Last updated at Wed, 15 May 2024 18:38:02 GMT

Welcome back to the third installment of Rapid7's Pain Points: Ransomware Data Disclosure Trends blog series, where we're distilling the key highlights of our ransomware data disclosure research paper one industry at a time. This week, we'll be focusing on the financial services industry, one of the most most highly regulated — and frequently attacked — industries we looked at.

Rapid7's threat intelligence platform (TIP) scans the clear, deep, and dark web for data on threats, and operationalizes that data automatically with our Threat Command product. We used that data to conduct unique research into the types of data threat actors disclose about their victims. The data points in this research come from the threat actors themselves, making it a rare glimpse into their actions, motivations, and preferences.

Last week, we discussed how the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries are particularly impacted by double extortion in ransomware. We found that threat actors target and release specific types of data to coerce victims into paying the ransom. In this case, it was internal financial information (71%), which was somewhat surprising, considering financial information is not the focus of these two industries. Less surprising, but certainly not less impactful, were the disclosure of customer or patient information (58%) and the unusually strong emphasis on intellectual property in the pharmaceuticals sector of this vertical (43%).

Customer data is the prime target for finserv ransomware

But when we looked at financial services, something interesting did stand out: Customer data was found in the overwhelming majority of data disclosures (82%), not necessarily the company's internal financial information. It seems threat actors were more interested in leveraging the public's implied trust in financial services companies to keep their personal financial information private than they were in exposing the company's own financial information.

Since much of the damage done by ransomware attacks — or really any cybersecurity incident — lies in the erosion of trust in that institution, it appears threat actors are seeking to hasten that erosion with their initial data disclosures. The financial services industry is one of the most highly regulated industries in the market entirely because it holds the financial health of millions of people in their hands. Breaches at these institutions tend to have outsized impacts.

Employee info is also at risk

The next most commonly disclosed form of data in the financial services industry was personally identifiable information (PII) and HR data. This is personal data of those who work in the financial industry and can include identifying information like Social Security numbers and the like. Some 59% of disclosures from this sector included this kind of information.

This appears to indicate that threat actors want to undermine the company's ability to keep their own employees' data safe, and that can be corroborated by another data point: In some 29% of cases, data disclosure pointed to reconnaissance for future IT attacks as the motive. Threat actors want financial services companies and their employees to know that they are and will always be a major target. Other criminals can use information from these disclosures, such as credentials and network maps, to facilitate future attacks.

As with the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors, our data showed some interesting and unique motivations from threat actors, as well as confirmed some suspicions we already had about why they choose the data they choose to disclose. Next time, we'll be taking a look at some of the threat actors themselves and the ways they've impacted the overall ransomware “market" over the last two years.

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