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Ransomware concern drops despite being top cost

Fewer organisations are worried about ransomware even though it remains one of the most costly cyber attacks

Concern about ransomware is declining as the number of victims decreases in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, research by Barracuda Networks has revealed.

But concern remains reasonably high, with 84% of the 145 companies polled in the region saying ransomware is a worry, compared with 91% a year ago.

At the same time, the proportion of organisations targeted by ransomware has fallen from 48% to 30% in the past year, the research report said.

Despite these declines, the study also found that ransomware remains the most expensive cyber threat to deal with, according to 32% of organisations, and that more organisations are electing to pay ransoms – up to 19% from just 3% a year ago.

Chris Ross, senior vice-president international at Barracuda, said that although the number of firms identifying ransomware as a concern has declined, 84% is still an “overwhelming majority”.

Yet when viewed alongside the fall in the number of businesses impacted by ransomware attacks, this suggests that businesses may be better equipped than they were a year ago, said Ross.

“Maybe that’s why, once they do fall victim, businesses are seemingly more inclined to pay the ransom,” he said, adding that greater awareness of the issue has also led to greater awareness of the potential consequences of not reaching a swift resolution.

Ross urged organisations to ensure they carry out regular backups of their data regardless of how confident they are that they have got the right protection in place.

“By backing up regularly, and adhering to the 3-2-1 backup rule, it is possible to significantly limit ransomware’s impact on an organisation and ensure that affected businesses are not forced into paying for a decryption key that may never be sent,” he said.

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The 3-2-1 backup rule recommends that organisations make three copies of all data, that they store those copies in two different environments, such as on-premise and in the cloud, and that they keep one backup copy offsite to keep it safe from any environmental issues.

Another key finding of the study is that email remains the most common way for ransomware to enter the network. Email was linked to 74% of attacks, while web traffic and network traffic were each linked to 18% of attacks.  

This underlines the importance of having a comprehensive plan to defend against phishing attacks, said Ross. “Phishing and social engineering tactics are specially designed to trick employees into clicking on links and opening malicious attachments in emails spoofed to appear as if sent from a reputable source,” he added.

“Ultimately, until organisations get better at educating their users, this tactic will continue to pay dividends for the black hats.”

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