United States: Weapons in the Cyber Defense Arsenal

In May 2017, the world experienced an unprecedented global cyberattack that targeted the public and private sectors, including an auto factory in France, dozens of hospitals and health care facilities in the United Kingdom, gas stations in China and banks in Russia. This is just the tip of the iceberg and more attacks are certain to follow. As this experience shows, companies of all sizes, across all industries, in every country are vulnerable to cyberattacks that can have devastating consequences for their businesses and operations.

The Malware Families
Exploiting vulnerabilities in Microsoft® software, hackers launched a widespread ransomware attack targeting hundreds of thousands of companies worldwide. The vector, "WannaCry" malware, encrypts electronic files and locks them until released by the hacker after a ransom is paid in untraceable Bitcoin. The malware also has the ability to spread to all other computer systems on a network. On the heels of WannaCry, a new attack called "Adylkuzz" is crippling computers by diverting their processing power.

The most prevalent types of ransomware found in 2016 were Cerber and Locky. Microsoft detected Cerber, used in spam campaigns, in more than 600,000 computers and observed that it was one of the most profitable of 2016. Spread via malicious spam emails that have an executable virus file, Cerber has gained increasing popularity due to its Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) business model, which enables less sophisticated hackers to lease the malware.

Check Point Software indicated that Locky was the second most prevalent piece of malware worldwide in November 2016.  Microsoft detected Locky in more than 500,000 computers in 2016. First discovered in February 2016, Locky is typically delivered via an email attachment (including Mocrosoft Office documents and compressed attachments) in phishing campaigns designed to entice unsuspecting individuals to click on the attachment. Of course, as the most recent global attacks demonstrate, hackers are devising and deploying new variants of ransomware with different capabilities all the time.

The Rise of Ransomware Attacks
The rise in ransomware attacks is directly related to the ease with which it is deployed and the quick return for the attackers. The U.S. Department of Justice has reported that there was an average of more than 4,000 ransomware attacks daily in 2016, a 300 percent increase over the prior year. Some experts believe that ransomware may be one of the most profitable cybercrime tactics in history, earning approximately $1 billion in 2016. Worse yet, even with the ransom paid, some data already may have been compromised or may never be recovered.

The risk is even greater if your ransom-encrypted data contains protected health information (PHI). In July 2016, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Civil Rights (HHS/OCR) advised that the encryption or permanent loss of PHI would trigger HIPAA's Breach Notification Rule for the affected population, unless a low probability that the recovered PHI had been compromised could be demonstrated. This means a mandated investigation to confirm the likelihood that the PHI was not accessed or otherwise compromised.

Ransomware Statistics
According to security products and solutions provider Symantec Corporation, ransomware was the most dangerous cybercrime threat facing consumers and businesses in 2016:

  • The majority of 2016 ransomware infections happened in consumer computers, at 69 percent, with enterprises at 31 percent.
  • The average ransom demanded in 2016 rose to $1,077, up from $294 in 2015.
  • There was a 36 percent increase in ransomware infections from 340,665 in 2015 to 463,841 in 2016.
  • The number of ransomware "families" found totaled 101 in 2016, triple the 30 found in 2015.
  • The biggest event of 2016 was the beginning of RaaS, or the development of malware packages that can be sold to attackers in return for a percentage of the profits.
  • Since January 1, 2016, more than 4,000 ransomware attacks have occurred − a 300 percent increase over the 1,000 daily attacks seen in 2015.
  • In the second half of 2016, the percentage of recognized ransomware attacks from all malware attacks globally doubled from 5.5 percent to 10.5 percent.

The Best Defense Is a Good Offense
While no perfectly secure computer system exists, companies can take precautionary measures to increase their preparedness and reduce their exposure to potentially crippling cyberattacks. While Microsoft no longer supports Windows XP operating systems, which were hit the hardest by WannaCry, Microsoft has made an emergency patch available to protect against WannaCry. However, those still using Windows XP should upgrade all devices to a more current operating system that is still fully supported by Microsoft to ensure protection against emerging threats. Currently, that means upgrading to Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 10.

Even current, supported software needs to be updated when prompted by the computer. Those who delay installing updates may find themselves at risk. Microsoft issued a patch for supported operating systems in March 2017 to protect against the vulnerability that WannaCry exploited. Needless to say, many companies did not bother to patch their systems in a timely manner.

Ransomware creates even greater business disruption when a company does not have secure backups of files that are critical to key business functions and operations. It also is important for companies to back up files frequently, because a stale backup that is several months old or older may not be particularly useful. Companies also should make certain that their antivirus and anti-malware software is current to protect against emerging threats.

In addition, companies need to train their employees on detecting and mitigating potential cyber threats. Employees are frequently a company's first line of defense against many forms of routine cyberattacks that originate from seemingly innocuous emails, attachments and links from unknown sources. Indeed, many cyberattacks can be avoided if employees are simply trained not to click on suspicious links or attachments that could surreptitiously install malware.

Last but not least, companies should consider purchasing cyber liability insurance coverage, which is readily available. While cyber policies are still evolving and there are no standardized policy forms, coverage can be purchased at varying price points with different levels of coverage. Some of the more comprehensive forms of coverage provide additional "bells and whistles" such as immediate access to preapproved professionals that can guide companies through the legal and technical web of cybersecurity events and incident response.

Other cyber policies afford bundled coverages that may include:

  • The costs of a forensics investigation to identify the source and scope of an incident
  • Notification to affected individuals
  • Remediation in the form of credit monitoring and identity theft restoration services
  • Costs to restore lost, stolen or corrupted data and computer equipment
  • Defense of third-party claims and regulatory investigations arising out of a cyberattack.

For additional information about the rise of ransomware and other cyber threats, and what companies can do to mitigate their risk, contact Partner Anjali Das, Co-Chair of Wilson Elser's national Cybersecurity & Data Privacy practice, or Of Counsel Kevin Scott.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions