A Growing Trend in Cyber Crime
What's Cyber Extortion?
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Over the last year, there has been a growing trend in cyber extortion crime. According to FBI data, cyber criminals could ransom as much as $1 billion this year alone. What’s even more concerning is the fact that up to 24% of companies would be willing to pay some amount of money as a ransom to prevent a cyber-attack and 14% would be willing to pay $1 million or more per a Cloud Security Alliance survey. So, what really is cyber extortion?
There are many types, but the most common is ransomware. Ransomware is a malware like CrytoLocker, typically from an email opened by an employee, that's launched within a computer and encrypts the data or locks the user out of the computer or network system. Soon after, an anonymous demand for payment shows on the screen with payment instruction – typically in bitcoin – in exchange for the decryption code or simply a code to unlock the system and until it's unlocked, no one can access the system information.
There’s another form of ransom which works the same way, but instead of money, the demand could be some wanted action by the criminal in exchange for not releasing sensitive or confidential information, which was stolen out of their system and would be disruptive to the organization. Two examples of this in recent years are the Ashley Madison attack by a group called “Anonymous” and Sony Entertainment’s attack by North Korea.
There are several ways an organization can mitigate their exposure to this type of criminal activity. First, an organization needs to understand what data they have and what's at risk. Next, create file back-ups, data back-ups and back-up bandwidth capabilities which will allow the organization to retain and recover lost data. However, it’s important to understand that if the back-up isn’t routine, such as daily, the organization stands to lose whatever data hasn't been backed-up.
Another way to mitigate is employee training, specifically in understanding and recognizing phishing emails. Ensure systems have appropriate firewall and antivirus software and routinely update security patches. Also, having a Breach Response Plan in place will be critical in the organization’s ability to respond effectively to a security breach.
Finally, ensure there is appropriate insurance coverage in place. However, just purchasing coverage may not be enough. An organization should understand a couple of key coverage areas in the policy, such as coverage triggers, approval requirements, what's covered and when notice must be given to the carrier. These areas have a significant impact on how the policy and carrier will respond to a cyber extortion.
For more information on minimizing cyber risks, contact a member of the ‘A’ Team.
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