2021 Trends Show Increased Globalized Threat of Ransomware … – US-CERT

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Immediate Actions You Can Take Now to Protect Against Ransomware: • Update your operating system and software.
• Implement user training and phishing exercises to raise awareness about the risk of suspicious links and attachments.
• If you use Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), secure and monitor it.
• Make an offline backup of your data.
• Use multifactor authentication (MFA).
In 2021, cybersecurity authorities in the United States,[1][2][3] Australia,[4] and the United Kingdom[5] observed an increase in sophisticated, high-impact ransomware incidents against critical infrastructure organizations globally. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the National Security Agency (NSA) observed incidents involving ransomware against 14 of the 16 U.S. critical infrastructure sectors, including the Defense Industrial Base, Emergency Services, Food and Agriculture, Government Facilities, and Information Technology Sectors. The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) observed continued ransomware targeting of Australian critical infrastructure entities, including in the Healthcare and Medical, Financial Services and Markets, Higher Education and Research, and Energy Sectors. The United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC-UK) recognizes ransomware as the biggest cyber threat facing the United Kingdom. Education is one of the top UK sectors targeted by ransomware actors, but the NCSC-UK has also seen attacks targeting businesses, charities, the legal profession, and public services in the Local Government and Health Sectors.
Ransomware tactics and techniques continued to evolve in 2021, which demonstrates ransomware threat actors’ growing technological sophistication and an increased ransomware threat to organizations globally.
This joint Cybersecurity Advisory—authored by cybersecurity authorities in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom—provides observed behaviors and trends as well as mitigation recommendations to help network defenders reduce their risk of compromise by ransomware.
Click here for a PDF version of this report.
Cybersecurity authorities in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom observed the following behaviors and trends among cyber criminals in 2021:
Note: cybersecurity authorities in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom assess that if the ransomware criminal business model continues to yield financial returns for ransomware actors, ransomware incidents will become more frequent. Every time a ransom is paid, it confirms the viability and financial attractiveness of the ransomware criminal business model. Additionally, cybersecurity authorities in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom note that the criminal business model often complicates attribution because there are complex networks of developers, affiliates, and freelancers; it is often difficult to identify conclusively the actors behind a ransomware incident.
Ransomware groups have increased their impact by:
Cybersecurity authorities in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom recommend network defenders apply the following mitigations to reduce the likelihood and impact of ransomware incidents:
Malicious cyber actors use system and network discovery techniques for network and system visibility and mapping. To limit an adversary’s ability to learn an organization’s enterprise environment and to move laterally, take the following actions: 
Note: critical infrastructure organizations with industrial control systems/operational technology networks should review joint CISA-FBI Cybersecurity Advisory DarkSide Ransomware: Best Practices for Preventing Business Disruption from Ransomware Attacks for more recommendations, including mitigations to reduce the risk of severe business or functional degradation should their entity fall victim to ransomware. 
If a ransomware incident occurs at your organization, cybersecurity authorities in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom recommend organizations:
Note: cybersecurity authorities in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom strongly discourage paying a ransom to criminal actors. Criminal activity is motivated by financial gain, so paying a ransom may embolden adversaries to target additional organizations (or re-target the same organization) or encourage cyber criminals to engage in the distribution of ransomware. Paying the ransom also does not guarantee that a victim’s files will be recovered. Additionally, reducing the financial gain of ransomware threat actors will help disrupt the ransomware criminal business model.
Additionally, NCSC-UK reminds UK organizations that paying criminals is not condoned by the UK Government. In instances where a ransom paid, victim organizations often cease engagement with authorities, who then lose visibility of the payments made. While it continues to prove challenging, the NCSC-UK has supported UK Government efforts by identifying needed policy changes—including measures about the cyber insurance industry and ransom payments—that could reduce the threat of ransomware. 
The information in this report is being provided “as is” for informational purposes only. The FBI, CISA, NSA, ACSC, and NCSC-UK do not endorse any commercial product or service, including any subjects of analysis. Any reference to specific commercial products, processes, or services by service mark, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply endorsement, recommendation.
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