Ransomware, a method of electronically attacking corporations and individuals by holding their data hostage, has gained massive popularity amongst hackers in the last several years. Ransomware is the first form of malware to present the threats of both the destruction of important data and the economic harm the loss of that data can create. Ransomware attacks will continue to increase in scope and severity in years to come, necessitating continuous vigilance.
In essence, ransomware acts by taking data that is of value to an entity but not deleting it. The ransomware acts as a figurative glass wall, allowing the owner of the data to physically possess that data but not access it. This is accomplished by implanting a virus on the owner’s hard drive, usually by means of an infected link in an email or other innocuous-looking document. Once the link is clicked, the ransomware works by encrypting the entire storage system. The hackers then threaten to destroy the data unless a ransom is paid.
2017 saw some of the worst ransomware attacks to date, escalating exponentially in size and gravity over previous years. According to a study by the Kaspersky Lab, over 479 million attacks occurred from online sources during the first quarter of 2017, up by over 250 percent from years past. These attacks ranged across countries and industries, and plagued corporations of all sizes.
To read the full text of this article by Duane Morris attorneys Anjali Kulkarni and Joseph M. Burton, please visit The Bar Association of San Francisco website.
Ransomware attacks are on the rise and expected to reach epidemic proportions. The most publicized attack took place this year at the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center when it was forced to declare an “internal emergency” after a ransomware attack locked down its systems. Businesses that are viewed as offering a combination of valuable data and weak security may be seen as attractive to attackers. Some attackers have strictly financial motivations while others may simply be in it for “the data.”
According to Cisco’s Midyear Cybersecurity Report, email and malicious advertising are the primary ways ransomware infiltrates a system. Businesses often pay the ransom but even when paid, files may be lost or altered in ways that could be devastating to the business.
Cisco reports that companies entering into M&A deals often do not conduct enough due diligence on the risk posture of the acquired business and realize their shortcomings after the deal is done, when it is too late to remediate problems or when it’s harder to do so because the networks are intertwined.
What can you do? Robust security is clearly the first step to prevent attacks and that begins with the creation of a comprehensive privacy and security roadmap that addresses high risk areas, compliance gaps and specific tactics for incident preparedness. It is important to involve experienced counsel at the outset to not only advise on the array of federal and state privacy and cybersecurity laws and help develop the policy but also to direct any security investigation so that consultants can report potential vulnerabilities to outside counsel to protect potentially negative findings from discovery in future litigation.
On September 7th, the Federal Trade Commission will begin its series of seminars on new and emerging technologies with a workshop on ransomware.