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One-in-seven Nasdaq-100 companies ranked as highly susceptible to a ransomware attack

Over 90% of companies operate out-of-date systems, according to new report

The majority of Nasdaq-100 companies are operating out-of-date systems, and 82 percent have publicly visible ports, increasing the risk of a ransomware attack, according to a new report.

Some 92% of companies have at least one high severity vulnerability due to out-of-date systems, according to research published by IT security firm Black Kite. The company’s Ransomware Susceptibility Index also revealed that 15% of companies are highly susceptible to a ransomware incident, while 60% of Fortune 100 companies have experienced breach in the past.

Researchers calculated that the average annual financial risk of a cyber attack could cost a Nasdaq-100 company $41.3 million.

Another report, published by Cyber Security Ventures, also found that ransomware events, which tripled in 2020 compared to the previous year, are estimated to reach $20 billion in 2021. Not only are these attacks multiplying in frequency, but cybercriminals are also raising the bar by threatening to publicly release stolen data if victims do not pay the ransom, according to the report.

Bob Maley, chief security officer at Black Kite, said that threats to an organization’s third-party ecosystem are “evolving faster than ever before”.

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“Just look at how ransomware has become an epidemic. Any business can be a target of a ransomware gang, even another gang. While preparing to become a ransomware victim is an important business strategy, it is even more important to see your ecosystem the way the bad actors do, and take actions that pre-empt the attack,” he said.

Sam Curry, chief security officer at Cybereason, told IT Pro that he was surprised the percentage of companies operating antiquated systems isn't higher. He added this was because of an ever-expanding digital footprint, the increased security risks in the past 18 months due to a massive shift to remote working due to COVID-19 and the challenges that smart, well-funded attackers present to defenders every day.

“Ransomware isn't the only risk facing corporations, but the daily headlines of more public and private entities being attacked is a reminder that no one is immune. It really doesn't matter whether you run a small operation or oversee security at a Fortune 10 company; you must face the reality that you will be hit and it's how you respond that will determine whether material damage will occur. In 2021, more companies are paying ransoms, and for many they think a payment will enable their business to return to normal,” Curry said.

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