What is different about ransomware in 2021?

Attacks are increasing at their fastest rate in history. Professional organisations are developing local strains. And criminals are being brutal with their targets. But what does this mean for you? These are the 5 things you must know about ransomware in 2021, as told by our cyber experts.


1. It’s worrying, but ransomware works…

We never thought we would write this statistic, but ransomware attacks in the UK surged by 80% in 2020. Security researchers single out mass remote working as the cause, with hackers taking advantage of distributed networks. When a trend is on the rise, it is rarely an accident. Which means that the pressure tactics are serving cybercriminals all too well.

Added to the explosion in infection opportunities is ransomware availability. Cybercriminals have added “salesperson” to their CVs by selling Ransomware as a Service to aspiring hackers and hardened professionals alike. An increasingly sophisticated threat calls for a robust response. So, IT executives must collaborate with C-Suite colleagues from across the business to develop a winning prevention and response plan that minimises operational downtime and protects finances.


2. Ransomware infects in strains

Not all ransomware is created equal. Developers engineer it to evolve into strains based on success rates. Hundreds of strains are in deployment across the globe right now! Strains are usually specific to a location. So, as a general rule, the most severe ransomware threat to your business depends on geography.

However, our partners SonicWall revealed that the infamous Ryuk strain accounted for an alarming 30% of all ransomware incidents in 2021. It is therefore vital that anti-malware can intercept never-before-seen and day-zero attacks. Prepare for the worst. Because you never know what strain you will meet.


3. Paying is the worst thing you can do

Here we see the age-old supply and demand principle in action. Ransomware has become more lucrative because victims, desperate to regain system access, are paying up in big numbers. Take the headline-grabbing $1.1m that two Florida towns surrendered following a debilitating ransomware attack. Or the British insurance firm that handed over the equivalent of $1m in Bitcoins to malicious actors.

Downtime, disruption and data loss are expensive and damaging. We sympathise with any business hit by a ransomware lockout but cannot stress this enough. Do not pay a ransom – there is no guarantee you will regain systems access, or data and applications will be usable! By engaging with cybercriminals, you may contribute to a wider, dangerous strategy shift. If attackers see that victims are willing to pay, they will unleash larger-scale infections and undoubtedly invest in malware that is harder to identify and decrypt.

4. It is more opportunistic than ever

Both unforgiving and unforgivable, cybercriminals exploited the pandemic by hitting hospitals particularly hard. In the USA, healthcare was the top target, along with state and local government. Our UK readers will remember the distress of 2017’s WannaCry attack on the NHS, and if you are in a critical supply chain, we implore you to be extra vigilant. For peace of mind that hazardous vulnerabilities are not hiding in your IT infrastructure, book a remote cybersecurity audit here.


5. It’s behind 40% of cyber insurance claims

Cyber insurance was a 2020 security buzz phrase and companies are taking out policies to ease the financial sting of cyberattack. No substitute for technical infrastructure, it is a key component of multi-layered security which is duly welcome in a context of prevalent ransomware attacks. Reports suggest that approximately 40% of cyber insurance claims filed between January and July 2020 related to ransomware attacks. Although a modern must-have, does this statistic reveal a fundamental weakness in defences? Could businesses be investing more wisely in prevention and disaster recovery technology, or integrated solutions more effectively?


How long could you survive without systems? Do you know whose eyes are your data? Multi-layered, robust and integrated cybersecurity is the best defence against evolving ransomware in 2021. Speak to Starcom on 0844 579 0800 to book our industry-leading security audit.


by Stuart Buckley

Sales Director

An IT specialist for over 20 years, with a wealth of technical and commercial knowledge, experience and skill in managed services, cloud and hosted solutions.