Ransomware attacks are continuously rising. In fact, a Hornetsecurity study revealed that 25% of IT professionals reported their organizations have been a victim of ransomware attacks — and that 15% of those ransomware attacks specifically targeted backups. This alarming statistic shows how prevalent this threat is and just how easily a company can become a victim. 

In addition to data being encrypted, successful attacks can also result in stolen information, enabling fraudsters to implement extortion campaigns. As technology advances, ransomware attacks are becoming automated, more sophisticated, and more dangerous overall. The rise of generative AI, most notably ChatGPT, is making it even easier for cybercriminals. The automation abilities of this new technology allow hackers to put less effort into creating better-targeted attacks, which put potential victims at higher risk. 

Schools are a huge target when it comes to ransomware, and attacks are expected to rise. In a ransomware attack, cybercriminals break into a district’s or a school’s secured network and take action to encrypt data. Cybercriminals then threaten to release the data to the public if not paid. If they are compensated, the cybercriminals say they will decrypt and return the data. But beware: the FBI and the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) discourage paying the ransom because it does not guarantee the data will be decrypted or that the system will no longer be compromised — and ultimately, this success encourages hackers to target more victims. 

Hackers also use extortion software to encrypt or deny users access to data stored on backups. Many companies rely heavily on backups in case of lost or damaged data. As such, this is a treacherous attack to fall victim to. For example, the encrypted backups are only restored in exchange for a ransom. If the payment is not received or fails to meet the required deadline, the attackers threaten to delete, steal, or publish the sensitive data to the public. It should come as no surprise then that ransomware can cost companies millions of dollars, and if a victim does not pay, their IT can come to a standstill and entire workflows and processes are disrupted. Parallel to this is the threat of confidential company data being exposed, which can result in high financial or reputational losses. 

Ransomware can originate from different sources and be transmitted in multiple ways. One example is phishing emails that contain ransomware-infected attachments that can compromise a company’s entire network. To mitigate these risks, many organizations use methods such as endpoint security, advanced threat detection and response, patch management, multifactor authentication (MFA), and employee security training. While these techniques are necessary, immutable backups are also recommended as an additional layer of security. 

As ransomware attacks increase and evolve, company backups will continue to come under threat. To effectively combat this threat, it’s important that organizations have proper security measures in place and invest in protection that cannot be erased, modified, or deleted by anyone for a set time period. An added extra layer of tamper-proof security is critical when it comes to backup data — an invaluable line of defense that can help an organization avoid being victimized by cybersecurity threats. It’s also important that IT managers remain vigilant in training their company’s employees with easy-to-navigate and up-to-date tools to ensure systems don’t get compromised due to preventable human error. These steps will help companies stay one step ahead of hackers and keep organizations safe even as cyberattacks continue to grow.