Cybersecurity experts are currently drowning in ransomware attacks

August 19, 2021 | Nahla Davies

This blog was written by an independent guest blogger.

U.S. President Joe Biden is under pressure to take a stand against a relentless pace of cybersecurity attacks. Russian-speaking hackers have claimed accountability for a recent ransomware assault on IT management software provider Kaseya VSA.

The group of Russian threat actors also referred to as the Revil Group, launched a bombshell supply-chain hit during the weekend of July 4th, 2021 against Kaseya VSA and multiple managed service providers. The incident affected both Kaseya VSA as well as the many companies for whom it manages sensitive information technology -- essentially, the digital backbone of those businesses' operations.

Given this recent slew of ransomware attacks, the topic of ransomware protection is likely at the forefront of many business owners' minds. It's therefore crucial that organizations understand the fundamentals of cybersecurity in addition to the severity of recent ransomware attacks and the response measures President Biden is pursuing. Without this fundamental knowledge, businesses leave their information technology vulnerable to ongoing ransomware threats and without an operational security program.

Ransomware: a threat to national security

Ransomware - a once-quiet epidemic - has emerged in 2021 as a major national security issue. As the remote working environment becomes a commonplace reality for more and more Americans, cybercriminals are eager to take advantage of a greater number of remote working arrangements. These criminals have redoubled their efforts to assault their victims with spam and phishing emails, which are rapidly overwhelming the stretched-thin capabilities of the nation's cybersecurity experts. 

These spam and phishing emails, while malicious enough by themselves, also often include an additional, insidious component: a ransomware attack. In fact, ransomware attacks are so disconcerting to CISOs and company cybersecurity officers that a 2021 survey demonstrated that cybersecurity experts regard ransomware attacks as their number-one cause for concern. 

This consternation is more than understandable: ransomware attacks are incredibly effective at extorting money from businesses, especially from organizations that feel unable to rectify the problem and instead simply pay the demanded ransom.

All this is to say that ransomware has undoubtedly become a well-publicized threat to United States national security. 2021 has proven that criminal syndicates of ransomware criminals feel emboldened enough to launch their attacks on high-profile targets from major meat suppliers and pipelines to even public schools and hospitals. As of 2020, ransomware attacks had cost their victims a staggering $1.4 billion in damages.

Such dire circumstances beg the inevitable question: what can businesses do to combat the looming threat of ransomware, and is it even worth it for them to try? Thankfully, the answer to the latter part of that question is a resounding “yes”.

How can organizations protect themselves?

The United States Government has spent little time dawdling to craft a response in the wake of the Kaseya attack, and Kaseya’s CEO is reported to be currently in communication with both the Department of Homeland Security as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The approach the US government has assumed highlights the seriousness with which the country is approaching the rising trend in ransomware attacks.

To that end, organizations should begin to protect themselves with proven response measures. The best and most effective line of defense that the majority of businesses can assume is a partnership with a managed service provider (MSP). 

It’s best that organizations team up with a managed service provider that has the manpower to overcome and patch ransomware attacks without using Kaseya products in its solutions. Instead, opt into a partnership with an MSP that uses prosperity solutions that are built, maintained, and operated in-house and within the United States.

MSPs have, for years at this point, been the right choice for clients that need an actionable, operational security program but that don't have the appropriate number of resources on hand. MSPs and in particular managed security service providers (MSSPs) are so valuable to so many clients because of the security benefits such as risk identification and threat management that they offer.  As cyberattacks become more sophisticated and targeted, MSSPs must be responsible for updating their counterattack strategies in response to threats such as ransomware attacks. 

Businesses enhancing their security measures must also look toward the improvement of their servers' security while providing their clients with security measures such as password managers that reinforce their security program. As web developer Nathan Finch of Best Web Hosting Australia notes, ensuring your host comes encrypted with SSL is absolutely critical. 

“We can't emphasize enough how important it is to look for a web hosting provider that includes free SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) security with their plans,” says Finch. “In some rare instances, you may come across a provider that doesn't offer a free SSL certificate, forcing you to fork out anywhere between $20 to over $200 a year depending on its security level.”

SSL certificates are designed to encrypt data between a server and end users. This way, only the end recipient can view the data. This is especially critical for online businesses that deal with personal or financial details of customers…details that are also prime targets for ransomware hackers. SSL certificates make those details unreadable to hackers.

When it comes to partnering with a provider, businesses should ask which SSL/TLS protocol is in place on that host's website and should confirm that the host they choose isn't using an obsolete system.

Generally speaking, the three most common types of SSL certificates that many web hosts offer as part of their plans are DV (Domain Validation) SSL certificates; OV (Organization Validation) SSL certificates; and EV (Extended Validation) SSL certificates. 

Of these three, EV SSL certificates are by far the most advanced and secure. But just as important as choosing to host providers that come with EV SSL, site owners should also verify that there is a rigorous system in place for obtaining and implementing patches and updates to SSL protocols – either on their web hosts’ servers if that is where SSL certificates are stored, or on on-prem servers if this is necessary.

Conclusion

In the wake of ransomware's rise to public prominence, organizations must remain ahead of new and emerging threats by thinking differently about security. If you're among the many business owners concerned about the threat of ransomware to their business growth and continuity of operations, it's time that you devise a security program that combines threat detection, incident response, and compliance management and that is predicated on the services of a reliable MSSP. 

With a web host that guarantees an SSL/TLS protocol in place on a modern system, organizations stand a real chance of counterattacking ransomware threats and preserving their information technology. 

Nahla Davies

About the Author: Nahla Davies

Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed – among other intriguing things – to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.

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