Encryption-less Extortion is a rising cybersecurity threat.
For businesses dealing with the constant threat of devastating ransomware attacks, a new menace is gaining traction: encryption-less extortion. This method of cyberattack, unlike traditional ransomware, doesn’t rely on encrypting the victim’s data.
Instead, it threatens to leak sensitive information unless a ransom is paid, prioritizing data exfiltration over disruptive encryption techniques. This tactic has given rise to numerous concerns within the cybersecurity community, as it represents a significant shift in the approach cybercriminals are taking.
In this article we’ll take a closer look at encryption-less extortion, with a view to offering you the best way to stay protected against such attacks.
Understanding Encryption-less Extortion
Encryption-less extortion, as the name suggests, doesn’t involve the encryption of data. Traditional ransomware attacks work by locking access to the victim’s data and demanding payment for the decryption key.
In contrast, encryption-less extortion focuses on exfiltrating sensitive data and threatening its release. This method can be equally, if not more, damaging, as it can lead to the exposure of confidential information, causing reputational damage and regulatory repercussions.
Cybersecurity gangs, often working with a Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) model, can avoid numerous elements that tripped them up in the past:
- Many anti-ransomware techniques rely on picking up mass file encryptions to raise the ransomware alarm; in the case of encryption-less ransomware, there are no tell-tale encryption signs
- Developing the encryption aspect of the ransomware operation is labor and time intensive, and has to be constantly updated to evade detection; now however, this entire side of the ransomware attack can be skipped
How It Works
The process typically involves hackers gaining unauthorized access to an organization’s network and extracting sensitive data.
Once they have what they need, they contact the organization, providing proof of the data breach and demanding a ransom to prevent the release of the information. It’s a straightforward yet highly effective form of digital blackmail.
The Impact of Encryption-less Extortion
The impact of encryption-less extortion can be far-reaching. For businesses, the threat of having confidential data exposed can lead to a loss of customer trust, legal challenges, and significant financial losses. For individuals, such exposure can mean a loss of privacy and personal security.
The impact of extortion without encryption is more significant than many imagine, and it’s crucial to emphasize the expectations placed on the security team in such scenarios. They are required to precisely identify what data the attackers have leaked. If the security team is unable to determine the extent of the leak, their next step involves disconnecting all users from the internet to initiate an investigation. This process can be lengthy, potentially taking weeks, during which employees are unable to work. The repercussions of this downtime are extensive, leading to considerable damage to the organization.
Why It’s Effective
This type of extortion is effective because it preys on the fear of public exposure. The possibility of having sensitive data leaked is often enough to compel victims to pay the ransom, even if it’s against law enforcement advice. Moreover, because there’s no need to decrypt data, the process is faster and simpler for attackers, making it an attractive alternative to traditional ransomware.
Combatting Encryption-less Extortion
Addressing encryption-less extortion requires a multifaceted approach. Organizations must strengthen their cybersecurity defenses to prevent breaches in the first place. This includes regular security audits, employee training, and the implementation of robust cybersecurity protocols.
- Data Control and Visibility: The organization must have a comprehensive understanding of how people are utilizing files across all platforms. To achieve this, it’s essential for them to implement encryption, Digital Rights Management (DRM), and Data Loss Prevention (DLP) systems. These tools are crucial in monitoring and managing file usage, ensuring sensitive information is safeguarded. Additionally, it is equally important for the organization to educate its users on the responsible and careful use of data and resources. This combination of technological solutions and user education forms a robust framework to protect against data misuse and security breaches.
- Regular Security Audits: Conducting frequent security audits helps identify and address vulnerabilities in the network.
- Employee Training: It’s important to train employees on recognizing and reporting phishing attempts or to use and share the company files in a secure way, on a regular basis, and to do this proactively when a user is deleting or moving files they should not. Even if they have access to these files.
- Data Backup and Encryption: Regularly backing up data and encrypting sensitive information can reduce the impact of data theft. Make sure not to surprise users with automatic classification that may confuse the user and harm their productivity.
- Incident Response Planning: Having a well-defined incident response plan can help organizations act swiftly and effectively in the event of a data breach.
The Future of Encryption-less Extortion
As with any form of cyber threat, it’s likely that encryption-less extortion will continue to evolve. Cybercriminals are always looking for new ways to exploit vulnerabilities, and as defenses against traditional ransomware improve, attackers will increasingly turn to alternative methods like encryption-less extortion.
Staying Ahead of the Curve
Staying ahead of these threats requires constant vigilance and adaptation. Organizations must keep abreast of the latest cybersecurity trends and threats and continuously update their security measures accordingly.
How ITsMine Keeps You Protected Against Encryption-less Extortion
ITsMine’s purpose-built solution is the perfect way to prevent the impact of an encryption-less ransomware attack. When it comes to such an attack, the main issue is control over your data.
ITsMine is the only solution that will keep you in control:
- Proactively protect against data loss and leakage: ITsMine’s Agentless Beyond DLP is a data protection platform that simplifies DLP by replacing traditional policy-based enforcement models with a dynamic and intuitive combination of EDRM and AI-driven threat detection. It protects sensitive data from breaches, ransomware, and malicious or careless insiders.
- Know you had a leakage: Using SoftwareMines™ and FileGPS™’s “Call Home” functionality, the system will alert the security team of abnormal use of a file even beyond the company’s boundaries, and provide full forensics information.
- Know exactly what was leaked: ITsMine can tell you exactly which files have been compromised; FileGPS™’ Call Home will alert you when a file is opened outside company boundaries by unauthorized user, and will immediately allow you to know exactly where the file was taken from, by whom, from which device, and when it was it taken out of the company. The solution provides the full list of all the files that the attacker has access to.
- Kill the most critical files even after data exfiltration: The solution allows you to transform any folder – both on premise and in the cloud – into a Virtual Vault, where FileGPS™ and TimeBomb™ technology give you unprecedented control over data. Files will always call home and always be protected, and security departments can kill the files even after the data exfiltration.
- Provide evidence that no one used your important files: ITsMine provides complete visibility into the status of all files, allowing you to prove to stakeholders, management, cyber insurance companies and regulatory authorities that important files were not accessed, and cannot be accessed after the file was revoked or killed.
All of this means that encryption-less ransomware has met its match thanks to ITsMine.
Get in touch with ITsMine today to quickly and effortlessly get set up, and sleep easy knowing that you have the threat of encryption-less ransomware covered.