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Security & privacy

Massive ransomware attack cripples thousands of companies – How to protect yourself

Cyberattacks are not a new phenomenon by any stretch, but what sends shivers down the spine of cybersecurity researcher are when new methods arise. Ransomware attacks have been prevalent in the last few months, as have supply line attacks.

So, when cybercriminals figure out a way to combine the two most destructive hacking tools, it is bound to have huge implications. That has been the scenario faced by U.S.-based IT management software company Kaseya.

In a devastating breach, the company’s VSA software was taken offline through a ransomware attack. This left thousands of managed service providers across the world affected.

Here’s the backstory

Cybercriminals managed to change the VSA (Vector Signal Analysis) software that small companies use to manage their IT networks and infrastructure. In a typical ransomware move, the software and files of all the companies that use it became locked. The hackers are demanding $70 million to unlock it.

Around 200 companies in the U.S. are impacted, and there have been reports of several organizations and schools in New Zealand.

The attack has prompted President Joe Biden to order an investigation into the breach. He added that it’s not known yet who is behind the attack, but rumors have pointed towards Russian criminals.

“We’re not certain. The initial thinking was it was not the Russian government but we’re not sure yet. If it is either with the knowledge of and/or a consequence of Russia then I told Putin we will respond,” Biden answered when asked about the cyberattack.

Security researchers have been in awe as to the scale of the attack. “This is a colossal and devastating supply chain attack,” said Huntress senior security researcher John Hammond. Huntress believes the group REvil is behind the breach.

What the ransomware means for you

You might think that a ransomware attack on a company doesn’t affect you. But that is almost always not the case—many of the companies that use software that get breached impact civilian life.

Take the Colonial Pipeline as an example. When the pipeline got hit by a cyberattack, it led to fuel shortages and long lines at gas stations. Many people waited for hours to fill any containers they could get their hands on — including plastic bags.

On a different scale, companies hold a lot of personal information. And with over 200 systems locked down and held for ransom, criminals can cause a lot of damage.

“It’s a money-making trick that seems to have taken over the cybersecurity world. Your files are locked up, they may be copied, so that they can blackmail you later and say ‘well you still haven’t paid, we’ll start releasing the information out into the public space,” explained Datacom Strategic Communications Manager Paul Brislen.

What you can do about it

There are no accurate details of all the companies involved, but the latest estimate has put the worldwide number at 1,500 businesses impacted. These companies are responsible for outsourcing, maintaining and processes online IT networks for other companies.

If you think (or simply want to check) if your email address has been exposed to hackers and sold on the Dark Web, visit the HaveIBeenPwned website. It is a quick tool where you can check if your details have been compromised. Tap or click here to see how it works.

But the most important step to take is to back up all of your critical data. The FBI has said paying a ransom to get back the files you already own is a terrible idea. That’s because you’re dealing with criminals and there’s no guarantee they’ll give you back the files even if you pay up.

Instead, keep current backups of all your files, so you never have to succumb to ransomware threats. Make sure to use a backup company that you can trust, like our sponsor IDrive.

IDrive protects all of your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad and Android devices with just one account. Its versatile and user-friendly platform has made saving and recovering data simple for small businesses and individual use.

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