What do these statistics mean for your Australian business? What is ransomware, and how can you keep your organisation safe? Read on for answers to these and other related questions.


How Do Ransomware Attacks Work?

Ransomware is a cyberattack vector in which attackers introduce malicious software into a victim's network to encrypt system files and data. The cybercriminals then demand ransom to restore user access to the affected files. If you do not comply, they may threaten to disclose or sell sensitive information, such as your customers' bank account information and health records.

A perfect example is the 2022 attack on Optus. The Australian telecommunications giant admitted that the hackers compromised nearly 40,000 Medicare numbers. According to The Guardian, the attacker asked for a ransom of $1 million. Unfortunately, while the attacker "had a change of heart" and withdrew their demands, they had already leaked a text file containing 10,200 records.


Why Businesses Should Care

Here are reasons you should take ransomware attacks seriously:

  • They're expensive: IBM's Cost of a Data Breach Report 2022 estimates that businesses can lose up to $4.5 million per ransomware incident without considering the ransom cost. By any standard, such a loss is enough to affect any organisation's operations substantially.
  • They may cause reputational damage: The modern-day consumer is very sceptical about how organisations collect, store, use, and safeguard their data. A ransomware attack on your systems could show clients that you can't protect their sensitive data, eroding their trust in your business.
  • Ransomware attackers don't discriminate: There's a widespread misconception that cybercriminals only target large companies in specific sectors, such as banking and finance. However, with the recent trends, it's clear that every business can be a victim — regardless of size or industry.
  • Ransomware is becoming more sophisticated by the day: Initially, ransomware attackers were individual actors targeting personal gadgets and asking for a few dollars as ransom. We're witnessing a tremendous increase in well-organised nation-state hacking groups, like Fancy Bear, WannaCry, and Sony Breach, that demand millions.

How to Safeguard Your Organisation

Below are some tips you can use to stay safe from ransomware attackers:

  • Conduct regular network assessments: There's a growing trend of cyber actors lying dormant in targets' systems for weeks, or even months, before launching an attack. Regular network assessments can help you identify and eliminate these threats before they aggravate into actual attacks.
  • Train your staff on cyber security awareness: Teach your team how to spot and avoid common cybercrime tricks. You can also launch simulated ransomware attacks to help gauge your staff's preparedness levels and identify areas that need further training.
  • Implement a password expiration protocol: Some cyber attackers mine user credentials, such as logins, and sell them to other hackers on the dark web. Deploying a password expiration protocol ensures you always have new and complex passwords, reducing the risk of attacks through stolen credentials.

Everybody Is a Potential Target 

Keep in mind that ransomware attackers are not discriminative. They can target any organisation, as long as it collects, processes, and stores user data. Therefore, you should always assume you're the next target and invest in the best cybersecurity systems possible.