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How Data Exfiltration is Changing the Ransomware Landscape | #ransomware | #cybercrime


A staggering 91% of ransomware attacks now involve data exfiltration, typically to servers in China or Russia, marking a major evolution beyond file encryption. This exponential rise in exfiltration creates endless extortion potential, sparks legal action, allows tailored demands, and fuels future breaches.

According to our 2023 Annual Ransomware Report, 91% of all ransomware incidents now include some form of data exfiltration, typically to servers in China or Russia. This marks a major shift from historical ransomware attacks that aimed solely to encrypt files and demand a decryption ransom.

For organizations, this renders traditional backup solutions ineffective when it comes to fully protecting against modern ransomware. While backups can help restore encrypted files, they are powerless to retrieve data that has already been stolen to be sold on cybercrime forums and dark web networks.

The only way to properly defend against this threat is to prioritize real-time solutions that focus on preventing unauthorized data transfers in the first place. Emerging next generation technology like anti data exfiltration (ADX) enables the type of rapid threat detection and response needed to stop abnormal data movement early on, before sensitive information can be exfiltrated.

Below you can find four points that we have compiled to provide an accurate portrayal of how the landscape has evolved as a result of this trend.

Extortion Can Continue For Years

Once data has been exfiltrated during an attack, cybercriminals can continue exploiting it for additional extortion long after the initial incident. Even if the original demands are met and the ransom is paid, the threat often remains.

It allows ransomware groups to direct repeat attacks or blackmail attempts against the same victims, prolonging the damage timeline.

A prime example is the 2015 Ashley Madison data breach. While not a ransomware attack per se, the consequences underscore the impact that data exfiltration can have quite clearly. After the dating site’s customer names and personal details surfaced online, cybercriminals used the sensitive data to stalk and harass individual victims for years.

Even after the initial leak, they could threaten to leak more information or out affected individuals to families and communities. This lifelong blackmail potential demonstrates why aggressive early intervention is necessary against data breaches.

Legal Action Will Increase

Data breaches and personal information theft often cause panic and anxiety among those affected. As a result, legal action is likely to increase.

When private records are exposed online, individuals face higher risks of financial fraud and identity theft. The consequences go beyond individuals, as corporations can be held liable for not adequately protecting customer data.

With the ongoing occurrence of data exfiltration through ransomware attacks, we anticipate an increase in lawsuits from affected parties. Employees may also take legal action against employers who failed to safeguard their personal data.

From the attacker’s vantage point, encrypting data mainly creates a problem for the targeted company. However, the larger the attack’s fallout, the more pressure and commotion it places on the organization. When breaches affect masses of customers or clients, the public relations damage and legal liabilities multiply quickly.

This compels the company to take quick action to mitigate the attack, often by paying steep ransom demands. In this sense, large-scale attacks provoke wider chaos and urgency around resolving the incident.

The underlying incentive structure reveals why attackers strive to compromise as much data as possible. The more victims created, the more leverage hackers gain in extracting lucrative payments. Thus data exposure is not an accidental byproduct, but an intentional strategy to manufacture crisis-level stakes that force companies into cooperation.

Data exfiltration enables ransomware groups to tailor their extortion demands to each victim based on the value and sensitivity of the stolen content. For example, local governments may face higher ransom figures if citizen data is compromised compared to generic customer records stolen from retailers.

Ransomware negotiation chats provide transparency into this calculated strategy. In their own conversations, ransomware groups openly admit to scoping data first before deploying ransomware across systems.

This phase involves identifying the most important and sensitive internal data to exfiltrate. Patient medical records, employee payroll files, customer personally identifiable information (PII) and intellectual property represent high-value theft targets.

Stolen Data Assists In Future Breaches

Beyond the initial extortion, compromised data serves as fuel for secondary attacks using tactics like SIM swapping, social engineering, and password reuse attacks. Even if organizations identify and contain an initial breach, the hard truth is that their data may resurface in future cyber incidents by the same or different criminal groups.

For example, if employee credentials or passwords are stolen, they hold enduring value for attackers. They can be sold on cybercrime forums or used directly by hackers to infiltrate networks by impersonating workers. This breach replay can unfold months or years down the line, often catching companies off guard if previous incidents are not properly dealt with or prevented.

A single data breach in comparison to data encryption should be viewed as the start of an ongoing crisis, rather than an isolated event. The exfiltration itself represents one domino falling, which may trigger a cascade of additional activity enabled by the compromised data.

Take Your Next Steps With BlackFog

BlackFog offers an advanced ADX technology solution to protect your network and keep your data safe. By using behavioral analytics, BlackFog can prevent data theft before it happens, staying ahead in the ransomware game.

Deploying BlackFog is a proactive measure to secure your organization’s data and prevent it from ending up in the wrong hands. Don’t wait for a breach; register for an assessment today and strengthen your defenses with BlackFog.



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