Tech

Ransomware Attacks Transform Into Multibillion Business

By Victor Thomson , Feb 10, 2017 02:30 AM EST

According to digital security analysts, in the year 2017, ransomware is expected to become a multi-billion business and one of the most evolving sectors of cybercrime.

Ransomware Becomes Multibillion Business

According to ZDNet, SonicWall network security firm said that in 2016, ransomware was the payload of choice for malicious email campaigns and exploit kits. The title of the most popular payload globally has been claimed by Locky. However, most all components of ransomware, such as spear watering hole attacks involving trustworthy and popular websites, phishing, data encryption algorithms and antivirus evasion techniques have been used separately by hackers since years.

According to CSO Online, some researchers evaluate that the overall damage caused by ransomware in 2016 reaches over $1 billion received by cyber criminals in ransom payments. Others security analysts mention a 3,500% increase in the criminal use of infrastructure helping to run ransomware campaigns.

According to Carbon Black, ransomware has become the fastest growing malware across industries.  The sectors that saw the highest year-on-year growth of ransomware campaigns last year are technology with 218 percent, utilities and energy with 112 percent and banking with 93 percent. Law enforcement agencies are globally unprepared to have an appropriate reaction to this type of digital crime, due to an important lack of resources such as qualified technical personnel and others. Even several cases of ransom payment made by the police have become public.

Particularities Of Ransomware Cybercrime

For as low as $39.99 per month, hackers can easily rent a Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) infrastructure. Without much effort in comparison to other niches of digital crime and fraud, ransomware attacks can make up to $195,000 of monthly profit. The business of ransomware has become very attractive for cybercriminals.

Some hackers just extort money from their victims by using fake malware and they don't even bother to actually encrypt the data. Media stories about ransomware scared the victims so much that they usually pay the ransom asked for. This situation is even more worrisome, as law enforcement agencies' lack the ability to protect the victims or at least to punish the offenders.

The new generation of ransomware is specialized in attacks on IoT and smart devices. The malware is able to lock mobiles and smart TVs, air conditioning systems in luxury smart houses and doors in hotels. According to security experts, demonstrating a great scalability of ransomware tactics, cybercriminals switch from file encryption to web applications and database encryption.

In order to increase their profits, instead of just deleting it, a new tactic of the hacking teams behind the ransomware campaigns now threaten to send the victim's sensitive data to all of their contacts. Attackers can receive online payments almost without any risk of being persecuted or at least traced down, due to the use of cryptocurrencies. Cyber criminals have entirely leveraged the full potential of the blockchain emerging technology, despite the media hype around its ability to improve the world.

Affordability and accessibility of resources to deploy large-scale attacking campaigns, high profits, low risks in comparison to other sectors of cybercrime and a simple business model ensure the flourishing future of ransomware. However, this dire reality it does not mean that organizations should give up in their efforts to combat cyber attacks and ransomware. The FBI suggests that, rather than paying ransom to the criminals, organizations should rely on prevention.

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