Ransomware is malicious software that is specifically designed to disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorized access to a computer system and its data until a “ransom” is paid. Consequences of a ransomware attack can be severe and there is no guarantee a user will recover their data, even if they pay the ransom money. 

On a personal level, ransomware can result in loss of irreplaceable files (photos, documents), financial losses, or possible disclosure of sensitive information. For an organization, ransomware can cause disruptions in operations, financial losses from a payout or expensive investigations, and even reputational damage leading to the loss of customers – current and future.  

Ransomware graph of attacks over the years.

Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/494947/ransomware-attacks-per-year-worldwide/

In a recent article entitled, Ransomware Statistics, Data, Trends and Facts for 2021 trends from various sources are presented, many of which provide useful information and illustrate why we should be concerned about ransomware. Some highlights from the article are included below:

  • Ransomware attention is shifting to more vulnerable industries, including healthcare and higher education.
  • Ransomware remains the most prevalent malware threat.
  • From a different survey conducted with 1,263 companies:
    • 80% of victims who submitted a ransom payment experienced another attack soon after, and 46% got access to their data but most of it was corrupted
    • 29% of respondents stated their companies were forced to remove jobs following a ransomware attack
  • The most common tactics attackers use to carry out ransomware attacks are email phishing campaigns and software vulnerabilities (emphasis added).
  • Ransomware attacks against universities doubled between 2019 and 2020.
  • The average cost of a ransomware attack in higher education in 2020 was $447,000 per occurrence – and that’s just the ransom. It does not include the cost of time or data lost and resources required to fix the problem.

What Can You Do?

To protect the University and yourself from the effects of ransomware, you can ensure two things happen:

  1. Keep systems patched and up-to-date
    It seems like those computer updates come at the most inconvenient times! But those updates will help keep your system protected from malicious attacks, like ransomware. Patches and updates remove weaknesses from your system that the bad guys can exploit. If those weaknesses don’t exist, the bad guys can’t use them to take over your system.
  2. Maintain current backups of important files and information
    If your system is hit by ransomware, the best way to recover is to ensure your files and information are backed up. If they are, you can ignore the cybercriminal’s ransomware demands. Your system can be cleaned up and your files can be recovered. Contact your departmental IT staff or the IT Support Center if you need assistance setting up backups, restoring your system, or recovering your files.

If you are a victim of ransomware, report the event to the University IT Support Center via the help request form, or by calling 302-831-6000 or emailing askit@udel.edu.