Among the many challenges businesses contend with in the global marketplace today, the 11th Allianz Risk Barometer 2022 ranks cybersecurity threats as the most important business risk. This proves beyond any doubt that enterprises are experiencing increasing threats and full-on attacks to their information technology systems. To safeguard their network systems and entire security architecture, enterprise decision-makers (particularly IT security leaders) must monitor the evolving trends to discover the best ways to stay protected against adversaries.
While cybersecurity investments have increased significantly in recent years, with a record-breaking $21.8 billion in venture capital pumped into cybersecurity companies last year, the impact of malicious actors continues to worsen. In the just-concluded CyberWeek 2022, Menny Barzilay, CTO of the Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center (ICRC) at Tel-Aviv University, said that despite all the great solutions we see today, cybersecurity challenges persist and companies are still getting hacked. Lindy Cameron, CEO of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), also noted that ransomware attacks strike hard and fast and are evolving rapidly, making them one of the strongest threats to cybersecurity.
To help organizations bolster their efforts in combating today’s most compelling cyber threats, Cybersecurity Insiders and HelpSystems teamed up to create the 2021 Malware Report — a compendium of insights into the latest trends, key challenges and solutions to malware and ransomware, especially over the next 6 – 12 months. The report assesses responses from 367 C-level and technical professionals in organizations of varying sizes and across multiple industries.
Below are some of the key findings in the report.
Ransomware and malware are extreme cybersecurity threats
When asked how significant a threat malware and ransomware is to their business, 60% of the respondents revealed that it was an extreme threat, while 28% considered it moderate. Compared to 2020, the report notes a 5% increase in extreme threat perception. Only 12% of respondents considered it to be little or no threat to their organizations. This increased threat level signifies the growing sophistication of these attacks, so much so that Gartner reported that the threat of new ransomware models is a serious concern for enterprise leaders.
Unfortunately, this threat is only expected to worsen in the future, as 82% of respondents expect greater ransomware and malware attacks, while another 75% are convinced that this threat will pose bigger problems for organizations in the next 12 months. The survey also revealed a lack of confidence in their cybersecurity posture, as nearly all respondents believed they could be targets of these attacks in the next 12 months. Only 3% of respondents were confident that it is not at all likely for their organizations to be targets of such attacks in the coming year.
Remote work is a data risk
Of all the several workplace realities that COVID-19 ushered in, the transition to the intangible company through remote work is the most powerful. However, for cybersecurity leaders, this transition might not be so great, as remote employees unintentionally create new cyber vulnerabilities as they work from less secure environments. The respondents in the report agree with this, as 74% of them consider remote work to be a moderate to extreme threat to their organization. While there are various ways attackers could infiltrate an organization’s systems, three methods are most popular — phishing emails (70%), email attachments (54%) and malicious websites (41%). Studies also show that these are some of the most common ways attackers target remote and hybrid workers.
Once the attackers access the system, respondents reveal that compromising customer information is a first priority, while financial and employee information are the second and third data priorities respectively. When asked about possible ransomware prevention tactics, 70% of the respondents identified user awareness and training as the second most effective strategy to prevent and block ransomware, with the first being endpoint security solutions at 78%.
The 2021 Gone Phishing Tournament Report by Terranova, further highlights the need for an increase in cybersecurity training for all. During their last tournament, an incredible 1,000,000 emails were sent but 19.8% of participants clicked on the phishing email link. An increase in user awareness and training could reduce the threat level remote work poses to organizations with hybrid work environments.
Evolving sophistication of malware attacks is the biggest obstacle to defense
From financial gain (80%), to the desire to disrupt a business (52%), entertainment (34%), cyber espionage (30%), state-sponsored national attack (30%), political motivation (13%) and revenge for bad experience with organization (11%), respondents confirm that cyberattacks are just as malicious as they seem. With four out of ten organizations confessing to having experienced ransomware attacks in the past, these attackers have managed a multi-industry reach that has cost the world over $20 billion in 2021 alone.
Apart from increasing business spending, respondents also identify other impacts of these attacks, including productivity and revenue loss, system downtime, reputation damage, job loss, IT security strategy modifications, and reduced confidence in cybersecurity posture.
However, cybersecurity professionals are not going down without a fight. Despite obstacles to defense like the evolving sophistication of malware attacks (51%), lack of budget (49%) and the growing proliferation of attacks (37%), these security leaders are shielding their organizations from attacks especially by isolating and shutting down offensive systems and accounts, recovering encrypted files from backups, and blocking the initial attack vector (73%).
In situations where the attacks are successful, which is most of the time, organizations either decrypt locked files (13%), get help (18%) or restore their backups (54%). However, Sophos reports that not every company is successful in recovering their data using a backup. Although paying a ransom is also an option, 67% of respondents revealed that it was not at all likely for them to pay.
In Cameron’s words, ransomware attacks strike fast and are rapidly evolving. Now is the time for IT leaders who haven’t prioritized cybersecurity to do so. For others who have already started to strengthen their security perimeters, they must not relent. It always looks like you cannot get attacked until it happens.
To learn more about the best prevention methods and preferred solutions for malware attacks, download the report here.
About the Author: Kolawole Samuel Adebayo is a Harvard-trained tech entrepreneur, tech enthusiast, tech writer/journalist, and an executive ghostwriter. He has 10+ years of experience covering various tech news stories, writing thought leadership blogs, reports, datasheets, and case studies. His areas of expertise include cybersecurity, AI, ML, DevOps, and big data for C-level executive audiences. He has written for several publications, including VentureBeat, RSI Security, NWTechs, WATI Security, Draft.dev, Codecov, Teleport, and many more. He is also an award-winning poet, with works published in several journals around the world.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.