Five ransomware predictions for 2021

Issue 9 2020 Cyber Security

For one reason or another, many people were looking forward to ringing in the new year, cyber criminals among them. They had a banner 2020, wreaking havoc on data centres and costing the world trillions of dollars.

The business of ransomware is booming to a point that CyberSecurity Ventures predicts an attack every 11 seconds in 2021. Businesses, while already navigating more remote employees and changing commerce trends, will also need to account for increased cyber threats. With certain patterns already developing, data integrity company Index Engines makes the following predictions for the effects of ransomware in 2021.

1. Concentrated attacks

Cyber criminals will concentrate attacks on the most critical industries, including healthcare and manufacturing organisations. While financial services will always be a target, they often have more infrastructure invested in protecting their corporate data assets. Cyber criminals want easy money and will heavily pursue less guarded and more vulnerable industries.

The global health crisis has already made healthcare a prime candidate for delivering ransoms. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Health and Human Services released an advisory to the healthcare and the public health sector in October 2020 about Ryuk attacks. These, unfortunately, will continue.

Manufacturing organisations have built out an IT infrastructure that relies heavily on networks of communication with suppliers. These Internet-enabled networks increase their vulnerability and makes them easier targets.

2. More sophisticated attacks

Cyber criminals are deploying advanced technology, including machine learning, to aid them in penetrating security defences. We have seen attacks in 2020 that hid inside virtual machines and cached copies of data to circumvent traditional security software. In 2021 you can be assured that cyber criminals will ramp up their game and find new and sophisticated methods of attacking organisations. This presents an overwhelming challenge to real-time security solutions that will struggle to keep up.

What can be done? Organisations need tools with advanced analytics to examine the content of their data, including critical infrastructure, as a last line of defence. You can be assured that at some point in 2021 you will be attacked, so check your data’s integrity to ensure it is protected.

3. More focus on recovering from an attack

Cyberattacks are becoming more intelligent. Criminals are spending increased dwell time to determine how to cause the most destruction and also looking for the most sensitive content that, when stolen, will cause the most harm to an organisation, resulting in higher ransom requests. Ransoms from recent attacks are skyrocketing to the tens of millions of dollars. Organisations will find themselves spending significant budget recovering from these attacks, including man-hours dedicated to recovering their business operations.

Forensic analysis reporting will become critical in understanding the who, what, where and when of an attack. Using advanced reports to inspect the data and understand the evidence of what occurred will streamline the recovery process and allow an organisation to minimise business downtime.

4. Renewed focus on data governance

In 2020, cyber criminals added a new tactic to their arsenal. They started to steal sensitive data and publish it on the Internet for the world to see: sensitive patient records, legal contracts, intellectual property. This content will cause much harm and embarrassment to any company.

With cyberattacks now becoming data breaches, organisations will need to ramp up their data governance initiatives. They will need to know what sensitive data exists, where it is, and how they can secure and protect it. Otherwise they will be facing fines due to new regulatory initiatives including the GDPR in the EU.

5. Backup infrastructure will see a transformation

Backup has not seen a lot of innovation over the last decade. There was tape and then disk. Much of the analyst conversations end here: “It’s just backup, another copy of data.” It’s been left to accumulate in the mountains for decades with little management or thought.

But cyberattacks have generated a renewed focus on backup. It’s often the only solution for recovering from an attack. And there are newer, better backup solutions that have expanded into cyber recovery solutions that provide sophisticated analytics, smarter machine learning, and isolated air-gaps for added security with confidence. These are currently being utilised by early adopters and organisations that have already gone through an attack. These better backup/cyber solutions are quickly becoming the industry standard.

Jim McGann.

Staying ahead of cyberattacks

CyberSense, from Index Engines, provides advanced data analysis software that scans backup data to check integrity, monitors files to identify changes indicative of cyberattack, and provides forensic reporting to diagnose and recover from corruption.

CyberSense uses a combination of full-content-based analytics and machine learning to detect if an attack has occurred. If attack vectors are identified, CyberSense provides forensic tools to diagnose and recover, including reports on files that were impacted so they can be replaced with the last known good version to ensure business operations return to normal with minimal downtime. CyberSense is available through Index Engines and has been integrated in the Dell EMC Cyber Recovery isolated vault solution.

Find out more at

Jim McGann has extensive experience with the eDiscovery and Information Management in the Fortune 2000 sector. Before joining Index Engines in 2004, he worked for leading software firms, including Information Builders and the French based engineering software provider Dassault Systèmes.

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