Hackers target companies that can’t afford to ignore ransom
Security breaches have increased 65 per cent since the first quarter of 2017 with a number of high-profile outbreaks infecting millions of computers around the world and causing billions of dollars in damage.
WannaCry ransomware alone infected more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries in May. While recent reports suggest the hackers extorted US$130,000 from ransom payments, it proved difficult for them to collect from Bitcoin accounts due to the notoriety of the attack and ongoing monitoring of accounts by cybersecurity organizations.
But widespread outbreaks, while extremely damaging, are no longer lucrative for hackers. The coding for these viruses is proving ineffective against sophisticated networks, and the attempt at global reach brings far too much attention and risk. Recent attacks like Petya have demonstrated that hackers are customizing malware for specific targets—and smaller attacks are working in their favour. A survey of European IT providers has found that many small- to medium-sized businesses are targeted up to six times a year in direct malware.
Ransomware code has become increasingly accessible online, which allows hackers to set their sights on smaller, specific targets by tweaking pre-existing malware—and they are utilizing customizable viruses to target local companies. This has contributed to a 600-per-cent increase in new ransomware varieties since December 2015 as smaller businesses are under threat.
Smaller businesses typically have the least technical resources and lack the proper backup and disaster recovery necessary to protect sensitive data. Hackers recognize this and know that small business owners can’t afford to refuse ransom demands. And when computer systems are crippled and services and products are not available, customers take their business elsewhere.
John Proctor, vice-president of Canada’s largest IT services provider CGI Cybersecurity, told CBC News that it’s small- to medium-size businesses that are the most at risk and willing to pay a ransom because they can’t afford not to.
A complete systems blackout can bankrupt a business and illustrates why it’s important for businesses to be properly secured. A robust cybersecurity strategy, including endpoint protection and backup, is the only way to secure valuable assets against malicious attacks.
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