This weekend a cyber event made international news due to the magnitude of the event. Recent reports estimate over 200,000 organizations of all sizes and types were affected. It was a large scale ransomware attack. While this attack was large, the occurrence is unfortunately not surprising, or likely unique going forward. This large attack came on the heels of more targeted attacks against hospitals and other healthcare organizations.

Below is a brief overview of this issue for your information:

  • Ransomware is typically software that encrypts data on a computer or server and demands a ransom to unlock it.
  • If infected, a victim cannot practically circumvent it and must pay (which doesn’t always work) or recover the data from backups, if possible.
  • Ransomware has been highly effective and continues to evolve, affecting organizations of all types and sizes. Even individuals can be affected.
  • Estimates are hundreds of millions of dollars have been paid in ransoms with some estimates over a billion dollars.
  • Frequency of incidents is dramatically increasing and expect this to trend to continue.
  • It is often tied to end users clicking on links or running malware from phishing e-mails but hackers are also exploiting bugs that require no user action.
  • Those that provide critical or time sensitive services are particularly vulnerable and have already been disproportionately targeted.

Despite the gravity of this threat, organizations can take measures to protect themselves if they understand the nature of the threat. Patching systems, user training, and backups are critical preventative measures. An incident response and business continuity plan that specifically contemplates this issue is also crucial. Companies do not have to spend large amounts of money or resources to reduce their risk considerably. Those that do nothing should expect to pay a hefty price when this occurs. Also expect to see an increased scrutiny of preparation for this type of attack by regulators and those that are affected by business disruption of an organization such as investors, clients, consumers, etc.