Ransomware attacks shift focus to data theft

Over 300 incidents occurred in the past year

Ransomware attacks shift focus to data theft


By Mika Pangilinan

Ransomware tactics are evolving, with attackers now prioritizing the theft of valuable data and sensitive information over demanding cash payments.

Previously, ransomware attackers would infiltrate systems, seize control, and demand monetary payments for the restoration of access.

But hackers now recognize that companies have become more vigilant in maintaining backups to retrieve locked data, according to Sami Khoury, head of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security.

This change has led to threat actors focusing on exfiltrating valuable information that they can threaten to sell or release.

“What they’re going after now is information,” Khoury told the Canadian Press.

As the country continues to face a growing number of cybercrime incidents, Khoury emphasized the urgent need for improved defence measures.

The prevalence of cyber attacks in Canada

The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security reported approximately 305 ransomware incidents last year, an increase from around 295 incidents the year prior.

Khoury said the true number of attacks may be even higher, with some companies refusing to report cyber incidents due to embarrassment or concerns about their reputation.

“I can assure you the real number is nowhere near that,” he said. “The real number might be closer [if you] add a zero to it.”

Khoury considers cybercrime, including ransomware, the “number one” cybersecurity threat facing Canada today. He stressed the importance of reporting incidents, saying it enables the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security to provide more tailored advice, identify patterns, and determine the culprits behind the attacks.

He also urged organizations to take proactive measures to protect themselves against cyber attacks, including implementing stronger and unique passwords, adopting multi-factor authentication on all accounts, as well as educating their staff about potential security risks.

Major organizations like Indigo, Sobeys, Suncor Energy, and Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children have fallen victim to such attacks over the last year.

A report by Blakes found that most companies hit by ransomware attacks are paying significant sums to regain control of their systems.

 Two-thirds of companies hit by ransomware attacks succumbed to hackers’ demands in 2022, according to the law firm, up from 56% in the previous year. The median ransom they paid amounted to $546,000, jumping from $100,000 just two years earlier.

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