Underwriter Beazley has issued a warning that the move to home working by millions of staff around the globe increases the threat of cyber breaches and ransomware attacks.
The level of ransomware attacks saw a huge leap last year according to the latest Beazley Breach Briefing, an annual update on cyber trends produced by the insurers.
There are now growing fears that the shift to home working will increase the risk of cyber breach via remote desktop protocol and phishing attacks.
Beazley’s in-house team of breach experts, Beazley Breach Response (BBR) Services, reported the number of ransomware attack notifications against clients increased by 131% compared to 2018. With the growth in frequency, the sums demanded by cybercriminals also increased exponentially, sometimes reaching seven or even eight figures.
Katherine Keefe, Beazley’s global head of BBR Services, said: “With the convenience of enabling employees to work from home, using remote desktop protocol (RDP) can make IT systems more susceptible to attack without the right security measures in place. The coronavirus has forced many more employees to work from home and in this pressured environment it is very important that companies take the right steps to reduce the vulnerability of their IT infrastructure. Always ensure employees can access their computer using a virtual private network with multifactor authentication. It is important to whitelist IP addresses that are allowed to connect via RDP, and make sure that unique credentials for remote access are in place – particularly for third parties.”
The report found that cyber criminals’ methods of attack continue to evolve, too. The two most common forms of attack to deploy ransomware are phishing emails and breaching poorly secured RDP. RDP enables employees to access their work computer desktops or company’s primary server from home with the press of a button, but the convenience also comes with added risks.
In 2019 and into 2020, BBR Services recorded an increase in reported attacks by policyholders whose systems were breached via cyber attacks against their IT managed service providers. In some cases these attacks stopped the operations of hundreds of customers downstream from the IT provider.
Ms Keefe added: “BBR Services handles thousands of breaches every year and our data demonstrates how ransomware has developed into a more serious and complex threat over the past four years. Early on, ransomware was typically used to encrypt data as leverage for a ransom demand. However, more recently, attackers have been using ransomware variants in tandem with banking Trojans such as Trickbot and Emotet. This two-pronged attack leaves organizations not only with the debilitating impact of its critical systems and data being encrypted, but with the added risk of data being accessed or stolen.
“Although these attacks can be damaging and complex, some of the most effective preventative measures are relatively simple. More than ever, organizations need to ensure their IT security measures are a top priority and up to date, that they have access to authoritative, experienced risk management advice, and, importantly that employees are trained and alert to the potential threats.”