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9/28/2017
12:30 PM
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Ransomware Numbers Continue to Look Abysmal

Ransomware is one of the fastest-growing concerns among IT pros, according to several studies out this week.

Even after several years of escalation, ransomware continues its hockey-stick growth by just about every metric. This week, three new studies show how ransomware continues to escalate around the globe, proving to be one of the fastest-growing problems that cybersecurity practitioners face today.

"Ransomware attacks have eclipsed most other global cybercrime threats, with the first half of 2017 witnessing ransomware attacks on a scale previously unseen following the emergence of self-propagating 'ransomworms,' as observed in the WannaCry and Petya/NotPetya cases," write Europol experts in the agency's Internet Organized Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA) 2017 report published this week. "Moreover, while information-stealing malware such as banking Trojans remain a key threat, they often have a limited target profile."

Interestingly, many experts proclaimed the highly proliferated worms to be failures because WannaCry and Petya/NotPetya didn't reap financial benefits as effectively as other attacks. According to Europol, less than 1% of victims paid a ransom for WannaCry. But the ill effects remain disruptive and costly no matter which way these attacks are analyzed. For example, though most industry estimates peg total ransoms paid to attackers in the past two years to be only about $25 million, the FBI believes the total cost of ransomware broke the $1 billion mark in 2016.

According to a report out today by McAfee, this year the WannaCry attacks infected more than 300,000 systems worldwide in less than 24 hours. The total costs of the attacks are still being compiled, but given the disruption of major infrastructure such as hospitals and factory floors, the bill will be high.

"It has been claimed that these ransomware campaigns were unsuccessful due to the amount of money made,” said Raj Samani, chief scientist for McAfee."However, it is just as likely that the motivation of WannaCry and NotPetya was not to make money but something else. If the motive was disruption, then both campaigns were incredibly effective. We now live in a world in which the motive behind ransomware includes more than simply making money. Welcome to the world of pseudo-ransomware."

Whatever the motivation, new ransomware increased by 54% in the second quarter of this year, according to McAfee. The number of total new ransomware samples has increased by 47% in the past four quarters.

Tellingly, 80% of security pros view ransomware to be a moderate or extreme threat today. This is from a study of nearly 500 practitioners among the Information Security Community on LinkedIn, conducted by Cybersecurity Insiders and Crowd Research Partners. That survey showed that 75% of organizations affected by ransomware have experienced up to five attacks in the last year, and 25% have been hit by six or more attacks.

Disconcertingly, the study showed that 39% of organizations say it takes them anywhere between several days to a few weeks to recover from a ransomware attack. This lack of resiliency and the fallout from attacks this year highlight the lack of accountability for instituting the basics of IT security within organizations, says James Carder, CISO of LogRhythm.

"Core IT operational competencies, such as patch management, backups, disaster recovery, and incident response, are not well implemented or maintained," he says. "These are absolutely essential in protecting your company from damaging cyberthreats, and without them, you are left in a perpetually vulnerable state, a sitting duck for these types of attacks, merely hoping that you aren't compromised."

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Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

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