Mimecast: Ransomware “explosion” is a people problem

A layered approach to security, using technology and training, can mitigate the risks.

Ransomware, the scourge of businesses that locks you out of your company files and demands a payment before access will be returned, has rapidly become one of the most talked-about topics in cyber security.

It has grown at a phenomenal rate in 2016, with a recent report suggesting that nearly 50 per cent of businesses have been attacked by it in the last 12 months, with 81 per cent of those falling victim on three or more occasions.

Dan Sloshberg, product marketing director at Mimecast, has recognised the recent shift as ransomware has become more readily accessible to cyber criminals on the web. “It’s been out there for a while but I think it was more contained and more specialist,” he said. “As it has become more readily accessible to a variety of different people and not just highly skilled attackers, it’s exploded. If you’ve got something that’s readily accessible and that works, it’s going to continue to grow.”

And the reason Sloshberg puts forward for ransomware’s exponential growth is a familiar one: It’s a people problem. “If people never opened an attachment that they weren’t expecting or didn’t know what it was, or they didn’t click a link that’s come from somebody who looks a bit suspicious, or they take the time to actually look at there the URL is taking them to, none of these things would get in. Technology and security has become so good that trying to force your way in is actually pretty hard now, so in most instances the way that attacks get in is some interface with a person. So yes, I would argue that people are the biggest cause of that explosion.”

Unfortunately for businesses, the fix isn’t a simple one. It’s impossible to turn every employee into a security professional, as there will always be people who are savvier than others, not to mention the expense and time pressures that training would put on businesses.

So, Sloshberg suggests a two-pronged approach. Firstly, “you’ve got to put the best technology in that you can in the right places to protect as much as possible against those attacks getting to your employees.

“But at the same time, you can’t put all of your eggs in the technology basket, you can’t just totally rely on the technology to save you. You’ve got to do some awareness, education etc. And there’s a lot of ways that you can do that, whether it’s launching dummy attacks to see which employees fall for it and then targeting your training to those individuals. That’s a great way to identify where your weakest links are amongst your employees. And technology can play a part in that.”

This layered approach to security will help to protect employees from the bulk of attacks, whilst also “getting people to think a little bit more before they click on a link or open an attachment or something like that.

“It’s education combined with the right technology in the right places that will give you the best protection. Nothing is foolproof, but the more layers you have the better.”

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