What Makes Organizations Susceptible to Ransomware: How to Assess Your Risk
Ransomware attacks are on the rise—increasing by more than 37% in 2023, according to Zscaler’s 2023 ThreatLabz State of Ransomware Report.
Cybercriminals are executing more sophisticated attacks at unprecedented volumes, and they’re targeting high-profile organizations across verticals—from cities and governments to academic institutions and businesses, to healthcare practices and financial services—to inflict widescale damage. Within the last month alone, we’ve seen ransomware attacks on MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment, and Johnson Controls International dominate news headlines.
Despite having been around for years, ransomware is still a highly lucrative attack method for cybercriminals. Combine this with the fact that Ransomware as a Service is making it easier than ever for anyone—even those with minimal cybersecurity background—to execute an attack, and this threat vector isn’t expected to slow down any time soon.
In this reality, organizations cannot afford (literally) to put ransomware on the back burner. Recent research from Sophos found it cost organizations, on average, $1.82 million to recover from a ransomware attack in 2023, and that figure doesn’t include a ransom payment. Ransomware can significantly disrupt business operations, cause reputational damage, and lead to a loss of customers—all consequences that can impact the bottom line.
Fortunately, there’s good news: There are things your business can do right now to defend against ransomware attacks—and it starts with understanding some of the ways you might already be putting your organization at risk.
Five Conditions that Invite a Ransomware Attack
One of the most common reasons organizations fail to act on ransomware preparedness—even though they know they should—is that they simply don’t know where to start. That’s why the first step any organization should take is to understand what security gaps exist within their environment.
With this in mind, here are five common conditions that make organizations more susceptible to ransomware attacks:
1. Your IT team is running security.
Organizations are doing the best they can with the resources available to them—and often this means they lean into their traditional IT teams to build and maintain their security programs. While this approach is better than nothing, it can be problematic because IT and security are often at odds. The primary mandate of an IT team is to “keep the lights on” and the workforce up and running efficiently. This can—and often does—come at the cost of bypassing important security initiatives. For example, an IT team may defer patching to avoid system downtime. Or, they may be quick to onboard a new tool for a business department without vetting the security posture of the tool’s vendor or assessing how that new tool might introduce risk to the environment. When it comes down to IT priorities versus security, the former will usually win if IT is spearheading security programs.
2. You have too many security tools.
Organizations tend to throw myriad technology tools at the security problem and then hope for the best. This reactive approach presents several problems, too. First, when security ecosystems are made up of many disparate point solutions, they lack the integration required to quickly identify and remediate threats. Second, IT and security teams are spread so thin trying to manage all the different tools that the chances of misconfigurations escalate, and it can be hard for them to ensure each tool is being used to its fullest extent. Finally, every security tool produces alerts and telemetry that analysts need to evaluate, and when you have a number of tools involved, the volume of security alerts can be overwhelming—leading to alert fatigue and increasing the chances that the important signals will be lost in the noise.
3. You lack visibility into your security vulnerabilities.
Organizations are innovating at a faster rate than ever, and while this is great for the business, it’s challenging from a security standpoint. Workloads and data are everywhere, and new software, applications, and tools can be easily deployed by end users, causing ecosystems to evolve daily. Without a robust asset awareness and management program in place, it will be impossible to know what assets you have, where they reside, and what security vulnerabilities may lie within. And, if you don’t know something is there, you can’t protect it.
4. You lack governance.
Organizations may set out with the best of intentions, but security isn’t a “set it and forget it” initiative. Security programs require constant care and feeding, and without a governance program consistently monitoring how security programs are stacking up against initial goals and objectives, inevitably there will be a drift away from the security guardrails implemented at the start. This is where things get dangerous because drift creates gaps that cybercriminals know how to exploit.
5. Your business is going through a significant change.
No organization operates in a vacuum, and external factors beyond your control can significantly impact your security posture. The pandemic is a prime example of this scenario. Most organizations had to pivot to a fully remote workforce, practically overnight, and the implications from a security perspective were massive—often illuminating weaknesses in companies’ security programs. Mergers and acquisitions are another great example. When two companies with different security profiles merge, it can take some time for them to work out where vulnerabilities lie and how to remediate them—a window of time that introduces risk. Building strong security programs requires a delicate balance: They must be agile, allowing you to quickly and easily adapt to business changes, while also remaining solid, to prevent external happenings from impacting their effectiveness.
If you can relate to any of these five scenarios, your next step needs to be course-correcting to strengthen your security profile, so it stands up to attempted ransomware attacks.
Protect Your Organization with a Ransomware Readiness Assessment
We know that beefing up security is easier said than done, and thinking about tackling all the security gaps detected in the assessment phase can be overwhelming—and for many, this can lead to inaction rather than moving the ball forward. Finding a trusted partner, such as Navisite, that is highly experienced in building and managing security programs can take a lot of the stress and confusion out of the process and help you advance security while remaining laser-focused on running the business.
One of the most impactful ways Navisite helps its clients overcome these five common hurdles and build a more secure, ransomware-resilient organization is through its Ransomware Readiness Assessment. As part of our Security Services, this tailored assessment will help you:
- Identify vulnerabilities across your enterprise, people and processes to understand your state of readiness to effectively prevent or respond to a ransomware attack.
- Evaluate response procedures and provide recommendations and resources to help you close security gaps and implement stronger security controls and policies.
- Fortify against threats through various ransomware scenarios and simulated attacks to test and improve your incident response and communication plans.
- Increase training and awareness with effective tools, resources and best practices to ensure your staff is properly trained and aware of the latest threats.
In summary, Navisite’s Ransomware Readiness Assessment will provide the security support and expertise you need to evaluate your organization’s readiness and then put the proper security controls and processes in place to protect your organization from ransomware.
To find out more about or sign up for our Ransomware Readiness Assessment, click here.