No Honor Among Thieves: How Ransomware Is Getting Worse

Ransomware is suffering a reputation problem. And that’s bad (well, even worse) for your clients.

  • June 17, 2022 | Author: Khali Henderson
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It’s absurd on the surface: Leading ransomware rings are worried that interlopers and upstarts are giving ransomware a bad name. This might seem like a bad streaming-service plotline, but as they say, truth is stranger than fiction.

And although we may be tempted to cheer for anything that puts the ransomware sector on its heels, the unforeseen twist introducing chaos in the world of the bad guys isn’t good news for anyone, especially your clients. Let’s break it down.

The Nuts and Bolts of Ransomware
Cybercrooks use ransomware—the malware your clients fear most—to infect computers or devices, encrypt data and then demand money in return for restoring access to the systems and information that’s been locked up.

The process is straightforward, if insidious, but highly dependent upon a reasonable degree of trust that, when a business pays the ransom, its systems and data will be restored.

A Booming Business Run Amok
Ransomware isn’t new but has fueled a wild ride for cybercrooks in our newly interconnected and decentralized infrastructure, driving massive growth, global fear and the emergence of Ransomware-as-a-Service, which lets virtually anyone get in on the action.

It’s because of that last part—the emergence of tools and support systems that let anyone become a cybercrook—that things have gone from bad to worse. Those low barriers to entry—and relatively easy money with little chance of getting caught—have brought players to the game that have no intention of following through on restoration promises.

That’s a big problem for ransomware operators, who rely on at least some degree of trust that they’ll honor their commitments when payments are received. In fact, their reputation is so crucial that they’re investing in their brands, delivering live service and support to victims, developing bigger and better websites and portals, and are investing in such services as graphic design to make their operations appear more credible and trustworthy. Dishonorable upstarts are threatening to undo all that hard work. Payouts are down overall, cyber insurance companies are putting their feet down on payments, and amid all this fogginess, tracking organizations are emerging to help victims try to get a better understanding of whether they’re likely to have their files restored. All in, this chaos and growing distrust of ransom organizations has led to a drop in the percentage of victims willing to pay up.

Ultimately, though, it’s your clients that have the most to lose from the infighting among thieves. It’s not as if, when ransomware payments are refused, the bad guys shrug and say, “Well, it was worth a shot,” and then restore access to hijacked assets. Business survival—and entire livelihoods—hang in the balance.

What Your Clients Need to Know

So, what’s a business owner or manager to make of all this? It comes down to five key takeaways:

1. Cybercrime of all types—including ransomware—is on the rise and will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.
2. There’s so much money in cybercrime that it’s attracting lower-level criminals who are far less likely to restore assets after ransomware payments.
3. As a result, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for business victims to determine whether payment will result in restored files.
4. For many of these same reasons—and because companies aren’t doing enough to defend themselves—insurance companies are raising rates and limiting reimbursements.
5. Cyber resilience (not just security) offers the best possible protection against ransomware attacks. It leads with preventative measures while also enabling backup and restoration to defeat ransomware if it breaks through the security layers. And achieving meaningful resilience is far more affordable than most companies realize.

How to Help Your Clients

The list above provides a good starting point for discussions with your clients. In general, it’s vital for business owners and managers to understand that, unless they have cyber resilience measures in place, they likely are responding too slowly to the changing threat landscape.

Last year’s headlines may as well be a decade old. Things move fast in the digital world, and cybercrime is no exception. If any of your clients have filled out cyber insurance renewal applications this year, they’ll likely comment on how incredibly technical they’ve become as insurance companies scrutinize the steps they’re taking to protect themselves. Those changes didn’t come about by accident. They’re the result of real-world experiences the insurance industry is experiencing in the fight against cybercrooks.

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