Over the years, we have seen a substantial amount of cyberattacks happening around the globe. The most infamous of them is the RaaS attack, which is taking over organizations of all sizes. An employee’s sheer negligence and lack of cybersecurity solutions put organizations at higher risk. In this article, we will share some tips that every organization needs to know in order to stay away from cyberattacks.

Ransomware attacks have become prevalent in recent years and can happen to any organization. In 2023, ransomware attacks increased by 95% compared to 2022, and this is why you need to stay cautious. However, it is vital to know about ransomware before we delve deep into how to protect your organization against cyberattacks.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts the files on servers and machines and then compromises an organization’s privacy. This leads to financial losses, disrupts the company’s reputation, and halts operations. This attack is performed by an operator skilled enough to inject malware (via phishing emails, web browsing, and downloads) into the victims’ systems, who then demands a ransom, usually cryptocurrency, to decrypt them.

However, these operators found they could not make much money and were also at risk of getting caught by law enforcement agencies. This is where Ransomware as a Service (RaaS) comes into the picture. Let us quickly take a look at what RaaS is and how it works.

What is RaaS?

In simple terms, RaaS is an underground business model in which the operator helps buyers/affiliates execute previously developed ransomware tools into organizations’ systems to extort money. To do this, the operators exploit sophisticated tools and techniques and let affiliates distribute and manage the attacks.

Thinking of the benefits they gain from these attacks? The operators charge a service fee from the affiliates to sell or lease the code and a percentage as commission after the attack has taken place. Operators enjoy low risk, with the possibility of significant rewards.. They can recruit a countless amount of affiliates, so the number of organizations falling prey to these attacks also increases.

Attackers focus on Latin America

Cyberattacks have increased, especially since companies started working remotely after the pandemic. Threat actors primarily target Latin America for various reasons, but outdated laws and a lack of proper cybersecurity bodies top the list. During Q1 and Q2 of 2023, successful ransomware attacks were executed by the notorious ransomware groups named BlackCat, Clop, and LockBit. According to the LATAM CISO 2023 Cybersecurity Report, 71% of cybersecurity leaders saw an increase in the number of attacks on their organizations compared to the last year. The attackers eyed government agencies, enterprises, financial institutions, and retailers.

In May 2023, the Rhysida group impersonated a cybersecurity team assisting victims and targeted governmental and medical institutions in South America. The group claimed to have disrupted the entire IT infrastructure of the Chilean army in addition to exposing confidential data on the dark web. Furthermore, in the same year, individuals and businesses in Mexico suffered a large-scale phishing attack where cybercriminals sent emails with an attachment that, when opened, could capture the login details of users’ bank accounts.

RaaS attacks can tarnish a company’s reputation and cause financial loss. According to the IBM report, in Latin America, the average cost of damage due to data leaks increased by 32%, accounting for $3.69 million at the start of 2023. The data from retail, education, financial, manufacturing, and government sectors were leaked, causing a major outbreak.

Recent ransomware thrust

A recent ransomware incident shook the entire Latin American region. Let us dive a little deeper to understand what exactly happened.

On Jan. 25, 2024, one of the most prominent telecom companies in Central and South America revealed that it was hit by ransomware. The incident was made public on Feb. 2, 2024, after several users across Latin America reported service disruptions.

Trigona, an infamous ransomware group, claimed responsibility for the attack and took down the company’s network elements. This attack inflicted significant problems on users, including with network connectivity, making video calls, and delays in payment processing. After this attack, the company worked on ways to restore its network architecture quickly but struggled to activate the new lines for customers. Below is the ransom note left by the group to the conglomerate.

The ransomware group, which used double extortion (encrypt files and leak data), managed to infiltrate the system, exfiltrate the files, and encrypt data. In addition, they also demanded a ransom to stop the publishing or selling of data to competitors or third parties. Though recovering encrypted files is possible without paying a ransom, data leaks can compromise a company’s trust and reputation, and can only be stopped by the attackers themselves.

Telecom industries deal with a substantial amount of customer data. Hence, it becomes indispensable for them to equip themselves with the right cybersecurity tools and other industry best practices that add an additional layer of network and data security.

Strategies to keep cyberattacks at bay

Ransomware is a popular attack type among cybercriminals, but there are a few key strategies that you can follow to defend your organization against cyberattacks. Taking the following measures will help mitigate the risk of cyberthreats:

1. Create awareness amongst your employees

The first step in preventing cyberattacks is to train your staff on cybersecurity best practices and conduct red team exercises. Additionally, you can ensure they stay up-to-date on the organization’s current cybersecurity policies by conducting security skills assessments on a regular basis. Since these attacks are primarily implemented using social engineering tactics, employees can be educated on how to spot phishing emails or malicious websites, so they know not to click links or download files/attachments from these emails and websites.

2. Restrict user access

Another way to reduce the risk of cyberattacks is to restrict access and permissions to only the data users need. With role-based access control, the possibility of data breach can be reduced. Not to mention, following the Zero Trust approach and using 2FA or MFA enhances endpoint security, as malware developers cannot gain access without authentication.

3. Take a backup of your files

Backing up all your important files or data could act as a lifesaver if you suffer from a cyberattack. This is because you won’t lose access to confidential information and can resume operation with minimal downtime without paying the ransom. Also, it is best to take backups on external drives and cloud servers and follow the 3-2-1 approach: Three separate copies in two different formats with one saved offline.

4. Run regular updates and configure firewalls

Systems or software that are not periodically updated or patched are highly vulnerable to attacks, and hackers target such networks to penetrate through your organization’s system and data. Hence, keeping your applications, systems, servers, and antivirus solution up to date and equipping yourselves with extended detection and response (XDR) tools can help prevent attacks. You can go a step further in protecting your network by configuring firewalls that filter out and block suspicious activities in the first place. Also, consider investing in endpoint protection platforms (EPPs) as they would prove to be the best bet when it comes to protection against viruses and malware.

5. Network segmentation

Once a system is infected with malware, it spreads like wildfire into other systems. Segmenting your network into various sub-networks can help limit the malware from entering the main network and also give IT security teams the needed time to take remedial action.

Key takeaway

Cyberattacks are undoubtedly proliferating, so staying vigilant in saving your organization from threats is imperative. With the right cybersecurity solutions and practices discussed in this article, you can significantly bring them down. Also, it is high time you train your staff on phishing attempts and invest in cybersecurity tools to avoid network breaches, data compromise, and other such attacks in the future.