Man in hoodie typing on a laptop, the screen shows "ransomware" on a padlock image

Risk of ransomware attacks rising across the UK

Businesses, public bodies, public services, academic institutions, and other organisations are increasingly at risk of falling victim to a ransomware attack. While such attacks can cause significant disruption to these organisations and their operations, it is often consumers who experience the most catastrophic consequences if personal data is involved in such an attack.

The rise of ransomware in the UK

Cybercriminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and with good reason. As cybersecurity systems get better, they need to create new ways of breaching them and gaining access to systems and data.

However, sophistication in this context is nothing new.

Of far more significant concern to many organisations is the extent to which ransomware attacks are taking place.

Why are ransomware attacks becoming increasingly common?

Cybercriminals use ransomware attacks for several reasons, including:

  • The potential for getting paid twice. Cybercriminals can acquire a ransom for returning data or systems access and still sell data or code on the dark web later.
  • The potential to launch further attacks. Ransomware is often used in conjunction with other criminal activity to cause increased damage to targeted organisations.

Another factor driving the increasing frequency of ransomware attacks is that how we work has changed since early 2020. In some cases, remote working has led to reduced diligence, systems analysis, and oversight, so the window of opportunity for cybercriminals has grown.

Ransomware attacks then and now

Until the end of the last decade, ransomware attacks were rare and often small in scale.

2017’s Petya cyberattack is widely considered the gamechanger in this respect, with an explosion in attacks during subsequent years. The months following the Petya incident also saw various new strains of ransomware released and the establishment of prominent hacker groups.

Significantly, these hacker groups have made it far easier for cybercriminals to launch attacks and receive ransoms without being traced. Reportedly, some groups even have a PR department so cybercriminals can publicise their activities, cause reputational damage to the organisations they’ve targeted, and perhaps increase their chances of forcing payment of a ransom.

How cybercriminals use ransomware

As well as being sophisticated around how they attack organisations, cybercriminals are also increasingly strategic around the businesses they target.

For example, a good target for a ransomware attack would be an organisation that:

  • Is big enough to have systems or data worth seizing, but that may not be using enterprise-level cybersecurity systems.
  • Can afford to pay a ransom demand.

Cybercriminals also need to consider the affordability of a ransom demand to a business and make it low enough that they’re likely to pay it. At the same time, sometimes a significant amount of resources can go into a ransomware attack, so the criminals need to ensure it is profitable, too.

On top of this, cybercriminals can also factor in our point from earlier around getting paid twice.

How organisations are dealing with the increasing risk

One of the most significant concerns for consumers is the extent to which businesses may be complacent around the potential for cyberattacks to happen. For example, many companies lack adequate cybersecurity or haven’t fully trained their employees to help the business avoid falling victim to ransomware and other cyberattacks.

Furthermore, some reports suggest that only around 30% of large businesses and 10% of small companies have adequate cyber insurance to cover costs should they suffer a ransomware attack. Part of the reason behind such a low uptake might be the requirements set out by insurance companies. For example, an insurer won’t provide cover to an organisation without its own security measures in place. Therefore, businesses new to cybersecurity systems will incur two new sets of expenses.

That said, it is becoming pretty rare for organisations that fall victim to ransomware attacks to pay the ransom. While this can lead to severe long-term operational problems, like those seen with Hackney Council’s ongoing ransomware issue, organisations realise data might be leaked even if they pay the ransom.

What can consumers do to stay safe?

When it comes to ransomware attacks, you’re relying on the organisations with whom you share your data to be diligent in protecting it. That said, there’s always a chance you could fall victim to a ransomware attack individually. To avoid such a scenario, you should keep your antivirus software updated and be diligent around the links you click from unrecognised emails and any software you download from unfamiliar sources.

To keep yourself as safe as possible in the event of an organisation that holds your data falling victim to a ransomware attack, follow the tips we shared in this recent article. You may also wish to review the organisations you share personal data with and request that they delete your data where necessary.

If a ransomware attack on an organisation with whom you share your data has led to your data and privacy being compromised, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact LawPlus today for a FREE, no-obligation of your data breach claim.