SecurityBrief New Zealand logo
New Zealand's leading source of cybersecurity and cyber-attack news
Story image

Ransomware attacks surge in 2021, Triple Extortion threat comes to light

By Shannon Williams
Fri 14 May 2021
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Ransomware attacks have seen 102% increase this year compared to the beginning of 2020, and there are no signs of it slowing down, according to Check Point Research.

The healthcare and utilities sectors are the most targeted sectors since the beginning of April 2021, CPR says, with organisations in Asia Pacific targeted more than any other region.

The data comes as CPR warns of a new ransomware threat, Triple Extortion.
 
According to the FBI, a professional cybercriminal group called DarkSide was responsible for a ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline network. DarkSide works in a Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) model, where it leverages a partner programme to execute its cyber attacks. 

This means there is little known at this point about the real actor behind the attack, CPR says.

DarkSide is known to be part of a trend of ransomware attacks that involve systems rarely seen by the cyber community, like ESXi servers. This has led to suspicions that the ICS network was involved. The ransomware is known to have been deployed in numerous targeted ransomware attacks including other oil and gas companies such as Forbes Energy Services and Gyrodata.

"Following other large-scale attacks such as the one on the city of Tulsa, and the REvil ransomware that tried to extort Apple, it is clear that ransomware attacks are a major concern globally," CPR says.

"Yet, there is a real lack of action by organisations in preparing for incidents or even trying to protect themselves in the first place."

CPR reported in March that ransomware attacks had seen a 57% increase in the number of attacks since the beginning of 2021 amid the disclosure of the Microsoft Exchange vulnerabilities. Most recently, Colonial Pipeline, a major US fuel company, was the victim of such an attack and in 2020, it is estimated that ransomware cost businesses worldwide around $20 billion - a figure that is nearly 75% higher than in 2019.

Since April, researchers at CPR have seen an average of over 1,000 organisations being impacted by ransomware every week. This follows significant increases in the number of impacted organisations so far in 2021 - 21% in the first trimester of the year and 7% since April so far. These increases have resulted in a staggering 102% overall increase in the number of organisations affected by ransomware compared to the beginning of 2020.

The industry sectors that are currently experiencing the highest volumes of ransomware attack attempts globally are healthcare, with an average of 109 attacks attempts per organisation every week, followed by the utilities’ sector with 59 attacks and Insurance/Legal with 34.

An organisation in Asia Pacific (APAC) currently experiences the highest volume of ransomware attacks. On average, organisations in APAC are attacked 51 times per week. This is a 14% increase compared to the beginning of this year. On the other hand, African organisations have seen the highest increase in attacks, 34%, since April.

On average, a North American organisation experiences 29 weekly attacks, European and Latin American companies 14 and African companies each have four weekly attacks per organisation.

India has seen the most number of attack attempts per organisation, with an average of 213 weekly attacks since the beginning of the year. This is followed by Argentina with 104 per organisation, Chile with 103, France 61 and Taiwan 50.

Ransomware attackers are focusing their efforts across all industries globally. While in North America healthcare organisations have suffered the most attacks since the beginning of the year, in Europe utilities ‘organisations absorb the most attacks. In APAC, insurance/legal are most impacted, while in LATAM it is the communications industry. In Africa, the financial and banking sector is the most attacked.

Triple Extortion Ransomware: The Third-Party Threat

The success of double extortion throughout 2020, most notably since the outburst of the COVID-19 pandemic, is undeniable, CPR says. While not all incidents – and their results – are disclosed and published, statistics collected during 2020-2021 reflect the prominence of the attack vector. 

The average ransom payment has increased by 171% in the last year, and is now approximately $310,000. Over 1,000 companies suffered data leakage after refusing to meet ransom demands in 2020, and about 40% of all newly discovered ransomware families incorporated data infiltration into their attack process.

 As the numbers reflect a golden attack technique, which combines both, a data breach and a ransomware threat, it is clear that attackers are still seeking methods to improve their ransom payment statistics, and their threat efficiency.

Prominent attacks that have taken place at the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 point at a new attack chain – essentially an expansion to the double extortion ransomware technique, integrating an additional, unique threat to the process – and we call this Triple Extortion. 

The first notable case is the Vastaamo clinic attack, which happened in October 2020. Innovative at the time, the 40,000-patient Finnish psychotherapy clinic suffered a yearlong breach that culminated in extensive patient data theft and a ransomware attack. A decent ransom was demanded from the healthcare provider, but surprisingly, smaller sums were also demanded from the patients, who had received the ransom demands individually by email. In those emails, the attackers threatened to publish their therapist session notes. This was the first attack of its kind within the ransomware attacks landscape.

 On a wider scale, in February 2021 the REvil ransomware group announced that they had added two stages to their double extortion scheme – DDoS attacks and phone calls to the victim’s business partners and the media. 

The REvil ransomware group, responsible for the distribution of the Sodinokibi ransomware, operates in a ransomware-as-a-service business model. The group now offers DDoS attacks and voice-scrambled VoIP calls to journalists and colleagues as a free service for its affiliates, aimed at applying further pressure on the victims company to meet ransom demands within the designated timeframe.

"It seems that even when riding the wave of success, threat groups are in constant quest for more innovative and more fruitful business models," CPR says.

"We can only assume that creative thinking and a wise analysis of the complex scenario of double extortion ransomware attacks have led to the development of the third extortion technique. Third-party victims, such as company clients, external colleagues and service providers, are heavily influenced, and damaged by data breaches caused by these ransomware attacks, even if their network resources are not targeted directly. 

"Whether further ransom is demanded from them or not, they are powerless in the face of such a threat, and have, a lot to lose should the incident take a wrong turn. Such victims are a natural target for extortion, and might be on the ransomware groups’ radar from now on."

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Abnormal Security finds financial supply chain under threat
New research by Abnormal Security has found a rising trend in financial supply chain compromise as threat actors increasingly impersonate vendors.
Story image
Microsoft
SMX partnership with Microsoft leads to NTT recognition
SMX has captured the attention of NTT after receiving positive reviews from businesses across Australasia and beyond for its email security.
Story image
Cybersecurity
The link between cybersecurity, extremist threat and misinformation online in Aotearoa
Long story short, it's often the case that misinformation, threat and extremism link closely to cybersecurity issues and cyber harm.
Story image
Amazon Web Services / AWS
Zscaler, AWS accelerate onramp to the cloud with zero trust
Zscaler has announced an extension to its relationship with Amazon Web Services, as well as innovations built on Zscaler's Zero Trust architecture.
Story image
Ransomware
More than 90% of cyber attacks made possible by human error
The data are clear, with cyberattacks on the rise in recent years and the cybersecurity situation increasingly complex. 
Story image
DDoS
Flashpoint unveils security offering for school boards
Flashpoint has released its K-12 risk management and security offering to provide school boards and education security practitioners with tools to recognise, prevent and manage cyber and physical threats.
Story image
Collaboration
IT and security team collaboration crucial to data security
Many IT and security decision makers are not collaborating as effectively as possible to address growing cyber threats.
Story image
Privileged Access Management / PAM
Delinea unveils new Secret Server features and improvements
Delinea has announced new features and enhancements to expand the capabilities of its Secret Server, including design updates and new security controls.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Aqua Security, CIS create software supply chain security guide
Aqua Securityand the Center for Internet Security have together released the industry’s first formal guidelines for software supply chain security.
Story image
SaaS
Commvault's SaaS division experiences notable growth
Commvault has revealed the global momentum that its SaaS division Metallic has experienced since its launch two years ago.
Story image
Zscaler
Securonix partners with Snowflake, Zscaler in joint venture
Securonix is embarking on a joint technology integration with Snowflake and Zscaler to speed up threat detection and response at cloud scale.
Story image
Yubico
New research shows global drive for passwordless authentication
A new study has shown there has been a significant shift towards wanting a passwordless future, but adoption is still in its infancy.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Ingram Micro launches vendor-backed security program
Ingram Micro has unveiled a new program intended to give resellers the effective offerings their customers need to stay safe in the evolving threat landscape.
Story image
10 Minute IT Jams
Video: 10 Minute IT Jams - An update from Rimini Street
Today we welcome back Daniel Benad, who is the GVP & regional GM for Oceania at Rimini Street.
Story image
APAC
Aqua Security launches cloud native security SaaS in APAC
Aqua Security has announced the general availability of cloud native security SaaS in Singapore, serving the broader APAC region.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Palo Alto Networks named Google Cloud technology partner of the year for security
Palo Alto Networks was recognised for helping organisations rapidly transform security operations for future success.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Schneider Electric and Claroty launch building security solution
Schneider Electric has announced the launch of Cybersecurity Solutions for Buildings, a solution designed to help buildings customers secure BMS.
Story image
Ransomware
Rapid7 report examines use of double extortion ransomware attacks
New insight into how attackers think when carrying out cyber attacks, along with further analysis of the disclosure layer of double extortion ransomware attacks, has come to light.
Story image
SaaS
Varonis strengthens security capabilities for AWS and S3
Varonis has strengthened and expanded its cloud and security capabilities, with a critical aim of improving safety and boosting data visibility in Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3).
Story image
Dark web
Cybercrime in Aotearoa: How does New Zealand law define it?
‘Cybercrime’ is a term we hear all the time, but what exactly is it, and how does New Zealand define it in legal terms?
Story image
Cybersecurity
ConnectWise reveals cybersecurity updates and partnerships
ConnectWise has unveiled new updates to its services and highlighted the importance of cyber insurance at its IT Nation Secure conference.
Story image
Digital Transformation
Cybersecurity priorities for digital leaders navigating digital transformation
In recent years, Asia-Pacific has especially been a hotspot for cyberattacks, and as we continue into 2022, it’s evident that the problem is becoming more significant.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Malwarebytes expands Nebula platform with DNS module
Malwarebytes has expanded its Nebula platform with a new DNS Filtering module designed to provide a quick, flexible, and comprehensive Zero Trust offering for Nebula users.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Greater API usage raises concerns for protection - report
Radware has released its 2022 State of API Security report, which shows a rise in APIs, with 92% of the organisations surveyed significantly or somewhat increasing their usage.
Story image
API
Industry-first comprehensive risk-based API security enhances protection
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have become a crucial part of operating web and mobile application businesses and are causing significant economic growth in the digital sector.
Story image
Cloud
Exabeam expands investment in Google Cloud in fight against cyber threats
The move opens up limitless data ingestion, speed, and scale opportunities for worldwide security teams in their ongoing fight against cybersecurity attacks.
Story image
Collaboration
Why the success of client collaboration projects depends on addressing these five warning signs
New tools, applications, and software have enabled project collaboration to continue remotely, both between employees within an organisation and with its clients.
Story image
Manufacturing
Sternum joins NXP, collaborates on IoT security and observability
Sternum has announced it has joined the software partner community of NXP Semiconductors, a manufacturer of and large marketplace for embedded controllers.
Story image
INTERPOL
Hundreds arrested, millions seized in global INTERPOL investigation
A two-month-long investigation by INTERPOL this year involved 76 countries and clamped down on organised crime groups behind telecommunications and social engineering scams.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Threat actors ramp up their social engineering attacks
As people get better at identifying potential threats in their inbox, threat actors must evolve their methods. Their new M.O? Social engineering.
Story image
Data Protection
Thales solution supports DevSecOps teams with data protection
Thales' CipherTrust Platform Community Edition enables DevSecOps teams to deploy data protection controls into multi-cloud applications faster.
Story image
Data resilience
Digital resilience in 2022 - A10 Networks releases new study
Of the 250 corporate organisations surveyed, as many as 95% showed high levels of concern for all aspects of enterprise digital resilience.
Story image
Identity and Access Management
Ping Identity launches corporate venture capital fund
Ping Identity has launched a corporate venture capital fund to foster innovative offerings for the identity security market.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Significant security concerns resulting from open source software ubiquity
"The risk is real, and the industry must work closely together in order to move away from poor open source or software supply chain security practices."
Story image
PagerDuty
Ready for anything with the PagerDuty Operations Cloud
In a world of digital everything, teams face increasing complexity. Ever-growing dependencies across systems and processes put customer and employee experience, not to mention revenue, at risk.
Story image
Cloud
SonicWall recognises partners and distributors at FY2022 partner awards
SonicWall has recognised its distributors and partners for their efforts in producing the company’s most successful year to date.
Story image
Manufacturing
Cyber attacks on industrial assets cost firms millions
Some 89% of electricity, oil & gas, and manufacturing firms have experienced cyber attacks impacting production and energy supply over the past year.
Story image
Cloud
QuSecure partners with DataBridge Sites to showcase platform
QuSecure has partnered with DataBridge Sites to showcase its Quantum-as-a-Service (QaaS) orchestration platform, QuProtect.
Story image
Cybersecurity
New survey uncovers critical OT security challenges
While industrial control environments continue to be a target for cyber criminals, there are widespread gaps in industrial security.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Why is NZ lagging behind the world in cybersecurity?
A recent report by TUANZ has revealed that we are ranked 56th in the world when it comes to cybersecurity - a look into why we're so behind and what needs to be done.
Story image
Apple
LastPass announces new capability for iPhones and iPads
LastPass has announced its new save and fill experience, allowing customers to fill in, create and save their credentials directly within the site's form field.
Story image
Secure access service edge / SASE
Cloudflare adds new capabilities to zero trust SASE platform
New features for Cloudflare One include email security protection, data loss prevention tools, cloud access security broker, and private network discovery.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Trend Micro unveils dedicated security for electric vehicles
The cybersecurity company has announced VicOne - dedicated security for the electric vehicles and connected cars of today and tomorrow.
Story image
Tech job moves
Tech job moves - Boomi, Limepay, Thales, VMware & Zoom
We round up all job appointments from June 6-16, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.