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A ransomware attack is one of the most serious cyber threats organizations face. Its effects can cripple critical infrastructure, bring down major companies and even threaten national security. And the attackers behind these attacks are growing increasingly sophisticated. In 2021 alone, a blockchain analysis revealed that ransomware gangs earned over $600 million in cryptocurrency extortion fees.

Infections are typically initiated via phishing emails and exploiting unpatched software vulnerabilities. Once the malware gains access to a system, it starts encrypting files. Typically, the attackers will carefully select which files to encrypt (avoiding those critical for a computer’s operation) and then present a ransom demand. Depending on the variant, the attackers may also delete backup and shadow copies to make recovery more difficult.

While the average ransomware attack costs an organization approximately $3,300 per victim, some victims find themselves in a no-win situation. According to an IBM study from 2021, 61 percent of victim organizations that paid a ransom said they didn’t get their data back.

As ransomware gangs grow more sophisticated, the FBI is taking notice, and so are insurance providers. Many are raising rates, adding exclusions and slashing payouts to combat this growing threat. While it’s impossible to completely eliminate the risk of ransomware, a well-defined plan of action and the right tools and processes can help minimize the damage.