Why Ransomware Is On The Rise


When large campaigns such as the FedEx, NHS, Telefonica, Deutsche Bahn and many others became victims of the WannaCry virus in May 2017, the general public learned what many infosec experts have known for too long - no organization, industry sector or individual can be 100% protected from the penetration of malicious software, and ransomware in particular. 

Often, without purposefully attacking specific companies, the creators of the viruses distribute their malware by mass-spamming infected emails and then monitoring whom their virus can infect. Once the virus enters the system, it initiates data encryption either by using its own hard-coded encryption keys or by connecting to its C&C servers. 

Although many organizations can restore their systems using backups and effective virus isolation procedures, in some cases, companies that were poorly prepared for such attacks, believe that it is faster and cheaper to pay the ransom than to try to restore everything from scratch. 

Ransomware is an extremely rewarding opportunity for cybercrooks to make money. There is hardly any reason to believe that we will see any decrease in a number of cases like WannaCry throughout 2018. Below are some worrying numbers from 2016 to demonstrate precisely why: 

• During the first half of 2016, a single hacker group managed to earn $94 million from ransomware. 

• Representing a 500% boost over eight months, 2016 marked a tremendous rise in the number of ransomware infections. 

• With roughly 50+ new ransomware families being discovered on monthly basis and with each virus type anticipated to compromise 30,000 computers each month, the pace of virus spread is exponential. 

• Even conservative estimations of the potential profits from ransomware in 2017 go at $1 billion

With possible revenues becoming so high and relatively no so difficult ways to launch ransomware campaigns combined with the minimal risk of being arrested, there is no doubt that rates of creation and distribution of ransomware will go down in the near future. 

The dangerous development of such new types of criminal activities as Ransomware-as- a-service (RaaS) makes it easier for young hackers to participate in this black business related to the spread of malware. Cerber is one of the examples of RaaS. This affiliate scheme earned more than $ 195,000 just in the single month of July 2016. 

The degree of publicity surrounding WannaCry should act as an awakening for many businesses and home users who need to know that no one is safe from ransomware attacks. 

Viruses of this kind use a combined infection approach. In addition to using exploits kits and vulnerable outdated software, they make use of the human factor. This can be an email link, an attachment, a social network message, or a hacked website. If your network is not lucky enough or your employees are not sufficiently trained, you can expect an expensive recovery process. 

Avoiding ransomware cannot always be 100% effective, but you can start by protecting your computers with modern security systems and data protection strategies, as well as ensuring regular training of staff. 

Now, as never before, it is not worth clicking on dubious email attachments. In addition, it is desirable to use online tools to check all links inside the message body. 

It is also very important to make regular backups of all important files and store them on remote hard drives. It is good to have additional copies in the cloud. 

If you are a victim of cyber criminals, do not rush to pay, conduct an analysis, maybe your version of the virus already has an antidote and the files can be decrypted. Researchers are constantly looking for vulnerabilities in ransomware viruses and publish new decryptors.



David Balaban is a computer security researcher with over 15 years of experience in malware analysis and antivirus software evaluation. David runs the Privacy-PC.com project which presents expert opinions on the contemporary information security matters, including social engineering, penetration testing, threat intelligence, online privacy and white hat hacking. As part of his work at Privacy-PC, Mr. Balaban has interviewed such security celebrities as Dave Kennedy, Jay Jacobs and Robert David Steele to get firsthand perspectives on hot InfoSec issues. David has a strong malware troubleshooting background, with the recent focus on ransomware countermeasures. Follow Privacy-PC on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for more information.  





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