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February 28, 2023 36 mins

Cyber Security is big business. In fact, it's estimated to be worth $160 billion. But that's likely to be peanuts compared to the value of cyber crime, which is estimated to cost the global economy $600 billion in 2022 - nearly 1% of the global economy. And just one corner of that - ransomware - costs the same in damage and paid-out fees as the entire cyber security industry: $160 billion. In fact, if ransomware was a country, its GDP would be higher than Morocco or Kuwait. 

In this episode, we'll be examining the rise of ransomware, where the risk lies in modern-day attacks, who is behind them, and what we can do about it.

For Hewlett Packard Enterprise Senior Vice President and Global Chief Security Officer Bobby Ford, defeating ransomware is a constant and growing battle because its a straightforward payout for criminal gangs - there is no need to try and sell stolen data on the dark web or to foreign governments, you simply sell the victim back their access. He argues that the key to protecting ourselves is twofold. Firstly, use two-factor authentication wherever possible to guard against human weak-points such as opening infected emails. Secondly, be prepared to defend yourself. Be aware of the threats and where they are coming from, and mitigate them where you can, so long as it doesn't affect the running of your organisation. Beyond that, have a plan in place for being attacked, be that data recovery or, unfortunately, paying up. 

Chris Rogers is a Technologist at cyber security firm Zerto. He agrees that ransomware can be hard to avoid because humans are an inherent weakpoint, and ransomware attacks often come through human social engineering rather than password cracking. He points out that even momentary downtime can cause millions of dollars in damages. He agrees with Bobby that robust, quickly spooled up backups are an essential part of doing business. Unfortunately, that's easier said than done: Backups can sometimes be limited access, which is great for security but leaves organisations vulnerable if the key holder isn't immediately available. Beyond that, backups have to maintained incredibly regularly, as even a day's lost work for a large organisation can be a major blow. On the other hand, any back-up is better than no preparation at all. 

But how are cyber security threats like ransomware being treated at the very top of the tree? When it comes to cyber security, it doesn't get much more high value or (hopefully) secure than financial institutions. George Webster is chief Security Architect for HSBC. His office is tasked with quickly assessing threats, in particular APTs or Advanced Persistent Threats, and providing tools to counter them. He argues that the primary risk increase of the last couple of years has been people working from home, in situations where there are distractions and their security awareness may not be as strong as it was in the office. He also argues that on a wider level, it's not just staff who become more vulnerable as they are spread out: As ransomware becomes an increasing problem internationally, no organisation is safe anywhere in the world and being aware of the risk is key to countering it without shutting yourself off from the outside.

The long show notes for this episode can be found here: 

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