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The rise and rise of ransomware attacks

The rise and rise of ransomware attacks is affecting various business sectors, not least the UK legal sector. Our co-founder Jonathan Ashley, looks at what happens when a firm is victim of a ransomware attack, and what you can do to stop it. His article is featured on The Law Society website.

When my phone rang 10 minutes into the UEFA Euro 2020 semi-final between England and Denmark, I must admit I was a little surprised. Half an hour later and we were supporting a client who had experienced a ransomware attack the previous day. Their existing IT infrastructure provider had said it would take three weeks to do a forensic review and get them set up again, so the firm turned to us for a second opinion.

It transpired that cyber-criminals had ‘locked’ the company’s IT systems and were demanding a six-figure sum to unlock them.

What is a ransomware attack?
A ransomware attack is a form of malware that encrypts files and data, that can be spread via phishing emails containing malicious attachments, or by drive-by downloading (when a user visits an infected website, and malware is downloaded and installed onto the user’s computer without their knowledge). The cyber-criminal consequently demands a ransom, usually financial payment, in return for restoring access to the files and data.

Create a new infrastructure to regain control
Fortunately, the client’s company had a clean copy of their database that had been saved a few days prior to the attack.

Thanks to the fact that all of our clients access their desktop and data through highly secure, ring-fenced, purpose-built private platforms within Tier 4 IBM ISO27001 data centres, we were simply able to build a new environment with the support of the company’s software vendors.

The vendors installed a new version of each of the software packages into our environment and our technical team integrated all available data into it. Control of email was applied, and all archived data loaded onto the system. We switched off the old licences and turned the new ones on and everyone was able to access their emails again.

Over the next week, we supported the company’s IT team, as every computer needed to have new security protocols reinstalled to prevent any further attack.

Those few days were, understandably, very stressful for the company. However, the implications, had they not implemented our Agile Digital Workplace, would have been unimaginable: costly and highly damaging from both an operational and reputational perspective.

A constantly evolving issue
Cyber-attacks are something we must live with and, as technology continually adapts and evolves, then so do the cyber-criminals and their methods. Ensuring your system meets the National Cyber Security Centre’s 10 Steps to Cyber Security is just one of the ways your business can remain one step ahead.

In May 2021, 116 million records in the UK were breached; more than 40% of them were ransomware attacks. I suspect that we will only continue to see this statistic rise. That’s why we won’t stop developing and enhancing our products to make sure they provide the ultimate cybersecurity protection.

Fail to prepare, prepare to be hacked!
As with many elements of business, preparation is key when it comes to protecting your firm from cybercrime. Start preparing today (if you haven’t already). Here are a few areas to consider and address in relation to improving your cyber security:

• Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA)
• Review your inline email security
• Check, update or revise your existing anti-malware
• Look at what web filtering you have in place

It’s also worth noting that readiness when it comes to cybersecurity doesn’t always translate to being expensive either, far from it. Ransomware attacks are not going to go away, so make sure you don’t fail if your business becomes victim to one.

etiCloud is an affiliate partner of The Law Society. etiCloud are already delivering flexibility through their Agile Digital Workplace for over 200 UK law firms.

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