Ransomware attack devastates IT confidence

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IT managers at organisations hit by ransomware are nearly three times as likely to feel “significantly behind” when it comes to understanding cyberthreats, compared to their peers in organisations that were unaffected — 17% versus 6%— a new report from Sophos shows.

More than one-third (35%) of ransomware victims said that recruiting and retaining skilled IT security professionals was their single biggest challenge when it comes to cybersecurity, compared with just 19% of those who hadn’t been hit.

When it comes to security focus, the survey found that ransomware victims spend proportionally less time on threat prevention (42.6%) and more time on response (27%) compared to those who haven’t been hit (49% and 22% respectively), diverting resources towards dealing with incidents rather than stopping them in the first place.

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“The difference in resource priorities could indicate that ransomware victims have more incidents to deal with overall,” said Chester Wisniewski, principal research scientist at Sophos. “However, it could equally indicate that they are more alert to the complex, multi-stage nature of advanced attacks and therefore put greater resource into detecting and responding to the tell-tale signs that an attack is imminent.”

Also, Sophos incident responders found that the Ryuk attackers used updated versions of widely available and legitimate tools to compromise a targeted network and deploy ransomware. 

Unusually, the attack progressed at great speed – within three and a half hours of an employee opening a malicious phishing email attachment, the attackers were already actively conducting network reconnaissance. Within 24 hours, the attackers had access to a domain controller and were preparing to launch Ryuk.

“Those hit by ransomware were found to have severely undermined confidence in their own cyberthreat awareness,” said Wisniewski. “However, their ransomware experiences also appear to have given them a greater appreciation of the importance of skilled cybersecurity professionals, as well as a sense of urgency about introducing human-led threat hunting to better understand and identify the latest attacker behaviour.”

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