Ransomware and Entertainment Industry

Entertainment Cybersecurity Series: Ransomware

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This is the third article of a 5-part series dealing with entertainment cybersecurity issues. The entertainment industry faces numerous challenges in protecting its content from unauthorized dissemination. The five entertainment cybersecurity threats covered in this series include:

  1. Practices related to remote work
  2. Data breach & leaked content
  3. Ransomware
  4. Third party risk and
  5. Spyware

You can read the first two articles in this series by clicking on the titles above.

What is Ransomware?

Toyota, Colonial Pipeline, United Healthcare, and Change Healthcare are all companies that have been in the news dealing with ransomware attacks. In a ransomware attack, malicious software encrypts valuable data and demands a ransom for its release, causing significant disruptions and financial losses. These massive billion-dollar companies, from three different industries, have lost tens of millions of dollars to ransomware attacks.

Notably, the entertainment industry market size is worth roughly eleven and a half billion dollars, which can be tempting for any cybercriminal. Clearly, the music and live entertainment industry cannot be considered safe from ransomware attacks. As cybercriminals continue to evolve their tactics, it is crucial for talent booking, concert production, ticketing, record labels, and other live entertainment related businesses to stay vigilant.  They must be proactive in safeguarding their systems and information from ransomware.

Ransomware Is An Entertainment Cybersecurity Threat

ransomware victim A study conducted by IBM found that 35% of music industry professionals have faced a ransomware attack. The following sections explain the methods and nature of ransomware, its potential entry points, and most importantly, provide valuable insights into preventing such attacks within a live entertainment related organization. By understanding the risks and implementing the correct cybersecurity measures, businesses can effectively strengthen their defenses against this looming threat.

Defining Ransomware

malwareRansomware is a type of malware. Malware, meaning any malicious software, is used to attack computer systems. This includes spyware, adware, ransomware and many others. Cybercriminals use ransomware to disrupt systems or withhold important data, and then demand a payment in exchange for systems and data to be returned.

How Prevalent is Ransomware?

Roughly 30% of malware attacks in the music industry take place through the use of ransomware. Ransomware has become a pandemic today, leading to significant interruptions and financial losses for numerous businesses. It is essential that all live entertainment cybersecurity professionals be prepared, so that they may combat this rising threat effectively.

Two Forms of Ransomware: Encrypting and Locker

Ransomware comes in different forms. The two primary categories include encrypting ransomware and locker ransomware. With encrypting ransomware, the victim’s files become encrypted, such that they can’t be accessed until payment is made for the decryption key. Once payment is made and the decryption key is given to the business, they may successfully access their systems again. Locker ransomware “locks” systems, denying full access into victims’ devices or systems until payment is made.

ransomware attack

How Does the Ransomware Gain Access to Networks?

A network can be infected with ransomware by taking advantage of various vulnerabilities. These range from phishing emails, malicious attachments, compromised websites as well as to vulnerable remote desktop protocol (RDP) connections. Cyber-criminals exploit human error and security loopholes to penetrate a network. See our previous posts in this series to learn more about such vulnerabilities. They include Remote Work Issues as well as Data Breach and Content Leakage issues.

What Occurs After an Cyber Ransomware Attack?

cyber ransomwareThe consequences of a ransomware attack can be devastating, Including data loss, operational downtime, financial implications, and damage to reputation. Furthermore, businesses might incur substantial costs to mitigate the attack. These costs are associated with the ransom payments themselves or can stem from recovery efforts, legal consequences and regulatory fines.

Entertainment Cybersecurity: Tips to Avoid Ransomware Attacks

When it comes to protecting a live entertainment related company from the damaging effects of ransomware attacks, taking proactive preventative measures is key. Implementing the following strategies will significantly decrease the chances of falling prey to ransomware and secure valuable data from being held ransom.

cybersecurity training

Develop and deploy staff awareness trainings

Almost 60% of music industry professionals have been victims of spear phishing attacks in the past few years. Spear phishing is a typical way that ransomware enters an organization. During speaker phishing, an employee inadvertently clicks on a malicious link or opens an infected attachment, and the ransomware releases into the device and network. Therefore, employees must be trained to identify phishing attempts and other suspicious emails that may lead to ransomware attacks.

If trained correctly, employees will be able to recognize a true link from a false link sent by cybercriminals. Training employees on ransomware methods, instilling a sense of caution in them, and promoting cybersecurity is the recommended first line of defenses against any future ransomware attacks. Specifically, when promoting entertainment cybersecurity, education on all malware forms should be provided to all staff members.

Enforce strong cybersecurity regulations

Only roughly 22% of music industry businesses have regular cybersecurity risk assessments. This has led to a significant increase in ransomware faced by the live entertainment industry. This issue can be solved by conducting risk assessments, and then assessing the policies that need to be established or more strongly enforced.

It is vital that your live entertainment company has strong cybersecurity policies in place, as this helps reduce the risk of being affected by ransom attacks. Password restrictions, two-factor authentication systems (2FA), and regular software and password updates to eliminate known vulnerabilities are examples of such measures. Additionally, you should limit access to sensitive information, and only the necessary personnel should have administrative privileges. By creating a safe environment, you can significantly improve your entertainment business’ cybersecurity stance against ransomware attacks.

Keep data backup plans up-to-date regularly

In order to prepare for instances when there is a ransom related attack, it is mandatory for organizations, including those in the live entertainment industry, to have good data backup plans. Remember, some ransomware attacks result in stolen data, and companies that do not have backups have lost that data entirely. Such an attack could paralyze a live entertainment business. By keeping clean copies at separate locations or using cloud-based services where critical data are regularly backed up, one would be able to restore uncorrupted copies if faced with a ransomware attack. IT professionals must also test data recovery systems regularly.

A Quick Summary Thus Far

By training employees intensively, putting in place stringent entertainment cybersecurity measures, and creating reliable backup systems, your live entertainment company will be in an excellent position to withstand ransomware attacks. Remember that it is much wiser to prevent attacks rather than to repair their effects. For that reason, invest resources into cybersecurity now as opposed to needing to invest in solutions when it is too late.

Higher Level Cybersecurity Issues to Prevent Ransomware Attacks

Below are some more advanced protection strategies worth discussing. Although these may sound a bit technical, I will describe them in enough detail such that you and an IT team or IT contractor will be able to apply these with the appropriate resources.

Network Segmentation.

network with firewallAn IT team can implement network segmentation. Network segmentation involves dividing a computer network into smaller subnetworks to limit the spread of ransomware in case of a breach. By segmenting the network based on user roles, departments, or applications, organizations can contain the impact of a ransomware attack and prevent it from spreading laterally across the entire network. Additionally, a network firewall is essential. The role of a network firewall is to separate your network from others.

Included in these measures, packet filtering firewall policies must be applied as well. With the use of packet filtering, pre-written rules sort what data can enter and exit an internal network. Furthermore, when one is working with extremely sensitive data, it is suggested to only use wired network connections. Instead of connecting to a wireless network, a wired network connection (yes, with a real wire) allows for significant increase in security. A wired network prevents malicious actors from viewing your information and helps keep attackers at bay. If information is not sensitive and a wireless connection is used, you should employ a reliable VPN from a reputable cybersecurity organization.

IT teams or contractors can also help in adding to endpoint security. Desktops, laptops, and phones can be considered network endpoints. Endpoint security solutions include tools such as antivirus packages and endpoint detection tools (EDR). These solutions can help detect and block ransomware infections, quarantine infected devices, and provide visibility into endpoint activities to proactively identify and mitigate potential security incidents.

Cybersecurity Incident response and contingency planning.

Additionally, the leadership team should charge the IT team with ongoing incident response and contingency planning. This means that despite efforts to stop ransomware attacks, organizations should still prepare as if it may happen. It is important to have a detailed plan of steps that will be taken in case of ransomware attack, as this helps minimize losses that could arise from business operation disruption and data breach.

Thus, the plan must include measures for locking off systems that are infected with the virus, informing relevant individuals, starting recovery processes through backups, soliciting assistance if need arises from law enforcement agencies or cyber security experts among others. Regular checks and updating of these plans ensure employees are well prepared to deal with such situations such as ransomware attacks.

Main Takeaways of Advanced Security

By following these advanced practices, live entertainment related companies can boost their cybersecurity as well as lower risks linked to ransomware issues. A comprehensive defense strategy involves proactive methods as well as solid security controls, backed by effective incident response methods.

In Conclusion

cyber thievesIn the eleven-billion-dollar entertainment industry, the risk of ransomware is a significant concern. With such massive financial resources, using ransomware to hold data ransom is tempting to cyber thieves. No business can afford to be unprotected from ransomware attacks, including those in the entertainment industry. Toyota, Colonial Pipeline, and United Healthcare are only examples that make the news. It is important to remember that many smaller scale ransomware attacks occur but are not reported by the victims or by the media.

So, ransomware is an issue that can affect even a smaller scale business, and as the entertainment industry encompasses so many types of companies, their work is a tempting target for cybercriminals. It is the responsibility of every business to remain watchful and be proactive in their entertainment cybersecurity approaches to secure their online platforms, information systems, and end devices. Now that you understand the gravity of ransomware attacks and have been presented with an action plan, entertainment businesses can be better prepared.

As a refresh, it is necessary to have continuous employee training programs, enforce cybersecurity practices, and keep data backups in safe places. Consider a few advanced protection measures and ask your IT team or IT contractor about network segmentation, access control, endpoint security solutions, as well as incident response and contingency planning. It is worth mentioning again that when dealing with ransomware, prevention is better than the cure. Use the insights provided in this entertainment cybersecurity series to keep your entertainment business safe and prepared!



(Stock images from pexels.com and Canva)








About the author

Picture of Saee Patil

Saee Patil

Saee is a graduate student studying cybersecurity policy remotely with Brown University. Previously, she was an undergraduate student at Cornell. She is currently located in Miami, and is surrounded by the Miami musical scene! She loves running into musicians, rappers, and various other entertainers in the industry. Saee is interested in the marriage of technology and music; the emerging market consisting of AI generated music, auditory augmented reality, and virtual reality concerts piques her curiosity. She is looking forward to gaining experience this summer writing articles on cybersecurity as it pertains to the live music industry!
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