Paylink Black Logo - Transparent Background

Understanding and exploring the dangers of ransomware

During 2022, it appeared as though ransomware attacks were falling, but data has revealed that attacks are on the rise again in 2023. To spread awareness, our Head of Information Security, Becky McClory, explores the size of the problem, current trends, and how to stay safe online.

Reports from 2022 revealed that victims paid roughly £400m to ransomware groups, and that figure was almost replicated in the first six months of 2023, with victims losing an estimated £350m. If this year’s pace of payments continues, the total figure for 2023 could reach around £700m.

Attacks from ransomware groups have become more aggressive in publishing stolen data. In a recent attack against the University of Manchester, hackers directly emailed the university’s students, telling them that data had been stolen, and threatened to publish their personal information and research if the university didn’t pay the ransom.

While ransomware is not a new cybersecurity risk, it is a threat that receives attention at the highest levels of government. Ransomware not only has a huge impact on businesses but can also have a devastating impact on people’s everyday lives.

A few key ransomware trends emerged over the course of 2021 and 2022 and will likely continue throughout the year. Attackers realised that certain techniques yielded better results and focused on the following approaches.

  • Supply chain attacks: Instead of attacking a single victim, supply chain attacks result in a much larger pool of victims. 
  • Attacking unpatched systems: Although not a new trend for 2023, this is one that continues to be an issue. While there are ransomware attacks that make use of zero-day vulnerabilities, most continue to abuse known vulnerabilities on unpatched systems. 
  • Phishing: While ransomware attacks can infect organisations in different ways, phishing emails are often the root cause.

As ever, I truly believe that one of the best ways to tackle threats is by training and education. Since taking up the role of Head of Information Security, I have sought to break the boundaries and show you all that security isn’t just here to point the finger when something negative has happened. 

I have made it my mission to open our doors and ensure there is two-way communication. I have been driven to ensure we, as a workforce, are much more proactive and educated within the world of cybersecurity. 

This month, we have been promoting the mini-security campaign for Ransomware Awareness Month and, throughout the rest of 2023, we will be running further campaigns to highlight, educate, and advise against other security threats.