Believe it or not, manufacturing took over from finance as the most cyber attacked sector in 2021 – almost a quarter of attacks were aimed against them, up from 18% in 2020.
Many attacks are carried out by large and well-funded Organised crime groups supported by state actors. And the West’s overt support for Ukraine in the ongoing war in Europe is only likely to lead to more aggressive attacks as Russia seeks to punish those nations and organisations it believes are frustrating its geo-political ambitions.
The growth in manufacturing’s reliance on Industrial Control Systems (ICS) adds another layer to the problem. ICSs are an integral part of our lives today. They allow for easier management of our most critical infrastructures and processes. Manufacturing, gas, water, power distribution and transportation all depend on ICSs to keep their processes running on a daily basis.
What’s more, the emergence of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has allowed users to automate some tasks in the process. We can now control everything simultaneously from a remote location, leading to improved workflow efficiency and helping us reach never-before-seen speed and accuracy.
But all of these new technologies have come with increased vulnerabilities from cyber attackers – and the use of ransomware continues to be a favoured method used to compromise your business.
So, what is ransomware?
Simply put this is a malicious attack against a network where the criminals get access to data and either steal it, threaten to delete it, or encrypt it. The criminals will then demand a payment for the return of the data. Imagine how this could affect your business – sensitive financial data relating to your customers, suppliers or even your own company, commercially sensitive data relating to staff, the operating of your business or contacts with others - these could all be compromised or lost.
The reality is that ransomware is now viewed as a business model and many entities behind these attacks will present themselves as being on the same side as the victim. So, in return for the payment your business will often be supported through a process which will return the data that has been encrypted / stolen. It is worthy of note that paying the ransom does not guarantee the return of the data and certainly does not guarantee that it won’t be sold on or published at some point in the future. Also, your network will still be infected, and you are more likely to be targeted again in the future.
The paying of the ransom has moral and ethical undertones that may not be immediately apparent when you are faced with such an attack. Consider the fact that you may be financially supporting terrorists or criminals by paying the ransom.
Can you protect yourself from these attacks?
Ransomware is always preceded by an attack on the network itself, commonly through use of stolen credentials, a phishing e-mail or brute force attack. These attacks are increasing in complexity and sophistication meaning that defence against these dark arts needs continual review.
But the key points for protection to remember are
Look at the free tools and guidance available on the ECRC site Education & Resources at the Eastern Cyber Resilience Centre
Make your network resilient and practice good cyber hygiene – using Cyber Essentials (CE) principles. Use strong passwords and multi-factor authentication if you can. You can find the link to the education specific CE process on our website.
Make sure Staff Awareness Training is up to date – spotting a phishing e-mail early will prevent a lot of pain further on down the line. Find out about our affordable cyber services by contacting us and arranging a chat.
Make sure all staff know the symptoms of an ongoing ransomware attack and respond quickly to it using a prepared incident response plan. You can download a template from our site.
Identify common points of failure across the network – patch vulnerabilities and restrict access from malicious sites and IP addresses – speak with you MSPs about this and don’t assume that it will be done automatically. The important thing here is to understand where your main vulnerabilities are, then deal with them first.
The impact of a successful attack against your website or network can be catastrophic and lead to website downtime, loss of data and permanent loss of reputation. But all is not lost.
Here at the centre, we would recommend that you consider
Join our community for free by clicking here. You will be supported through implementing the changes you need to make to protect your organisation.
Consider how we can help your own supply chain and customers – it would be great if you could look at promoting the centre on our behalf. Again –click here to find out what benefits you can get by getting your supply chain to join the centre.
Reporting a live cyber-attack 24/7
If you are a business, charity or other organisation which is currently suffering a live cyber-attack (in progress), please call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 immediately. This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Reporting a cyber-attack which isn't ongoing
Please report online to Action Fraud, the UK's national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime. You can report cybercrime online at any time using the online reporting tool, which will guide you through simple questions to identify what has happened. Action Fraud advisors can also provide the help, support, and advice you need.
Alternatively, you can call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 (textphone 0300 123 2050).