Ransomware, attacker behaviour to shape IT security in 2021

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Mumbai, Nov 23 (IANS) Ransomware and fast-changing attacker behaviours from the advanced to entry level will shape the threat landscape and IT security in 2021, says a report by cybersecurity company Sophos on Monday.

The gap between ransomware operators at different ends of the skills and resource spectrum will increase, according to the “Sophos 2021 Threat Report”.

At the high end, the big-game hunting ransomware families will continue to refine and change their tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) to become more evasive and nation-state-like in sophistication, targeting larger organisations with multimillion-dollar ransom demands.

In 2020, such families included Ryuk and RagnarLocker.

At the other end of the spectrum, Sophos anticipates an increase in the number of entry level, apprentice-type attackers looking for menu-driven, ransomware-for-rent, such as Dharma, that allows them to target high volumes of smaller prey.

Another ransomware trend is “secondary extortion”, where alongside the data encryption the attackers steal and threaten to publish sensitive or confidential information if their demands are not met.

In 2020, Sophos reported on Maze, RagnarLocker, Netwalker, REvil, and others using this approach.

“The ransomware business model is dynamic and complex. During 2020, Sophos saw a clear trend towards adversaries differentiating themselves in terms of their skills and targets,” Chester Wisniewski, Principal Research Scientist, Sophos, said in a statement.

“However, we’ve also seen ransomware families sharing best-of-breed tools and forming self-styled collaborative ‘cartels’,” said Chester Wisniewski, principal research scientist, Sophos.

The company also anticipates that next year, everyday threats such as commodity malware, including loaders and botnets, or human-operated Initial Access Brokers, will demand serious security attention.

Moreover, all ranks of adversaries will increasingly abuse legitimate tools, well known utilities and common network destinations to evade detection and security measures and thwart analysis and attribution, said the report.

Additional trends analysed in the report include the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on IT security, such as the security challenges of working from home using personal networks protected by widely varying levels of security.