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The Scourge of Ransomware

Ransomware has become a growing threat in our new hybrid world. It encrypts a victim’s files, rendering them inaccessible, and demands a ransom payment for the decryption key. This can cripple businesses, government agencies, and even individuals, causing significant financial losses, operational disruptions, and reputational damage.

How Ransomware Works:

Ransomware typically infiltrates a system through phishing emails, malicious software downloads, or network security vulnerabilities. Once inside, it encrypts files, making them unusable. Hackers then demand a ransom payment, usually in cryptocurrency, to provide the decryption key. The pressure is high, as victims risk losing access to critical data permanently if they don’t comply.

Ransomware Attacks 2021-2024:

While the exact ransom amounts paid are often not publicly disclosed, here are five significant ransomware attacks that have hit headlines in the last three years:

  1. MOVEit Attack (May 2023): The CL0P ransomware group exploited a vulnerability in MOVEit, a popular file transfer software. This attack impacted numerous high-profile companies, including the BBC, British Airways, and Ernst and Young, causing major disruptions. The ransom demands and total amount paid remain undisclosed.
  1. Colonial Pipeline Attack (May 2021): This attack targeted a critical piece of US infrastructure – the Colonial Pipeline, which transports gasoline and diesel fuel across the East Coast. Using DarkSide ransomware, the attackers forced the pipeline to shut down for several days, causing fuel shortages and panic buying. Colonial Pipeline reportedly paid a ransom of $4 million.
  2. Kaseya Supply Chain Attack (July 2021): REvil ransomware exploited a vulnerability in Kaseya VSA, a remote monitoring and management software used by Managed Service Providers (MSPs). This attack rippled through the supply chain, impacting thousands of businesses that relied on MSPs for IT support. The estimated ransom demands exceeded over $70 million, though the amount paid is unknown.
  1. Costa Rica Government Attack (April 2022): The Conti ransomware group launched a large-scale attack on Costa Rica’s government systems, crippling critical services like tax collection and social security. The government refused to pay the ransom demands, opting for data restoration efforts.
  2. Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center Attack (February 2023): This attack, using the LockBit ransomware strain, disrupted operations at the medical center, forcing them to delay surgeries and appointments. The attackers demanded a ransom of $34 million, but the hospital’s response and the amount paid are undisclosed.

The Fight Against Ransomware: Introducing Zero Trust

Combating ransomware requires a multi-pronged approach. Businesses need robust cybersecurity measures like data backups, user education, and endpoint protection. Governments are collaborating to disrupt ransomware operations and international law enforcement is working to track down perpetrators. There’s growing awareness about the importance of not paying ransoms, as it incentivizes further attacks.

One increasingly important defense strategy is Zero Trust. This security model assumes no user or device is inherently trustworthy, constantly verifying them before granting them access to resources. Here’s how Zero Trust can specifically help against ransomware attacks:

  • Limiting Lateral Movement: Ransomware often spreads within a network after gaining an initial foothold. Zero Trust’s micro-segmentation restricts access to specific resources, making it difficult for ransomware to move laterally and encrypt vast amounts of data.
  • Least Privilege Access: Zero Trust enforces the principle of least privilege, granting users only the minimum access level required for their tasks. This reduces the potential damage if a compromised account is exploited by ransomware.
  • Continuous Monitoring: Zero Trust involves constant monitoring of user activity and system behavior. This allows for early detection of suspicious activity, potentially stopping a ransomware attack before significant encryption occurs.
  • Stronger Identity Verification: Multi-factor authentication and other strong verification methods make it harder for attackers with stolen credentials to bypass security measures.


Organizations can significantly reduce the risk and impact of ransomware attacks by implementing Zero Trust principles. However, Zero Trust is not a silver bullet. It should be layered with other security measures to create a comprehensive defense strategy.

About the Author

jaye Tillson authorJaye Tillson is Director of Strategy and Field CTO at Axis Security (acquired by HPE), boasting over 25 years of invaluable expertise in successfully implementing strategic global technology programs. With a strong focus on digital transformation, Jaye has been instrumental in guiding numerous organizations through their zero-trust journey, enabling them to thrive in the ever-evolving digital landscape.

Jaye’s passion lies in collaborating with enterprises, assisting them in their strategic pursuit of zero trust. He takes pride in leveraging his real-world experience to address critical issues and challenges faced by these businesses.

Beyond his professional pursuits, Jaye co-founded the SSE Forum and co-hosts its popular podcast called ‘The Edge.’ This platform allows him to engage with a broader audience, fostering meaningful discussions on industry trends and innovations.

Jaye Tillson can be reached online at

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