Ransomware: The internet’s biggest security crisis is getting worse. We need a way out

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Organisations continue to fall victim to ransomware, and yet progress on tackling these attacks, which now constitute one of the biggest security problems on the internet, remains slow.

From small companies to councils, government agencies and big business, the number and range of organisations hit by ransomware is rising. One recent example; schools with 36,000 students have been hit, leaving pupils without access to email as attempts were made to get systems back online. That’s at least four chains of schools attacked in the last month.

Ransomware gangs are getting craftier, and nastier, in their relentless pursuit of profit. It’s not enough to break into computer systems and encrypt the data to render it useless. Now the crooks are stealing some of the data and threatening to reveal it. And it’s not just data such as customer records: the cyber criminals will look for anything that might be sensitive or embarrassing on the network, and use the threat of publishing it as leverage against victims. And in many cases it seems to work.

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So what can be done to stop these attacks? Organisations of all sizes need to understand the ransomware threat, and figure out how to improve their own security – even getting the basics right can go a long way towards deterring attacks. The software industry also needs to do a better job of building secure software. Is this going to happen? That’s unlikely, as there’s just too much pressure to ship software fast and generate profit. The multiple ways companies can customise and integrate software also means that even if it ships as perfectly secure, security holes will emerge as soon as it’s used in the real world. Worse, ransomware groups are adept at seizing on newly discovered flaws and utilising them as part of their attacks, with the ransom money providing funds to sustain longer and more complicated attacks. In the longer term, the…

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