Welcome to Ransomware 101: Ransomware meaning, prevention & cases. In recent years, the digital landscape has seen a surge in ransomware attacks. So far, 2023 has seen the frequency and severity of ransomware attacks reach unprecedented levels, with almost 2,000 attacks happening across the US, Germany, France, and the UK this year. This leaves IT, HR, and security managers all scrambling to find ways to protect their organizations quickly and securely.

In this blog, we will explain the meaning of ransomware, a new type of ransomware, cases, and, most importantly, protection strategies that your organization can use to stop your company from becoming the next ransomware victim. 

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is malicious software that encrypts a user’s files or systems, making them inaccessible to the organization. The attackers then typically demand a ransom in exchange for the decryption key. Ransomware is usually spread through phishing links, malicious attachments, or drive-by downloading.  

This attack method has become the go-to for cyber criminals seeking large financial gains or fame in the cyber crime world. 


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This is due to ransomware’s ability to disrupt operations, compromise sensitive data, and inflict financial losses on businesses of all sizes, making it more interesting to mainstream news and more detrimental to businesses.

Why is Popularity Increasing?

The rise of ransomware can be attributed to many factors. Externally, the rise of cryptocurrency and AI has encouraged more attacks from cyber criminals. The rise of cryptocurrency has made anonymous payments and untraceable money easier to use, making ransom payments less risky for criminals. AI has helped cyber criminals become smarter, helping their social engineering skills trick more businesses into falling for their phishing links.  

Additionally, the US recently increased their offering to up to $15 million for any information about Russian spy groups, causing one large cyber crime group, Conti, to split into two different organizations and restructure. Their bounce back could be a cause for a significant increase in ransomware attacks. 

Dual Ransomware Attacks

A new evolution in ransomware tactics is the creation of dual ransomware attacks. In these instances, victims are attacked twice by ransomware within ten days, the majority being within two days of each other. The attacks are typically done with different types of ransomware targeting different parts of the network. 

The reason for these dual attacks is that after one ransomware attack, the business is then at its weakest point, making it easier to make a bigger impact on the second ransomware attack. The increase in these attacks could also explain the rise of total ransomware attacks in 2023. 

Ransomware cases

One of the most recent ransomware cases to make headlines was the MGM cyber attack. The attacker used social engineering to trick someone at the IT Help Desk into giving them access to the network. The attacker then deployed ransomware onto the computer and held onto MGM’s data, demanding payment in cryptocurrency to release it back. MGM was so heavily affected by this ransomware, that even slot machines and hotel room keys were reported to be offline. 

At the same time, Caesar’s Entertainment was also infected with ransomware and ended up paying millions of dollars to access their user data again. The attacker used the same strategy as the MGM attack, using their IT Desk and lack of employee verification processes as a way to access the network and deploy the malware. 

Prevention strategies

Implement Ransomware Protection

Investing in robust anti-ransomware solutions is your first line of defence. These tools use advanced algorithms to detect and stop ransomware before it can wreak havoc on your systems. According to Cyber News, the best systems for ransomware protection are: 

Implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Make it difficult for an attacker to gain access in the first place. MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide multiple forms of identification before accessing sensitive systems or data, such as a code from an application on their phone or from an SMS message. Implementing a policy that all logins must use MFA ensures that you have one more step that an attacker has to get through to access your network and deploy ransomware. 

Restrict user ability

Limiting user privileges is a crucial aspect of ransomware prevention. Users should only have access to the resources necessary for their roles, minimizing the potential impact of a compromised account. 

Create a checklist of teams and roles in your organization and conduct interviews to discover what they need access to in order to complete their job. Implement user-access restrictions based on your findings. If an attacker gains access to your network, but can’t access most files, they’ll eventually give up. 

Some other strategies would be to implement blocks to stop one device from being able to control or access any other devices or implement time blocks that only allow users to access things for a certain amount of time before blocking them out. Remote users should also only be able to access the network by going through a VPN. 


Even with the right processes implemented, ransomware attacks can still get through. Your best chance at protecting your organization is to stop ransomware at its source, by educating your team on phishing links. Use a security awareness training program like Click Armor to engage your team in training specifically for ransomware protection.

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Back up everything 

Perhaps the most critical aspect of ransomware defence is a robust data backup strategy. By having your data backed up in the event of a ransomware attack, you can restore your systems without succumbing to the attacker’s demands. Create a process and agenda for regularly backing up all critical files and systems. Store these backups in a secure, isolated environment. 

Identify your most important data

What data would be the most detrimental if it went public? Which data do you need to run your business daily? Identify these two different groups of data and ensure that you focus on protecting them first and at the highest degree of security. This will help you avoid paying ransom if it ever comes down to it. 

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, so do the tactics of cyber criminals. Ransomware, with its ability to paralyze organizations and extort hefty ransoms, remains a prevalent and evolving threat. By adopting a comprehensive approach to cyber security—encompassing advanced protection tools, user training, and resilient backup strategies—you can build a strong security program to protect your business from ransomware.


Scott Wright is CEO of Click Armor, the gamified simulation platform that helps businesses avoid breaches by engaging employees to improve their proficiency in making decisions for cyber security risk and corporate compliance. He has over 20 years of cyber security coaching experience and was creator of the Honey Stick Project for Smartphones as a demonstration in measuring human vulnerabilities.