According to the CISA, ransomware attacks are one of the fastest-growing cyber threats today. In fact, shifting from just one year to the next, ransomware incidents increased 62% in 2021 in comparison to 2020 — accounting for 10% of global data breaches. In February 2022 alone, the CISA reported that it is aware of ransomware incidents against 14 of the 16 U.S. critical infrastructure sectors. The question is what’s leading to all these ransomware attacks? How can we prevent them from happening at all?
We know that user error is a catalyst for cybercriminals to be able to carry out these ransomware attacks. Whether it be by accidentally clicking on a phishing email or using insecure browsing sessions, user error can lead to ransomware. The bad news is ransomware is on the rise. The good news is there are ways to prevent these attacks from happening with the right technology.
Continue reading to dive deep into the correlation between user error and ransomware attacks and discover solutions to mitigate your overall risk posture.
How Does User Error Lead to Ransomware Attacks?
Before diving into the solutions to prevent ransomware attacks brought in by user error, it’s important to discuss how user error can lead to an attack. Stanford University reports that approximately 88% percent of all data breaches are caused by an employee mistake or human error. TechTarget also states that “More often than not, it’s users clicking on something that they shouldn’t that can lead to [a ransomware] infection.”
There are many examples of user error that can open the gates for cybercriminals to steal data and hold it for ransom. We’ve listed just a few below:
- Clicking on malicious links
- Responding to spam or phishing emails
- Working in compromised sites and browsers
Take a look at our Delivery & Exploit Kill Chain for Ransomware below.
This diagram depicts the potential pathways cybercriminals can exploit vulnerable (and high-risk) users to steal sensitive data and information via ransomware exploit. Typically, an attack is delivered via a link or an executable with an enticing reason to download it. Once the victim clicks on the malicious software, the user’s machine runs the ransomware exploit. It’s during this process that these criminals identify and encrypt key data from the user’s systems. At this point, the attacker has full control of the victim’s machine and won’t unlock it or share the decryption key until the ransom payment is received.
There are multiple attack vectors shown above, so it’s understandable why organizations struggle to mitigate user error. Thus, it’s no longer a luxury, but a necessity, to implement the right technology to:
- Prioritize your organization’s risk posture across all departments
- Predict which users are at the highest risk of letting in an attack
- Unlock prevention strategies to mitigate all types of cyberattacks
How Enterprises Are Preventing Ransomware Caused by Human Error
By implementing the right tools and technology, you can help minimize the likelihood of a ransomware attack on your organization. A recent Proofpoint survey found that:
- More than 60% of respondents are investing in technology to prevent ransomware
- 58% have purchased cyber insurance
However, we know that the best solution to preventing ransomware is by leveraging user error and risk mitigation technology. With the right software, you can gain:
- Visibility and control over your attack surface
- Data that highlights the biggest risks in your organization
- A deeper understanding of who in your organization is most likely to fall for a ransomware attack
Take, for example, the Elevate Security Platform. Elevate Security helps security teams disrupt the likelihood of ransomware downloads while keeping all necessary user controls and permissions updated automatically. Check out the compelling story of how a Fortune 500 company in the financial industry with a large, global workforce that included a mix of full-time, contract and subcontractor roles, used Elevate Security to identify and respond to high-risk users. Upon implementing our platform, this Fortune 500 company achieved:
- An 82% reduction in malware/ransomware and account takeover incidents
- A 55% improvement in risky security decisions being made
- A 47% increase in the detection of attacks targeting employees
5 Strategies to Mitigate User Error with Elevate Security
Based on our years of experience, we’ve developed our platform to prevent ransomware attacks for our clients by implementing the following 5 key functions.
The initial functionality necessary to mitigate user error is enhanced visibility into individual risk profiles. Generating user risk profiles for every user in your extended enterprise is essential to determine their likelihood of falling victim to a ransomware attack. With intensified visibility, you can identify the 6% of your users causing 90% of your security incidents.
2. Control Orchestration
Understanding user risk is the first step in preventing ransomware. The next is to establish the automated workflow of controls that are appropriate for targeted individuals. Depending on the user’s risk score, controls can be tightened or loosened automatically. Elevate Security handles this by pushing updates to email, web gateways, and endpoint security tools as needed.
3. Employee Feedback & Executive Communication
Keeping employees informed and in the loop on their own personal risk posture is critical. With automated notifications, you can inform your riskiest users about how to recognize unsafe links and downloads. This way, users are empowered to stay on their toes and be on the lookout for potential security incidents.
4. Decision Support
It can be difficult determining which controls and permissions should or shouldn’t be restricted for a certain high-risk individual — especially when productivity is on the line. With effective user risk mitigation technology like Elevate Security, your incident response team and security analysts will receive expert insights into each individual’s human risk to make well-informed and defensible decisions.
5. Continuous Improvement
The end goal is not to control every move and decision high-risk users make, it’s to mitigate their likelihood of falling for a ransomware attack over time. With our solution, you can re-evaluate your data loss posture continuously. Now, you’ll be better able to understand the effectiveness of your investment.
In the past few years, ransomware attacks have only gotten worse and more sophisticated, with their frequency increasing by 715%. Plus, ransomware payouts have more than doubled from an average of $115,000 to $312,500. These attacks are an unfortunate reality for all enterprises — but there are things you can do to avoid becoming a victim.
Take the Elevate Security Platform for a test drive — schedule a demo to get started.