions Partner!
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We offer a wide range of proactive cybersecurity services, including but not limited to security assessment, 24/7 systems monitoring, security awareness training, regulatory compliance, intrusion detection & prevention, dark web monitoring, and many more. So don’t get left behind! Schedule a FREE consultation with one of our experts for a comprehensive assessment of your cybersecurity readiness.