Future Of Ransomware

The future of ransomware: 2022 and beyond

Ransomware has matured significantly over the previous decade or so. Initially thought to be a relatively basic virus that could be contained on a floppy disc, it now can damage global healthcare systems, mess with fuel supply networks, and disrupt transportation infrastructure. Its simplicity is what makes it so appealing to criminals. Ransomware assaults don’t have to be very clever to create widespread devastation – and, in some cases, to generate hefty ransom payments for criminal organizations. As a result, the number of these attacks is increasing at an alarming rate.

Recently, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) revealed that UK firms had been targeted by twice as many ransomware attacks in 2021 than they were the previous year. Ransomware assaults are particularly dangerous because they are continually evolving. This article examines three ways in which ransomware will grow progressively more harmful and disruptive in the years to come, as well as what companies can do to best protect themselves against these attacks in the coming years.

Ransomware will use IoT as entry points

IoT devices are becoming increasingly common, and Gartner expects that there will be more than 25 billion of them by the end of the year, according to the company. That’s a significant number of gadgets that bad actors can use as a portal for their malicious activities. IoT misconfigurations, such as left-untouched default settings or undesirable services that are still active, leave devices insecure and vulnerable to attack in many cases. Over the last 18 months, our own Project Memoria research has discovered scores of Internet of Things vulnerabilities that affect millions of devices around the world. As a result, the threat of IoT devices being utilized as entry points for cyberattacks is a very real one.

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Those companies wishing to adequately protect themselves against these dangers must first ensure that they have complete visibility over all of their devices and that they are aware of the hazards associated with these devices. After all, organizations are unable to safeguard what they are unable to see. Corrective activities such as changing default settings, including passwords, and removing unnecessary services to defend themselves against common vulnerabilities can subsequently be taken by the organization. Additionally, network segmentation is one of the most powerful and effective ways to ensure that, in the event of a breach, bad actors are unable to exploit the weaknesses of a single device to spread havoc throughout a whole enterprise.

Ransomware will increasingly target third-party software

Organizations or their systems will not always be attacked directly by bad actors, but they will occasionally do so. According to our research, hackers are increasingly targeting supply chain software, including remote monitoring and management software, as in the cases of Kaseya and SolarWinds, or by leveraging general TCP/IP stack vulnerabilities that have been identified by others. Some of these fundamental vulnerabilities in third-party software have gone unpatched for decades, and hackers will continue to take advantage of them to disrupt and manipulate electronic equipment.

The likelihood of becoming a victim of such an incident is extremely high. However, because the duty for addressing these vulnerabilities is split between the producer of the third-party equipment or program and the firm that utilizes it, it can be difficult for companies to fully defend themselves against these dangers. In an ideal world, companies would incorporate software validation into their product development cycles and would have clearly defined procedures in place for addressing any newly discovered vulnerabilities that pose a danger to their customers’ information and data. In reality, organizations, as the end-users of these products, must demonstrate a high level of proactivity and make extensive use of powerful device visibility and control tools to protect themselves against these vulnerabilities and mitigate the fallout if an attack is successful.

Ransomware will focus on Operational Technology

It has been a long time since operational technology (OT) was given much attention by the cybersecurity community in many enterprises. The cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline in 2021, on the other hand, has fundamentally altered the situation. The corporation was forced to shut down its operational technology environment to prevent hackers from spreading across its devices, which resulted in a significant gasoline shortage in the United States and poor press coverage throughout the world for the company. To restore access to its systems, Colonial Pipeline was compelled to pay around $5 million US dollars, making this one of the most disruptive and financially lucrative cyber attacks known in recent years.

While compromised IT systems are terrible, compromised operational technology systems (OT systems) are far worse since they enable bad actors to cease activities and can instantly bring enterprises to a total standstill. Once a company has been locked out of its systems and a ransom demand has been issued, there is little that can be done to restore access to the system other than to pay the money. As a result, in the case of ransomware, prevention is preferable to cure in most cases. Increasing network segmentation and visibility efforts will help organizations protect their operational technology and keep hackers at bay if they do manage to breach a network. This will prevent an attacker from moving laterally across a network and will help them contain the breach to the affected device, if possible.