Ransomware is a threat that has been with us for a long time, and thanks to some recent, high-profile cases – coupled with our increasingly dispersed, and therefore increasingly vulnerable, networks – the spotlight has swung back around to this key area in IT security. In this report, brought to you in association with Wasabi, we will explore how these threats are evolving – and the new solutions that are emerging to keep our critical systems safe.
How this global threat and its countermeasures continue to evolve
For example, in May 2021, the DarkSide hacking group hit the systems of Colonial Pipeline with a ransomware infection. The company is responsible for operating a fuel pipe network running from Texas to New York, and transports more than 100 million gallons of petrol, diesel, and other types of fuel every day. The pipeline supplies almost half of the US east coast region’s fuel, so when the ransomware outbreak halted operations, it led to fuel shortages, price increases and widespread turmoil across huge sections of the country.
Even more recently, IT provider Kaseya was hit by another ransomware attack – this time courtesy of the REvil group. The hackers used a security flaw in the company’s VSA software to deliver ransomware to around 50 of Kaseya’s customers. While this may sound like a relatively manageable number of victims, the incident was complicated by the fact that a large number of those customers were managed service providers (MSPs) that each oversee the IT and security for a number of their own clients – each of whom was then potentially vulnerable too.
An Ongoing Struggle
Ransomware itself is far from a new phenomenon. It’s generally agreed that the so-called ‘AIDS trojan’ of 1989 – which was distributed on floppy disks and used basic symmetric encryption to lock users files – was the first example of the tactic being used in the wild, but even the CryptoLocker ransomware that kickstarted the modern wave of attacks is coming up to ten years old. Malware creators have spent the intervening years iterating and innovating on this foundation. Much like biological viruses, new ransomware variants emerge with such frequency that combating them is an almost Sisyphean task.