From 2019 to 2020, the number of Kaspersky users encountering targeted ransomware increased by 767%. This increase occurred alongside a 29% decrease in the overall number of users affected by any kind of ransomware, with WannaCry still the most frequently encountered group. These findings are highlighted in Kaspersky’s latest report on the ransomware landscape.
Ransomware threats became mainstream news in the 2010s following large-scale outbreaks, such as WannaCry and Cryptolocker. Over the years, these campaigns have been on the decline. In fact, from 2019 to 2020, the total number of users that encountered ransomware across all platforms declined from 1,537,465 to 1,091,454, a decrease of 29%. Alongside this decline, however, there has been a rise in targeted ransomware.
Targeted ransomware attacks, or attacks against a chosen victim with the goal of extorting money, are often aimed at high-profile targets, such as corporations, government and municipal agencies, and healthcare organizations. The attacks involve significantly more sophistication (network compromise, reconnaissance and persistence, or lateral movement) and a much larger payout. The report highlights a significant increase in the number of users that encountered this type of ransomware.
Most common ransomware
Some of the most prolific targeted ransomware families during this time were Maze, the infamous group involved in several loud incidents, and RagnarLocker. Both of these families began the trend of exfiltration of data, in addition to encrypting it, and threatening to make the confidential information public if the victims refused to pay. In 2020, attacks were witnessed from the enterprise-targeting ransomware, WastedLocker. In many of these cases, the malware is specifically designed to infect each individual target.
Despite the rise in targeted ransomware, the ransomware family still most frequently encountered by users is WannaCry. This ransomware Trojan first appeared in 2017 and led to damages of at least $4 billion across 150 countries. 22% of the users that encountered ransomware in 2019 encountered WannaCry, which decreased to 16% in 2020.
“The ransomware landscape has fundamentally changed since it first became big news in the security community,” comments Fedor Sinitsyn, security expert at Kaspersky. “We’ll most likely see fewer and fewer widespread campaigns targeting everyday users. Of course, that’s not to say users aren’t still vulnerable. However, the primary focus will likely continue to be on companies and large organizations, and that means ransomware attacks will continue to become more sophisticated and more destructive. It’s imperative that businesses adopt a holistic, comprehensive set of security practices to protect their data.”
To protect your company from ransomware, Kaspersky experts recommend the following:
• Always keep software updated on all the devices to prevent ransomware from exploiting vulnerabilities.
• Focus defense strategies on detecting lateral movements and data exfiltration to the internet. Pay special attention to outgoing traffic to detect cybercriminal connections.
• Back up data regularly. Make sure you can quickly access it in an emergency when needed.
• Carry out a cybersecurity audit of your networks and remediate any weaknesses discovered in the perimeter or inside the network.
• Educate employees on the tactics ransomware can take, such as easily targeting through a phishing email, a shady website or cracked software downloaded from unofficial sources.
• Along with proper endpoint protection, dedicated services can help against high-profile ransomware attacks. Kaspersky Managed Detection and Response proactively hunts for attacks and help to prevent them on early stages, before attackers reach their final goals.