How XDR can empower enterprises in the fight against ransomware | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

Picture this – on a hectic workday, your inbox overflows with emails from work colleagues and clients. Amid the chaos, you spot an email titled, “Your important files have been encrypted.” You, inquisitive and stressed, click it and discover that it’s a mere hoax, a waste of time. But it’s too late. Your computer is now locked, held ransom by a hacker demanding payment to grant access to something you own!

Subject lines like this grab attention, sensationalize, and exaggerate, almost forcing users to click. Just one click by an employee is enough to infect the entire organization’s systems, making them vulnerable to cyberattacks.  

Today, ransomware attacks are among the most prevalent attacks. In 2022, CERT-IN reported a 53% surge in ransomware incidents in India, setting the stage for 2023 to become a year where even more organizations fall victim to ransomware attacks.


Attackers trust the process

The ransom link comes with a threat to either expose or restrict access to data or a computer system. Their primary goal is to make users click. You may not realize, but your clicks might not be taking you where you intended to go, leaving you exposed to a world of vulnerabilities. The link encrypts the files, demanding the victim to pay a fee in exchange for a resolution.

By sensationalizing and exaggerating, they put the average user in a state of shock, almost forcing them to act before they think. Parallely, they intensify their attacks to cause extensive harm even before defenders can identify a problem. With the primary goal being financial gain, attackers are always on the lookout for the path of least resistance.  


Today we are witnessing numerous organized groups joining this trend, resulting in a substantial surge in cybercrime. To comprehend the profile of an “average victim” the Trellix Advanced Research Center has collected years’ worth of data from criminal leak sites, spanning until early June 2023. This research revealed a list of close to 9000 verified ransomware victims worldwide and highlighted significant trends and patterns among the ransomware victim demography.  

It became clear that ransomware assaults are still a constant menace that affects businesses of all sizes throughout the world and not just big businesses. Even though ransomware attacks against large corporations are often featured in news headlines, the research showed that smaller businesses or even individuals are equally susceptible.  

Modus operandi of a ransomware attack


In a typical ransomware attack, there are seven stages that an attacker progresses through. It begins with either passive or active research into the internal network, followed by obtaining entry to crucial systems and enhancing privileges to intensify the target vulnerability.  

This leads to valuable data being stolen, data recovery mechanisms being sabotaged, encrypting data to render it inaccessible to the victim, and ultimately, extorting the victim for releasing the data.

Seven stages of a Ransomware attack


It’s important to know that not every ransomware attack follows all seven stages. Certain threat actors might exploit unauthorized access through legitimate credentials, bypassing the reconnaissance and initial entry stages, and swiftly proceeding to escalation and data extraction. Alternatively, some attackers might skip the steps of encrypting data and preventing recovery, and instead force the victim into paying ransom or risk the threat actor selling the data to their competitors.

This examination of the distinct stages involved in a ransomware attack and the diverse tools employed by these malicious actors underscores the complexity inherent in their assaults. It is evident that within the complex cybersecurity landscape, depending solely on traditional endpoint protection proves inadequate in providing a comprehensive defense against ransomware threats throughout all the phases of an attack.

While traditional endpoint protection remains a fundamental foundation, we’ve seen it become inadequate in the dynamic world we’re in. It is crucial to reinforce it with advanced technologies such as EDR, XDR, and a robust utilization of threat Intelligence resources. These additional layers of security are essential in effectively protecting organizations against the multifaceted ransomware threats that exist today.


Enter XDR – a 360-degree approach

To the unaware, XDR or eXtended Detection and Response is a comprehensive cybersecurity solution designed to enhance an organization’s threat detection and response capabilities. Unlike traditional security systems that focus on specific attack vectors, XDR offers a holistic approach by integrating and correlating data from multiple sources such as endpoint, network, and cloud. This integrated approach allows XDR to detect and respond to threats more effectively, offering a more complete and contextual view of the security landscape.  

XDR combines intelligence, machine learning, automation, device monitoring and database security into one solution. This ensures that data is protected in all its states, at rest, in use, or in transit. It empowers businesses to proactively anticipate emerging threats, accelerate detection and response across the entire defense lifecycle, and enhance the productivity of analysts and security operations by consolidating events from various security technologies into meaningful investigations.  


Moreover, XDR streamlines deployment by integrating seamlessly with third-party applications. Therefore, it’s essential to remember that an ideal solution should exhibit agility in keeping pace with today’s dynamic threats, intelligence in learning from them, and continuous evolution to help customers travel through the ransomware and cybercrime roadmap.

In an ever escalating war against ransomware, XDR has emerged as a strong ally for cybersecurity teams. XDR can help companies to ensure heightened protection, reduced risk, and improved incident response capabilities. XDR doesn’t just bolster your defenses; it sends an unyielding message to cybercriminals: that your enterprise is no longer an easy target.

Mahipal Nair

Mahipal Nair

Mahipal Nair is Managing Director at Trellix India & Vice President/Head of Human Resources APJ


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