IT Brief New Zealand logo
Technology news for New Zealand's largest enterprises
Story image

Ransomware attacks surging as ransom amounts skyrocket

By Shannon Williams
Thu 19 Aug 2021

Ransomware attacks have surged in 2021, with the number of attacks increasing dramatically and ransom amounts continuing to skyrocket.

That's according to new research from Barracuda, who has released its third-annual threat research report on ransomware that looks at ransomware attack patterns that occurred between August 2020 and July 2021.  

The report found that cybercriminals are also expanding their targets, shifting their focus to critical infrastructure and evolving into deep-rooted software supply chain attack campaigns, which can cause long-lasting devastation.

The grim outlook for the future of ransomware leaves no one spared from financial damage or brand-crushing headlines. Ransomware criminals are penetrating the foundation of the digital economy, from trusted software vendors to IT service providers.  Many of these attacks are being led by a handful of high-profile ransomware gangs.

Barracuda's analysis of ransomware attacks that occurred between August 2020 and July 2021 showed that REvil accounted for 19% of attacks, and DarkSide is known to be the cause of 8%. 

Indeed, criminals have recently refined their tactics to create a double extortion scheme. They base their ransom demands on research they perform ahead of the attack. They steal sensitive data from their victims and demand payment in exchange for a promise to not publish or sell the data to other criminals. 

Since criminals cannot be trusted, victims who pay are often contacted several months later and asked for another payment to keep the stolen data secret. Some ransomware criminals will accept payment but sell the data anyway.

A closer look at ransomware trends  

Barracuda researchers identified and analysed 121 ransomware incidents that occurred between August 2020 and July 2021, and saw a 64% increase in attacks, year over year. Cybercriminals are still heavily targeting municipalities, health care, and education, but attacks on other businesses are surging.

Attacks on corporations, such as infrastructure, travel, financial services, and other businesses, made up 57% of all ransomware attacks between August 2020 and July 2021, up from just 18% in our 2020 study.

Infrastructure-related businesses account for 10% of all the attacks we studied. In fact, ransomware attacks are quickly evolving to target software supply chains, which reach more businesses in a single attempt.

The ransom amount is increasing dramatically and now the average ransom ask per incident is over 10 million dollars. 8% of the incidents had a ransom ask less than US $10 million, and 14% of the incidents had a ransom ask greater than US $30 million.

Ransomware attacks are becoming pervasive across the globe. Just under half (44%) of the attacks in the past 12 months hit U.S organisations.  In comparison, 30% of the incidents happened in EMEA, 11% were in Asia Pacific countries, 10% were in South America, and 8% were in Canada and Mexico.

Exploiting application vulnerabilities in ransomware attacks
Ransomware attack patterns are evolving as well. Instead of simply relying on malicious links and attachments to deliver ransomware, cybercriminals are levelling up their tactics. First, attackers will find ways to steal credentials through phishing attacks, and then they will use the stolen credentials to challenge the web applications used by the victim. Once the application has been compromised, the attacker can introduce ransomware and other malware into the system. This can go on to infect your network as well as users of your application.

It is important to note that web applications have many forms, including those enabling users to work from home. A web portal for a segment of your IT infrastructure is just as dangerous as a full-blown SaaS application. On multiple occasions in the past year, attackers exploited an application vulnerability to gain control of the application infrastructure and eventually target the most valuable data to encrypt.

Since the wider adoption of cryptocurrency, Barracuda has also seen a correlation of increased ransomware attacks and higher ransom amounts. With increased crackdown on bitcoin and successful tracing of transactions, criminals are starting to provide alternative payments methods, such as the REvil ransomware gang asking for Monero instead of bitcoin.

However, Barracuda also saw multiple instances of victims reducing ransom payments by deploying negotiation tactics. JBS negotiated a $22.5 million ransom payment down to $11 million, and Brenntag, a chemical distributor in Germany, negotiated a $7.5 million ransom demand down to $4.4 million. The initial ransom ask may not be the final ask, so if theyre planning to pay, it is important for ransomware victims to exercise negotiation options. The outcome can be savings in the millions. 

Barracuda is also seeing more organisations refusing to pay the ransom, and that is likely driving up the initial ransom ask. This trend is also followed by more collaboration with the authorities and ransom negotiators. The FBI have recently uncovered the bitcoin wallets of DarkSide and were able to recover some of the ransom payments, and authorities have disrupted payments to the affiliates of the ransomware group. 

These are encouraging signs in the fight against these cyberattacks. Beyond legal action, Barracuda has also seen the White House speaking directly to world leaders and demanding tough actions against harbouring cyber criminals. Given the high-profile, high-impact nature of recent attacks, particularly attacks against critical infrastructure, the U.S. government is no longer just sending warnings. It is ready to take serious actions even against nation states if there is clear evidence of accomplice or negligence in policing cybercriminals.

How to protect against ransomware
The first step in taking on ransomware is assuming that you will be victimised - it's just a matter of when. The next thing you need to do is to set a goal of not paying the ransom. With the goal set, you then need to implement at least the following three procedures to achieve that goal.

1. Do everything you can to prevent credential loss. Implement anti-phishing capabilities in email and other collaboration tools, and consistently train your users for email security awareness. 
2. Secure your applications and access. Besides using MFA, you should also implement web application security for all your SaaS applications and infrastructure access points. Application vulnerabilities are often hidden in the application code or underlying application infrastructure; therefore, you must protect your applications from the OWASP Top 10 threats. If you have API interactions in your application, you should also make sure you are covered for OWASP API Security Top 10. Along with application protection, try to reduce the amount of access you provide to your users wherever you can. If you can, narrow down to the least amount of access your users need to be productive. Its best to implement Zero Trust Access based on endpoint security postures. 
3. Back up your data. Stay current with a secure data protection solution that can identify your critical data assets and implement disaster and recovery capabilities. That way you can be confident about saying no to ransomware criminals. 
 

As cybercriminals are working towards bigger paydays in the future, the security industry needs to continue to create solutions that are easily consumable for companies of all sizes. Attackers often start with small organisations that are connected to the larger targets and then work their way up.
 

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Amazon Web Services / AWS
Zscaler, AWS accelerate onramp to the cloud with zero trust
Zscaler has announced an extension to its relationship with Amazon Web Services, as well as innovations built on Zscaler's Zero Trust architecture.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Aqua Security, CIS create software supply chain security guide
Aqua Securityand the Center for Internet Security have together released the industry’s first formal guidelines for software supply chain security.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Threat actors ramp up their social engineering attacks
As people get better at identifying potential threats in their inbox, threat actors must evolve their methods. Their new M.O? Social engineering.
Story image
Commerce Commission
ComCom puts electronics sector on notice over resale price maintenance
The Commerce Commission has concluded an investigation into allegations that television manufacturers were engaging in illegal resale price maintenance.
Story image
Healthcare
Workday winning on culture and family focus
This family-first approach sees all employees receive access to family-wide private healthcare cover, as well as income protection and life insurance policies.
Story image
B2B
Corpay partners with supply chain platform PracBiz Exchange
Corpay's new partnership with PracBiz’s allows more than 4000 B2B suppliers on the latter's platform to use Corpay's global payments services.
Story image
SaaS
Sealord partners with Infor to improve sustainability
Sealord has chosen Infor as a strategic partner to implement an operational cloud-based platform that provides day-one functionality and sustainability gains.
Story image
Shouta
The rise of digital gifting in the workplace
The name itself does most of the explaining; it’s a gift you receive virtually. But a misconception about digital gifts is that they need to be redeemed virtually as well. 
Story image
Collaboration
IT and security team collaboration crucial to data security
Many IT and security decision makers are not collaborating as effectively as possible to address growing cyber threats.
Story image
Manufacturing
Sternum joins NXP, collaborates on IoT security and observability
Sternum has announced it has joined the software partner community of NXP Semiconductors, a manufacturer of and large marketplace for embedded controllers.
Story image
Disaster Recovery
Eaton provides business continuity with disaster avoidance application
Many SMBs often struggle with problems relating to UPS and IT assets due to the sheer amount of time and resources required to run effectively. 
Story image
F5 Networks
Telstra, F5 team up to bolster services and solutions
“This partnership demonstrates our ongoing investment into APAC as we continue delivering high value services and solutions to our partners and customers."
Story image
Infrastructure
Lenovo announces launch of Retail Solutions portfolio in A/NZ
Lenovo has announced the launch of its Lenovo Retail Solutions portfolio across the A/NZ region, which they say will help retailers transform their business and face future retail demands.
Story image
Secure access service edge / SASE
Cloudflare adds new capabilities to zero trust SASE platform
New features for Cloudflare One include email security protection, data loss prevention tools, cloud access security broker, and private network discovery.
Story image
Hybrid workforce
Why hybrid working is here to stay and how to ace it
Citrix's new report reveals hybrid workers are more productive and engaged at work than their office and completely remote counterparts.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Why is NZ lagging behind the world in cybersecurity?
A recent report by TUANZ has revealed that we are ranked 56th in the world when it comes to cybersecurity - a look into why we're so behind and what needs to be done.
Story image
Microsoft
Volpara, Microsoft project to detect cardiovascular issues
Volpara Health Technologies is working with Microsoft on a research and development project to speed up creating a product that detects and quantifies breast arterial calcifications (BACs).
Story image
Government
Cyclone selected as NZ MOE software licensing partner
Following a recent Request for Proposal (RFP), Christchurch-based company Cyclone Computer Company Ltd (Cyclone) has been selected as The Ministry of Education’s software licensing partner.
Story image
Entelar
How TruSens air purifiers can create healthier workspaces
The pandemic has heightened our awareness of our own and others’ health, and made us all much more conscious of the environments we work in.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Significant security concerns resulting from open source software ubiquity
"The risk is real, and the industry must work closely together in order to move away from poor open source or software supply chain security practices."
Story image
API
Industry-first comprehensive risk-based API security enhances protection
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have become a crucial part of operating web and mobile application businesses and are causing significant economic growth in the digital sector.
Story image
Robotic Process Automation / RPA
rapidMATION helps Coates achieve success with landmark RPA solution
A strong Robotic Process Automation solution (RPA) can help solve many complex issues that businesses face daily. 
Story image
Orbital Insight
Orbital Insight solution set to drive better data-driven decisions
The company says the new Site Intelligence solution will provide granular visibility, behaviour analytics and deep insights about customers and competitors at any location. 
Story image
eInvoicing
Airwallex, Xero extend partnership with easier invoice payments
Airwallex has extended its long-term partnership with Xero by releasing a new payment link integration for Xero invoices that will make receiving them easier and faster for Australian businesses.
Story image
Infrastructure
VMware wins Google Cloud partner award for infrastructure modernisation
The cloud computing and virtualisation company was recognised for its achievements as part of the Google Cloud ecosystem.
Story image
Network Security
Netskope announces zero trust network access updates
Customers can now apply zero trust principles across a range of hybrid work security needs, including SaaS, IaaS, private applications, and endpoint devices.
Story image
trust
Consumers want personalisation, but don't trust brands with their data
Customers expect personalisation during every brand interaction but they don't trust brands to keep their personal data secure and to use it responsibly. 
Story image
Apple
Jamf updates healthcare IT to protect data on Apple devices
Jamf has rolled out new functionality to help healthcare and IT teams protect patient data and streamline clinical access for their Apple fleet.
Story image
Market growth
Salesforce unveils new offerings for consumer goods companies
Salesforce has announced new products for consumer goods companies to help brands navigate increasing market complexity more easily.
Story image
N4L
N4L, Spark, Chorus partner for Hyperfibre school upgrade
Networks for Learning (N4L) has partnered with Spark and Chorus to upgrade Wellington College to Hyperfibre, fostering stronger outcomes for students and teachers.
Story image
INTERPOL
Hundreds arrested, millions seized in global INTERPOL investigation
A two-month-long investigation by INTERPOL this year involved 76 countries and clamped down on organised crime groups behind telecommunications and social engineering scams.
Story image
Data
How a single mandate changed software development forever
There’s conjecture about exactly when it was issued and by whom, but a mandate made twenty years ago is continuing to shape the software development process today.
Story image
Open source
DataStax secures US$115 million to fund database expansion
DataStax has secured US$115 million in funding, which it will use to develop and expand its Astra DB multi-cloud database and Astra Streaming service globally.
Story image
PagerDuty
Ready for anything with the PagerDuty Operations Cloud
In a world of digital everything, teams face increasing complexity. Ever-growing dependencies across systems and processes put customer and employee experience, not to mention revenue, at risk.
Story image
Digital Transformation
Apptio adds portfolio enhancements to promote digital strategy
"While digitalisation creates opportunities, it also makes budgeting far more complex, leading many companies to waste substantial funds."
Story image
Cybersecurity
Greater API usage raises concerns for protection - report
Radware has released its 2022 State of API Security report, which shows a rise in APIs, with 92% of the organisations surveyed significantly or somewhat increasing their usage.
Story image
Dark web
Cybercrime in Aotearoa: How does New Zealand law define it?
‘Cybercrime’ is a term we hear all the time, but what exactly is it, and how does New Zealand define it in legal terms?
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Salesforce harnesses automated solutions with new developments
Salesforce has launched Sales Cloud Unlimited, a new feature to help accelerate productivity with AI and automation.
Story image
CRM
Microsoft launches app for modern selling experience
The new release is designed to enhance CRM systems with customer engagement data from Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams.
Story image
Citrix
The best ways to attract young talent during labour shortages
New research from Citrix reveals hybrid working and ventures into the metaverse are top of mind for Gen Z workers.
Story image
Electricity
Canstar finds Flick Electric NZ’s favourite provider
Canstar’s annual research to find New Zealand’s favourite electricity provider reveals Flick Electric has come out on top.
Story image
DNS
DigiCert acquires DNS Made Easy and affiliated brands
Greg Clark comments, says, "This combination enhances the security of certificate validation and enables the automation of future validations."
Story image
Training
Employers look to hire inexperienced coders due to skills shortage
"Even inexperienced workers without prior qualifications or experience had managed to pivot to new roles in coding as long as they are willing to upskill."
Story image
Testing
Video: 10 Minute IT Jams - An update from Tricentis
Tricentis provides software testing automation, and software quality assurance products for enterprise software.