Cyber Risks & Liabilities

Double Extortion Ransomware Attacks

In recent years, ransomware attacks have steadily been on the rise. Ransomware entails cybercriminals compromising a device or server and demanding a large payment before restoring the technology (as well as any data stored on it) for the victim. Such attacks are one of the most damaging cyberattack methods, incurring an average of $1 million in total losses per incident.

As these attacks become increasingly common, numerous ransomware techniques have also emerged. Specifically, double extortion ransomware attacks are now a potential cybersecurity concern for organizations across industry lines. This technique follows a similar
protocol to a typical ransomware attack but comes with an extra threat—the victim must pay a ransom not only to regain access to their technology and data but also to keep that data from being uploaded publicly online. Double extortion ransomware attacks are particularly concerning, as these incidents can further pressure organizations to comply with ransom demands to keep their data private. Review the following guide to learn more about double-extortion ransomware attacks and what your organization can do to prevent such attacks.

How Double Extortion Ransomware Attacks Work

Double extortion ransomware starts like most other ransomware incidents, in which cybercriminals first gain access to their target’s device or server—often via phishing scams, nonsecure websites, or malicious attachments. From there, the cybercriminal can compromise the victim’s technology and encrypt the stored data. Then, the cybercriminal delivers their ransom demand and accompanying consequences for noncompliance.

Contrary to a typical ransomware incident, however, these consequences are twofold. Failing to pay the ransom could result in the cybercriminal permanently restricting the victim’s access to their technology and sensitive data and sharing this data publicly on the internet. Although double extortion ransomware attacks can occur at any organization, these incidents are most common within establishments that store a considerable amount of sensitive data. Target business includes health care facilities, financial institutions, government organizations, and large retail companies. Double extortion ransomware attacks can significantly damage affected organizations more than typical ransomware incidents. Even if organizations have protocols in place (e.g., storing data in multiple secure locations) that allow them to recover their compromised information without paying a ransom, they may still feel pressure to do so to keep their data from going public. After all, a data breach can lead to further ramifications—including reputational damages, regulatory fines, and class action lawsuits. What’s more, cybercriminals who conduct double extortion ransomware attacks are known to demand higher ransom payments, sell or trade stolen data to other attackers for future extortion attempts, and still move forward with sharing data publicly even after the victim pays a ransom (whether on purpose or by accident)—making these attacks all the more damaging.

Preventing Double Extortion Ransomware Attacks

When combatting double extortion ransomware attacks, it’s essential to prioritize standard ransomware prevention measures. Measures include:

  • Conduct routine employee training on detecting potential ransomware risks (e.g., suspicious emails or attachments).
  • Implementing policies that prohibit browsing nonsecure websites on organizational servers or devices.
  • Installing adequate security features on all workplace technology (e.g., a virtual private network, antivirus programs, data encryption software, email spam filters, an internet firewall, and a patch management system).

In addition to these key prevention measures, the best course for reducing double extortion ransomware attack risks is establishing an effective cyber incident response plan for your organization. This plan should explicitly address double extortion ransomware attack scenarios, and outline steps employees should take to limit the damages during such an event.

Lastly, securing appropriate insurance coverage is vital for ultimate peace of mind in the event of a ransomware attack. A dedicated cyber insurance policy can offer much-needed support and resources when an attack occurs, minimizing the potential damages and financial impact on your organization. For additional risk management guidance and insurance solutions, contact us today.

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