Ransomware readiness in the automotive industry

Ransomware is becoming a major threat to business operations and high-profile attacks come with huge financial and reputational costs beyond the ransom itself, with many stopping business operations for days or even weeks at a time. The automotive industry is a significant target for criminals looking to profit from organisations’ vulnerabilities – so what are the key threats and what should the sector be doing to protect itself?

Ransomware threats take many forms. The most prevalent ransomware variants often “double-dip”, charging a ransom to decrypt data and then publishing that data on the dark web for other cybercriminals to use. Paying the ransom is also never a guarantee to restore encrypted data, as these criminals operate in bad faith.

We have also seen an increased risk of attacks as a result of the rise of remote working. The ‘attack surface’ of many organisations has expanded to encompass the homes of their workforce, leaving organisations even more exposed.

The automotive industry is a key target and has suffered, multiple high-profile attacks. Research has shown that many well-known vulnerabilities are common and that credentials for thousands of industry workers are available for purchase on the dark web.

The outcomes of a successful ransomware attack on an automotive company are wide-ranging. The encryption and theft of sensitive customer and design data, supply chain disruptions and the disruption of manufacturing activity are the largest causes for concern. Electric and smart vehicle manufacturers have even worse potential outcomes, as a ransomware attack could infect parts manufactured during the attack, meaning that produced vehicles are infected as well. As such, it is crucial for this industry to adhere to cyber-security best practices and improve prevention, detection and response for ransomware attacks.

A holistic approach to ransomware readiness is vital – examining not just the vulnerabilities within the business, but also exploring the potential impact of an attack. And for automotive companies, such readiness should surely be considered essential as part of a sound resilience strategy. 

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