‘Increasingly sophisticated ransomware attacks’ trigger joint alert from UK, US and Australia | Science and technology news
Cybersecurity experts from the UK, US and Australia are warning of a “growing wave of increasingly sophisticated ransomware attacks” that could have “devastating consequences”.
Chief executive officers and board members are strongly encouraged to understand the risks and “ensure their IT teams are taking the right actions to build resilience.”
KP Snacks confirmed last week that a ransomware attack was expected lead to shortages of several popular chip and nut brands on grocery shelves.
Last year, an attack on a key oil pipeline in the United States threatened transportation chaos at gas stations in the eastern states of America supplies began to run out.
WHAT IS RANSOMWARE?
Ransomware is a type of malware (malicious software) that attackers can place on a victim’s computer network to encrypt their files.
In modern ransomware attacks, criminals then blackmail the victim into paying huge sums of money, often in bitcoin and sometimes millions of pounds worth, in order to decrypt and regain access to their files.
But the criminal system involved – with skilled networks of individuals specialized in their respective roles – has developed a multi-faceted extortion model that involves stealing sensitive files and threatening to release them online if victims can recover their files from unencrypted backups , or simply refuse to pay.
If released, these files, which may relate to sensitive deals or contain customer information, could damage the affected company’s reputation, affect its stock price, or possibly even lead to a class action lawsuit, all possible effects the criminals emphasize are part of their extortion plan .
But as the UK’s National Cyber Security Center warns, “Even if you pay the ransom, there’s no guarantee you’ll gain access to your computer or files.”
Elevated, globalized ransomware threat
The joint assessment released by nations’ cybersecurity authorities says that trends show an increasing, globalized threat, although no figures were provided to contextualize this increase.
In particular, the guide warns that there is a growing commercial underground for criminals to buy hacking services, trade stolen data and blackmail victims in various ways.
The healthcare and critical infrastructure sectors are some of the riskiest areas for governments due to the immediate impact an attack could have on people’s security.
Lindy Cameron, chief executive of the UK National Cyber Security Center (NCSC), warned that ransomware is “an increasing global threat with potentially devastating consequences”.
The US National Security Agency’s director of cybersecurity, Rob Joyce, added: “When critical infrastructure is compromised by foreign hackers operating from a safe haven in an adversary country, it’s a national security issue.”
“The ransomware scourge is an important area of focus for the NSA as we gather insights with our partners. Network defenders should take mitigation measures in the recommendation,” he continued.
Mrs Cameron previously warned that the challenge ransomware gangs posed to law enforcement was “acute” as “the criminals responsible often operate beyond our borders and are increasingly successful in their efforts”.
“We expect ransomware will continue to be an attractive avenue for criminals as long as organizations remain vulnerable and keep paying,” she said at the time.
NCSC recently launched a ransomware hub to advise UK companies on how ransomware works, whether they should pay a ransom and how to prevent a successful attack.