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Law Enforcement Action Push Ransomware Gangs to Surgical Attacks

A report published by Coveware that analyzed ransom negotiation data from Q4 2021 shows ransom demands have increased, not the volume of attacks. The average ransom payment in Q4 2021 was $322,168, a 130% increase from the previous quarter. Researchers believe the increase is due to successful law enforcement action, which is causing groups to be more precise in their attacks. Joint law enforcement action across the globe has led to the arrest of several affiliates of ransomware groups, and threat actors are adjusting to protect themselves. Researchers believe that ransomware groups are avoiding large organizations that could spark international investigations. Groups are targeting mid-size companies that still generate enough revenue for a larger ransom payout. The report also stated the most exploited flaws for network entry in Q4 2021 were CVE-2021-34473, CVE-2021-26855, and CVE-2018-13379, on Microsoft Exchange and Fortinet firewall appliances.

Analyst Notes

Organizations should initiate proactive measures to ensure they are protected from ransomware. The US DHS website,, has links to resources that help organizations protect their systems from intrusions that lead to ransomware. To protect against ransomware attacks, organizations should:

• Regularly back up data, air gap, and password protect backup copies offline.
• Ensure copies of critical data are not accessible for modification or deletion from the system where the data resides.
• Implement network segmentation.
• Implement a recovery plan to maintain and retain multiple copies of sensitive or proprietary data and servers in a physically separate, segmented, secure location (i.e., hard drive, storage device, the cloud).
• Install updates/patch operating systems, software, and firmware as soon as practical after they are released. Implement monitoring of security events on employee workstations and servers, with a 24/7 Security Operations Center to detect threats and respond quickly.
• Use multifactor authentication where possible.
• Use strong passwords and regularly change passwords to network systems and accounts, implementing the shortest acceptable timeframe for password changes.
• Avoid reusing passwords for multiple accounts.
• Focus on cyber security awareness and training.
• Regularly provide users with training on information security principles and techniques as well as overall emerging cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities