Dennis Underwood
Published on
September 14, 2023

The Rising Threat of Cyber Extortion: Strategies for Prevention and Response

What’s causing the rise of cyber extortion? Read this guide to discover the answer and learn some best practices for preventing it.

Cyber extortion can be downright terrifying. It can disrupt the flow of a company’s business and leave them deciding whether to pay for the attacks. Hackers are not guaranteed to back out of their threats even if they pay. 

To make matters worse, the threat of cyber extortion is rising. The number of incidents reported to the US Government increased by 98% from 2020 to 2022. This is a massive increase for a short time, and the actual number is likely much higher. 

This article will look at cyber extortion. It will cover what it is and how it works while looking at steps companies can take to prevent it. 

What Is Cyber Extortion?

There are a few different types of cyber extortion out there. However, all of them boil down to a similar premise. They involve a cybercriminal gaining access to something critical to a company. Then, the criminal threatens to use this to hurt the company unless their demands are met

So, cyber extortion is not much different than regular extortion. It simply takes place in an online setting and plays a part in the company’s overall approach to cybersecurity. 

Related: Web Application Security: Defending Your Apps

What Are the Two Most Common Types of Cyber Extortion?

The two most common types of cyber extortion are public disclosure of stolen private information and denial of access through ransomware. 

Ransomware attacks start when an employee downloads malicious software onto their computer. This makes its way into the company’s system, where it steals information or prevents systems from working properly. Once this happens, the criminal contacts the company and demands payment in exchange for returning the data or system functions. They may even raise the stakes to double extortion by threatening to leak the data to the public or competing companies. 

The threat of public disclosure of private information occurs when criminals access corporate or personal information. They then threaten to release this information to the public unless their demands are met. This is dangerous because disclosure of private information can have a huge impact on a business. If corporate information is stolen and disclosed, competitors could access details about how the business is run. Meanwhile, if customer data is stolen, it negatively impacts the company and can cause legal trouble. In both cases, the company will struggle in the future. 

Is Cyber Extortion a Threat to Your Business?

Cyber extortion is a threat to every business, no matter the size. This is because, in many cases, criminals focus on infiltrating a company’s security network rather than committing extortion. Once they’ve infiltrated a business, they sell access to other criminals who actually conduct the extortion. 

This gives them the time to work entirely on distributing malware to every business they can possibly target. They don’t care what kind of business it is or how big it is. They only care about infecting as many companies as possible, so they cast as wide a net as possible. This makes it easy for large and small businesses to get caught up in cyber extortion. Plus, with the average ransom demand around $751 thousand, any business would suffer. 

Need a powerful piece of software to protect your business from cyber extortion? Schedule a call with Cyber Crucible and let our experts explain how our software can work for you.

Best Practices for Preventing Cyber Extortion 

While cyber extortion is a problem, there are ways to fight against it. These include best practices that will help keep a company safe. 

1. Invest in Cybersecurity Solutions

A well-designed cybersecurity system will have a significant impact on preventing cyber extortion. However, this only works if the system is actually well-designed. Approaches that throw everything they can at the problem tend to have gaps in security or use low-quality programs. Instead, a well-designed system will rely on effective and powerful programs like those provided by Cyber Crucible.  

2. Installing an Effective Firewall

An effective firewall is one of the first lines of defense against extortion. This is typically an automated system that blocks as many attacks as possible. Some firewalls prevent hundreds or thousands of attacks on a daily basis without the user even being aware these attacks are happening. 

3. Cybersecurity Training for Your Employees 

Many cyber extortion cases result from employees clicking on the wrong link or downloading something they shouldn’t. Once they do this, the entire system can be compromised. So, teaching employees what to avoid dramatically impacts cybersecurity as a whole. 

Staff sitting around a table during a presentation

4. Get a VPN for Remote Workers

Creating an intense in-office security network is helpful but doesn’t help while your employees work remotely. In these cases, a VPN is necessary. These help employees stay anonymous, mask their location while online, and provide other benefits. They are particularly helpful in keeping the employee’s traffic secure when they use potentially dangerous public Wi-Fi networks like those found at the airport or a coffee shop, as these networks offer far less security. 

5. Back Up All Your Data

In many ransomware attacks, criminals steal critical data from a company and then delete or corrupt that same data on the company’s network. In many cases, they can even access and delete a backup of this data. Now, the criminal has the only copy of the critical data. 

This makes securing data a matter of adequately backing it up and having the right data loss prevention systems in place. Together, these factors keep criminals away from the data and ensure the company always has access to it. 

Related: How To Prevent a Data Breach: 2023 Update

How Cyber Crucible Can Help You

Cyber Crucible meets cybersecurity needs by providing three layers of protection. These include identity theft, data theft, and data denial protection. 

Identity theft protection prevents identifying information from being stolen. Without usernames, passwords, API keys, and more being taken, criminals cannot access the system. This prevents them from conducting their attacks. 

Our Data Loss Prevention (DLP) system is possible through the use of robust behavioral analysis detection. This detects the behavior of criminals as they try to operate and, once they are detected, stops them in their tracks. 

Finally, our Ransomware Encryption Prevention (REP) software provides unparalleled data denial protection. This keeps a company’s system safe at all times, ensuring that the regular flow of business continues no matter what. 

Ready to start with our three-pronged approach to identity theft, data theft, and data denial protection? Create an account and try Cyber Crucible for free.

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The Importance of Protecting Against Cyber Extortion

Cyber extortion is on the rise. Plus, more people are working from home than ever before, with that number having tripled since 2019. These factors together mean that employees are more vulnerable than ever when criminals are on the lookout for vulnerabilities. 

Thus, it is easy to see that protecting against cyber extortion is more important than ever. Companies that take steps to prevent this now ensure that their financial stability and credibility are safe in the future. Companies that don’t take these steps are taking a serious risk. 

Related: How To Prevent Malware Attacks: Tips For Business Owners

About the author
Dennis Underwood

Dennis Underwood is a veteran, cybersecurity leader, inventor, and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience. He is an expert at cryptography, intrusion discovery and analysis, having discovered multiple previously unreported intrusions to clients throughout his career. Currently, he is leading a team of like-minded experts delivering next generation intrusion discovery and ransomware response automation tools to consumers.

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