Cybersecurity Authorities Issue Advisory on Significant Increase in Ransomware Attacks

Colin Thierry
Colin Thierry Writer
Colin Thierry Colin Thierry Writer

Cybersecurity authorities from Australia, the UK, and the US published a joint advisory on Wednesday warning of an increase in organized, high-impact ransomware attacks targeting critical infrastructure organizations across the world in 2021.

The attacks targeted a broad range of sectors, including defense, emergency services, agriculture, government facilities, IT, healthcare, financial services, education, energy, charities, legal institutions, and public services.

“Ransomware tactics and techniques continued to evolve in 2021, which demonstrates ransomware threat actors’ growing technological sophistication and an increased ransomware threat to organizations globally,” the agencies said in the joint bulletin.

Spear-phishing, stolen Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) credentials, and exploitation of software flaws emerged as the top three initial methods that were used to deploy ransomware on compromised networks. This trend held even while the cybercriminal business model transformed into a “professional” market dominated by different groups of players to gain initial access, negotiate payments, and settle payment disputes.

In the wake of highly-publicized attacks on Colonial Pipeline, JBS, and Kaseya last year, ransomware threat actors started moving away from large targets to mid-sized victims in the second half of 2021 in order to avoid detection from law enforcement.

“After encrypting victim networks, ransomware threat actors increasingly used ‘triple extortion’ by threatening to (1) publicly release stolen sensitive information, (2) disrupt the victim’s internet access, and/or (3) inform the victim’s partners, shareholders, or suppliers about the incident,” the agencies said.

According to a new report published by security software company Syhunt on Tuesday, over 150 terabytes of data has been stolen from victims by ransomware groups from January 2019 up to January 2022.

Other tactics used by ransomware groups to increase the impact of their attacks include striking cloud infrastructures to exploit known weaknesses, breaching managed service providers (MSPs) to access multiple victims through one initial compromise, using code designed to sabotage industrial processes, poisoning the software supply chain, and organizing cyberattacks during holidays and weekends.

The agencies also included in the joint advisory guidance for mitigating and reducing the likelihood of falling victim to ransomware attacks from cybercriminals.

“Criminal activity is motivated by financial gain, so paying a ransom may embolden adversaries to target additional organizations or encourage cybercriminals to engage in the distribution of ransomware,” the agencies warned. “Paying the ransom also does not guarantee that a victim’s files will be recovered. Additionally, reducing the financial gain of ransomware threat actors will help disrupt the ransomware criminal business model.”

About the Author

About the Author

Colin Thierry is a former cybersecurity researcher and journalist for SafetyDetectives who has written a wide variety of content for the web over the past 2 years. In his free time, he enjoys spending time outdoors, traveling, watching sports, and playing video games.

Leave a Comment