Are Phishing & Ransomware Connected?

Article by Jason Clause on January 31, 2024
Jason Clause
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Time for phishing prevention? How phishing attacks have become the primary vector for ransomware delivery.

Not quite the reunion a business had in mind, but an old familiar friend has returned. Phishing attacks are now the top vector for ransomware delivery. They involve cyber criminals sending messages with malicious links, images, or texts to employees. 

The messages are intended to convince users to open or click on them and unknowingly launch malware into the system. Phishing started in email but has continued to include all communication channels, including websites and social media. 

Cybersecurity provides the answer to avoiding phishing attacks and preventing the introduction of ransomware. Effective cybersecurity requires planning and ongoing focus on security and security education. When a business is under attack, it is not when to start a cybersecurity effort. To thrive in today’s business world, cybersecurity must be your top priority. 

Prepare now because it’s not matter when your business will be attacked, but whether the business can manage the attack and survive intact.

This guide explains the importance of solid cyber hygiene practices to avoid, prevent, and manage phishing and ransomware attacks. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Is your business secure against phishing attacks and ransomware?
  • Learn how phishing attacks are used to deliver ransomware. 
  • How can businesses prevent phishing and ransomware attacks?

What are the common types of phishing attacks?

Phishing criminals are making money by taking advantage of busy, stressed, distressed, or otherwise vulnerable people. Like all cyber-attacks, phishing attacks focus on vulnerabilities. Phishing is also very successful, and that’s why it’s become the number one way to plant ransomware into a system. 

Phishing attacks can come through any type of communication – snail mail, email, text messages, phone calls, websites, and social media accounts. They are designed to trick people into clicking a link to a social media account or website and divulging information cybercriminals can use to access systems and steal data. 

Phishing attacks can impact individuals as well as businesses of any size. Despite security training within an organization, employees fall victim to an increasing variety of phishing attacks. Attacks may appear to be from managers, upper management, or coworkers. When busy, employees may rush into communication without careful consideration and become a phishing victim. 

Think of anything that may cause a person to panic or become quickly distressed, and you have the latest phishing scam. Most people have heard of phishing scams where communications are from well-known financial institutions, and government offices. Without constant oversight and thorough consideration of every communication an employee receives, it’s understanding how phishing continues to succeed. 

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is malicious software (malware) that destroys a business’s ability to access networks, including files and data. Essentially, ransomware locks down an organization and prevents employees from working or systems from running. Ransomware attacks can disrupt a business for days or months, depending on the cybersecurity methods’ quality. 

Malware is often introduced into a network system accidentally as part of a phishing attack. Phishing attacks are more than annoyances, they are dangerous and can lead to ransomware and business disruption. Once malware is in a system, it may encrypt data and files and lock down the business immediately or sit there gathering intelligence. 

Gathering intelligence means the malware is watching and monitoring the network to determine greatest value data. No business is safe regardless of size or financial asset strength. 

Famous ransomware examples include:

  • WannaCry – a global breach that infected more than 200,00 computer systems in 150 countries
    • WannaCry specifically targeted unpatched versions of Windows. 
    • WannaCry took advantage of systems poorly maintained to the tune of approximately $4 billion in damages worldwide.
  • BlackByte – attacked the NFL San Francisco 49ers corporate IT network affecting players, employees, and related data. 
    • BlackByte is an example of a Ransomware-as-a-service attack where the software is sold by subscription to other criminals for a percentage of monetary gains. 

The importance of a strategic, planned, and organized cybersecurity approach cannot be understated. Endsight gives you a comprehensive and custom security service. Learn more!

Why use phishing to deliver ransomware? 

Why not? Cyber criminals run organized businesses intent on stealing data from authentic businesses. Phishing has been around for decades, and it still makes money. Phishing is successful and avoids the dangers of attempting to hack into a system directly. Direct hacking attacks are a reality, but are not nearly as common or easy as phishing. 

One ransomware attack propagated by phishing was REvil in 2021. REvil started the old-fashioned way with a phishing email. The email had a short message about unpaid or late invoices. Once opened, hackers inserted malicious links into ongoing email conversations. Unknowingly, victims would enable the embedded QakBot banking trojan that gathered intelligence on systems and data based on value. 

Another example is LinkedIn. Job hunters and other professionals find LinkedIn a valuable resource for managing a career and networking. However, LinkedIn is a constant target for phishing scams. Criminals post fake jobs or pose as hiring organizations to get personal information. Some even ask for gift cards or other non-traceable forms of payment. 

No one is safe. After all, an employee clicking a malicious link within LinkedIn may download malware to their business network. Security education and action prevention using cybersecurity are key to protecting your business.  

How can you use cybersecurity for ransomware prevention?

The top five cybersecurity methods to avert phishing and ransomware include:

  1. Performing an inventory of your technology stack, including cloud platforms, providers, apps, third-party business partners, API, and data connections. Understanding your current technology is key to planning and managing cybersecurity. 
  2. Implement and require MFA (multi-factor authentication) for all network access points and applications. MFA adds a second layer of protection for authenticating valid users. 
  3. Set permissions for Administration and work accounts separately. Don’t be tempted to add all permissions to every user to save time and effort. Make sure admin access is reserved for only true admins. 
  4. Leverage automation, particularly around continuous security monitoring. Track all logins to the system. A solid cybersecurity practice includes automated analysis of access, event, and system logs to help identify intrusions. 
  5. Train and re-train employees on the importance of security to the business’s success. Keep security at the top of everyone’s mind. Ensure what is allowed and not allowed is crystal clear to prevent confusion. Employees must stop and think before opening any email, regardless of the sender. 

Solid cybersecurity practices will protect your business assets. Endsight Ensure security is thorough, consistent, and continuous. 

Need a trustworthy cybersecurity partner? 

Effective cybersecurity methods are critical to the survival of a business, let alone its growth and success. For any size business, cybersecurity needs to be a priority. Industries such as financial, legal, and health services are also heavily regulated, which means the business pays dearly for any security incidents or attacks where data is exposed. 

Businesses of any size are at high risk for ransomware and other cyber-attacks. To best protect a business, prioritize cybersecurity for ransomware prevention. If your organization isn’t ready to manage security on its own, consider a trustworthy MSP partner with extensive expertise in all things security. 

Let Endsight assess your system and create a workable and budget-friendly IT support strategy for the long run. Build a true MSP business partnership with Endsight. Providing quality IT-managed services requires an effective business partnership with clear communication and trust. 

Endsight has a strong, successful following. Read more to find out why our customers chose us and why they stay. You’ll never have to worry about communication failures, inaccurate information, or ineffective security.

Find out how Endsight keeps business systems secure with top-of-the-line cybersecurity practices. 

Tags: IT security, cybersecurity, Cyber Security

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