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Rapid7: Ransomware Playbook - understanding cyber risk

Rapid7 has recently published its ‘Ransomeware Playbook’, a guide for helping businesses understand, identify and tackle cybercrime

|Jul 9|magazine7 min read

Rapid7 has recently published its ‘Ransomeware Playbook’, a guide for helping businesses understand, identify and tackle cybercrime.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation across several segments and the banking, insurance and finance sectors are no different. 

As remote working becomes more commonplace and operations are integrated further with technology, the risk of organisations holding sensitive or valuable information grows exponentially and Rapid7 hopes to redress the balance by keeping companies informed.

“Victims of ransomware attacks suffer the impact of productivity and revenue loss due to work stoppage,” says the report. “Ransomware is a unique security threat where most of the security team’s effort is spent on prevention and response because once ransomware is detected, it's too late.”

Identifying risk

Before expanding on the actions that can be taken, Rapid7 advocates a primer in the forms that contemporary cyber risk can take. The company puts forward this definition:

“Ransomware is malicious software that covertly encrypts your files—preventing you from accessing them—and then demands payment for their safe recovery.  

“Like most tactics employed in cyber-attacks, ransomware attacks can occur after clicking on a phishing link or visiting a compromised website.”

Methods used to gain infiltration could include targeting a user through compromised email accounts that they have had legitimate contact with. Other techniques include:

  • Spear phishing: sending targets a clickable link or attachment.
  • Drive-by: exploiting a web browser vulnerability.
  • Exploitation: embedding ransomware at a point of vulnerability and then allowing it to proliferate automatically.
  • Replication: networked media which encrypts ransomware as it simultaneously infects the targetted user.
  • Valid accounts: an ‘outsider from within’ approach, wherein the perpetrator has legitimate access to the system from the onset.

Once contact is made, the targeted user will be prompted to open a link, download some software or otherwise coerced into introducing malicious content to their computer.

Now that the ransomware has been embedded, it can be used to steal information or lock the legitimate user out of core systems, with the subsequent refusal to unlock it unless a ransom is paid - hence the name.

How has ransomware changed?

Previously, ransomware relied on unsophisticated mail merges which targetted large quantities of potential victims simultaneously.

Now, however, Rapid7 states that this is changing: 

“Increasingly over the past few years, there has been a shift to "big-game hunting" threat actors leveraging access established by taking advantage of poor security controls in an environment like an unpatched externally facing server, unsecured remote access solutions, or an undetected banking trojan (such as TrickBot, Emotet, or Dridex).”

Described as a more ‘hands-on’ approach, the infiltrators are able to gain incremental control over a system until a business’ services are rendered incapacitated. This can be disastrous for banks, which not only have compromised their customer’s data but could also suffer long-term reputational damage too.

In our next article on Rapid7’s Ransomware Playbook, we will explore what actio ns enterprises can take to mitigate the threat and how Rapid7 can find the optimal solution for the prevention, identification and elimination of cyber risk.

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