March 7, 2022
As we watch the battle for Ukraine unfold, the United States is preparing for another kind of invasion. Russian cyberattacks are coming and we are watching it very closely. The CISA head, Jen Easterly says “the nation should brace for an uptick in ransomware attacks.” Ransomware attacks have surged in recent years and small businesses and medical practices are the most vulnerable.
“Cyberattacks are incredibly profitable for hackers, so much so that ransomware attacks have doubled in each of the last two years and account for 22% of all 2021 cyberattacks,” said SecureLink chief technical officer Joel Burleson-Davis.
Small businesses are most vulnerable to the expected wave of ransomware attacks. Cybersecurity professionals are urging them to take immediate steps to defend themselves.
“Most small businesses and medical practices are the perfect target for ransomware hackers,” said Corey White, CEO of security firm Cyvatar. They are small, have valuable records, and do not monitor their networks on a corporate scale.
“Unfortunately, medical practices are targeted more often because they are more vulnerable, have complete records yet have access to the same critical data or systems that cybercriminals are seeking,” said Eman El-Sheikh, associate vice president of the University of West Florida Center for Cybersecurity.
The risk of ransomware attacks has only increased with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, said Aimei Wei, founder and chief technology officer of Stellar Cyber.
“Immediately after the conflict broke out, suspected Russian-sourced cyberattacks were observed over a 48-hour period at an increase of over 800%,” she said.
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Ransomware and other cyberattacks are commonly used in conventional and cold warfare to gain leverage, said Saumitra Das, chief technology officer of security firm Blue Hexagon. And not always for financial gain: Cyberattacks can weaken national security by crippling businesses and supply chains.
Sanctions will accelerate ransomware attacks
As the U.S. and its allies tighten global sanctions, attacks will likely accelerate, said Lucas Budman, CEO of security firm TruU.
“As the Russian economy takes a major hit from global sanctions, this will cause immense pressure on organized cybercrime rings based in Russia,” he said. “These cybercriminals have been leveraging ransomware as their go-to currency.”
In ransomware attacks, hackers lock down computer networks and demand payment to regain access. Some target big companies in pursuit of lucrative paydays, while others use a “spray and pray” approach to ransom as many victims as they can find.