The recent events relating to the ransomware attack suffered by the US fuel transportation company, Colonial Pipeline, have alerted the world to the dangers of cybercrime and how no organization is safe from such attacks.
Ransomware attacks are on the rise, and businesses worldwide need to understand how destructive they can be and how to protect themselves from suffering the same fate as Colonial Pipeline.
What is a Ransomware Attack?
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a victim’s files and locks them out of accessing these files. The hackers then demand ransom money, from either the individual or the organization, usually in the form of Bitcoins, in return for providing back access to their data or risk having their confidential data leaked to the public.
What Happened to Colonial Pipeline?
Colonial Pipeline became the victim of a ransomware attack after their computer systems were hacked into and locked by the notorious hacker group known as DarkSide. The
The company was responsible for transporting 2.5 million barrels of fuel shipments per day, and their pipelines stretched 5500 miles, so it was no surprise that the ransomware attack resulted in a nationwide panic that caused a spike in retail gasoline prices.
Colonial was then forced to pay a ransom, which amounted to nearly $5 million, in cryptocurrency to regain access to their services. The company was forced to take a portion of its operations offline in order to contain the threat. Colonial’s services resumed on 12th May, but the damage had been done.
How Common Are Ransomware Attacks?
Ransomware attacks surged during lockdown for two reasons:
- Most companies were preoccupied with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and thinking up strategies to reduce losses which left them vulnerable to cyberattacks.
- An increase in online operations for businesses after COVID-19 resulted in people not being able or willing to go to offices most of the time.
The FBI stated that since the pandemic arrived, threat actors have doubled down on their operations, resulting in a 300 % increase in cybercrimes over the last year. On average, organizations are paying off $233,217 in ransom to hackers. Microsoft estimated that between April and May 2020, 20,000-30,000 cyber attacks were seen per day in the US alone.
The most common targets of ransomware attacks have been hospitals and healthcare providers, as their prominence in fighting COVID-19 and saving lives has led to them being the most vulnerable. A bulletin has been issued by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services, warning healthcare organizations to be prepared for the threat and how to protect themselves from one.
What Can Businesses Do About Ransomware Attacks?
Despite the threat of ransomware attacks being at an all-time high, companies have learned quite a bit from recent attacks.
Firms are now more aware of the threat of cyberattacks. Even smaller businesses have suffered significant losses, which leave them unable to continue operations, due to which more and more companies are willing to invest significantly in their cybersecurity services.
Cyberattacks can be thwarted in the future to ensure little to no damages come to organizations, but only if vigilance is observed and proper steps are taken by companies to safeguard their cybersecurity.