Risks of Ransomware: Prevention Is the Best Medicine

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Ransomware illustration
Image by macrovector on Freepik

The numbers of vulnerabilities available to attackers have exploded as companies increasingly depend on web applications to do business and interact with customers. As a result, ransomware attacks increasingly focus on compromised credentials, code vulnerabilities, and phishing to access private data. Often, these attacks are successful, frequently costing companies millions of dollars in ransom costs, lost business, and victim compensation.

To avoid becoming a victim of ransomware, preventative measures are essential. Because many web applications are built on code that is available to attackers, it’s important to use a WAF solution that can monitor traffic and block suspicious activity as necessary. Web Application and API Protection (WAAP) and Runtime application self-protection (RASP) solutions can work with the WAF to further bolster your security, reducing your risk of a crippling ransomware attack. It’s also worth noting that ransomware attacks on cloud storage are becoming increasingly common, and cloud data protection is necessary in order to respond appropriately to these threats.

Ransomware is a Leading Threat

The trouble with the increasing numbers of public-facing, internet-connected applications is that they have no small number of vulnerabilities, both from human error or credential theft and from developer error or security weaknesses built into the code. As a result, there have been many attacks since the widespread adoption of web applications, and the numbers reach unprecedented levels every year. For example, cyberattacks are up 7% compared to this time last year. 1 in 31 organizations report suffering a ransomware attack. 

1,248 cyberattacks occur per organization per week globally, and a successful attack is expected to cost an average of $5 million globally by the end of 2023. Although it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what proportion of cyberattacks succeed, they clearly are neither going away nor getting any cheaper, and ransomware alone was predicted to account for over $40 billion in global losses by 2024. 

With costs through the roof, cyber insurance providers are Increasingly declining to cover ransomware attacks because the expense is too high. This is a major problem for you. If insurance won’t cover the ransomware attack, your organization is on the hook for costs ranging from the likely exorbitant ransom to the legal costs you may incur from affected customers, especially if any data was leaked publicly. 

The Top Three Ransomware Attack Vectors

There are three very common ransomware attack vectors that you need to monitor to have any chance of protecting your organization.

  • Vulnerability Exploitation: Many organizations have web applications built on open-source software, which is great for saving developers’ time and the company’s money. However, open-source software is open for all on the Internet to see, which means that attackers can identify potential attack vectors and then use that knowledge to exploit security flaws in your application. This accounts for 32% of attack vectors.  
  • Phishing: More sophisticated than it used to be, phishing has become increasingly effective despite many organizations taking steps to train employees and prevent them from clicking on    malware-laden documents or links. One of the biggest problems is that attackers have begun impersonating company leaders to extract information from employees. Phishing attacks account for 22% of attack vectors. 
  • Stolen Credentials: One of the most dangerous attack vectors is stolen credentials. Many organizations do not have sufficient permission limits to prevent unauthorized access of private or sensitive data, which means that any attacker who steals credentials has virtually unfettered access to the organization’s information. Account takeovers stemming from compromised credentials make up 14% of attack vectors overall but 48% of ransomware attack vectors. 

Preventing Ransomware Attacks

Phishing attacks and stolen credentials can be detrimental to your business operations, so to prevent damage, implement limited access protocols and automated monitoring. Due to the extremely large attack surface of web applications, however, it may be most beneficial to focus on preventing ransomware attacks through managing vulnerabilities and potential exploits through firewalls. 

A web application firewall (WAF) is one of the simplest solutions to apply. WAFs use automated filtering and traffic monitoring to protect web applications from unauthorized or malicious traffic, and they keep data locked inside your security environment. This second component is crucial as attackers are shifting from traditional ransomware to demanding a ransom to prevent your data from being leaked online. 

WAFs can better an organization’s security by comparing traffic to typical patterns and flagging anomalies. They alert your security teams to potential attackers looking for a way into your data. However, additional measures are necessary to help prevent ransomware attacks. Optimally securing web applications should also include WAAP implementation, which will provide an additional layer of security for your APIs. Finally, you should be using a RASP, which can detect unusual activity in application execution and will then block that activity.  

All web apps, yours included, are vulnerable to expensive and reputation-harming ransomware attacks. To best prepare, companies should protect the vulnerabilities often built into their web applications with WAFs, WAAPs, and RASPs to block exploitation and minimize your risk. As ransomware becomes more and more expensive, prevention costs are miniscule compared to the expenses associated with a security failure.