2021 has been a record-breaking year for cybercrime. By the end of the year, cybercrime is expected to cost the world around $6 trillion. Ransomware attacks on high-profile targets are becoming more common and severe, drawing international attention. Ransomware attacks on Colonial Pipeline, JBS Foods, and other major companies made headlines in 2021. Hackers worldwide are abusing security flaws and detaining company, government, and healthcare data, making demands for tens of millions of dollars in payment.
Security teams and enterprise-level CISOs are hungry for new techniques and technologies to help them navigate this complex landscape. Security leaders across the globe are keeping a close eye on this year’s record-breaking attacks and attempting to predict the next one.
Defining Ransomware – Causes & Threats:
According to a definition provided by the US government’s CISA, ransomware can be defined as an “ever-evolving form of malware” designed for file encryption on a device, ultimately making it unusable. Ransomware attackers threaten to sell confidential data or leak exfiltrated data if their demands are not met. In short, hackers penetrate through weak security spots to steal sensitive data. They only hand over the data once their financial demands have been satisfied.
Many hackers take advantage of the turmoil and disorder during times of crisis, looking for potential monetary gain. According to the Harvard Business Review, companies’ payments to hackers increased by 300 percent in 2020. The dramatic spike in remote work and inadequate security protections at home provided the ideal opportunity for hacker groups to breach sensitive data.
With the emergence of the COVID-19 crisis in 2020, there has been an increase in focus on cyberattacks, especially in healthcare environments. As per a Comparitech study, ransomware attacks had a considerable financial impact on the healthcare industry, with over $20 billion lost in revenue, lawsuits, and ransom paid in 2020 alone. Over the year, 92 ransomware attacks impacted over 600 hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare organizations.
It is evident from the number of instances that hackers have taken full advantage of the pandemic crisis. In 2021 alone, there have been many high-profile cyber attacks worldwide, causing huge monetary losses. Here are some of the biggest ransomware attacks making headlines in the year.
What were the Scariest Cyberattacks of 2021?
So far, the Colonial Pipeline attack is the most infamous of 2021. DarkSide, a Russian hacking group, admitted responsibility for the incident which targeted SCADA systems that link operational systems to conventional IT networks that are internet-connected.
The Colonial Pipeline attack had such a large impact because the pipeline is a critical component of the national key infrastructure system. The shutdown of the system disrupted fuel supplies all along the United States East Coast, causing chaos and panic.
Brenntag is a chemical distribution company based in Germany that operates in 77 countries. DarkSide aimed at the North American division earlier this year, intercepting data and devices on the vulnerable network and embezzling 150 GB of data. DarkSide demanded $7.5 million in bitcoin as ransom.
Brenntag eventually gave in to the claims and paid $4.4 million. Despite being slightly more than half of the original demand, it remains one of the highest ransomware reimbursements in history.
In May, a high-profile ransomware attack targeted JBS Foods, one of the world’s largest meat processing companies. REvil, a Russia-based hacking group, is believed to be behind the attack.
It was confirmed on June 10 that JSB paid the $11 million ransom demand after consulting with cybersecurity experts. This massive bitcoin compensation is one of the biggest ransomware payments in history.
In March, another large insurance company was hit by a ransomware attack. The hacker team Evil Corp is allegedly behind the attack, which employs a new type of malware known as Phoenix CryptoLocker. On March 21, CNA’s network was struck, and the hacker group encrypted 15,000 devices, along with many computers used by employees working remotely.
It is abundantly clear when looking at the year’s attacks is that the cybersecurity solutions available today are insufficient to overcome disruptive ransomware attacks. Many of this year’s victims had endpoint security measures, advanced anti-virus solutions, and other safeguards in place, but they still became victims.
Best Possible Ways to Prevent Cyberattacks:
With criminal organizations deploying attractive hacking platforms, we need to identify loopholes and bring effective solutions to prevent them. The only solution is for the organizations to stay ahead of the vulnerabilities and determine a bold yet proactive solution.
Solutions like Privileged Access Management or User Behavior Analytics can give you a head start. A PAM solution’s proactive approach will help your technology function properly. It also ensures security, vivacity, and flexibility, saving you time and money.
Even when best security practices are followed, ransomware attackers frequently exploit weaknesses in complex systems where access vulnerabilities are exposed as the scale of the system.
A solid PAM solution automatically discovers and imports privileged accounts as the organization changes and grows by utilizing various connectors. Similarly, UBA can also detect and prevent ransomware threats.
Things to Look Forward in 2022:
So, what can we expect in 2022? Global organizations have adopted more stringent governance standards and advanced security solutions to combat increasingly complex cyber threats. As a prominent leader in next-generation IT security solutions, ARCON analyzes the 2022 forecast that will define the development of cybersecurity.
- Surge in Hybrid Work Environments
WFA has become the norm in recent months. Organizations are facing the need to adopt a two-pronged IT security policy, with stringent requirements in both remote and on-premises work environments. Organizations must work on access control policies at the infrastructure level, where there must be rule- and role-based access to critical systems and applications.
- Added Investment in IT Security
Cybercriminals see the healthcare industry as a gold mine for manipulating and misusing personally identifiable information. The more that people seek medical attention, the more data about patients is generated and stored in applications and databases. Higher risks are expected in 2022, and every healthcare organization must conduct regular vulnerability assessments to mitigate cyber risks.
- Enhanced Cloud Security
Cloud computing provides a plethora of services that accelerate IT innovation and the development of services and applications. Nonetheless, cloud environments always pose greater security risks due to lax access controls to cloud resources. Hence, security professionals must look for scalable solutions that have comprehensive capabilities.
- Adoption of AI in Cybersecurity
With the adoption of e-commerce rising, machine learning to combat fraud must become more prevalent. This will help online retailers keep up with fraudster tactics, detect patterns that manual checks may miss, and analyze historical data and compare it to current transactions.
In the post-pandemic era, every sector has witnessed dramatic changes in the IT security environment. As we approach 2022, the number of cyberattack instances and projections indicate that appropriate security measures are necessary for every MNC and SME.
Amidst changing times, organizations will need to reorient their overall cybersecurity strategy. With ARCON, detect invisible threats and ensure security always. We wish you a happy 2022!