Operations
3/9/2016
06:00 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Two Biggest Reasons Ransomware Keeps Winning

New report also makes predictions on what hijinks ransomware might get up to next.

"2016 will be the year ransomware holds America hostage," because those of us trying to defend against ransomware can't get ourselves organized, according to a new report by the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology.

"One reason that ransomware is so effective is that the cybersecurity field is not entirely prepared for its resurgence," wrote researchers. Security applications do not quickly recognize ransomware's maliciousness, because, ransomware itself "effectively acts as a security application. It denies access to data or encrypts the data. The only difference is that the owner of the system does not own the control."

"The other reason that anti-ransomware efforts are stunted," according to the report "is that the opposition is not unified in a response procedure." While security companies mostly advise to never pay ransoms, law enforcement has on times advised to simply pay the ransom when the critical systems or data cannot be recovered by any other means; in fact, some law enforcement agencies have, themselves, paid ransomware operators.

Some might simply say that the cost of the ransom is cheaper than the cost of downtime or lost data. Report authors acknowledge that, but also write somewhat wryly: "Ransomware is effective because it restricts access to information from a society that feels entitled to constant access to information. Many users pay the ransom without exploring alternative options simply because accepting the lost revenue is easier than applying effort."

Although ransom requests for individual machines are generally in the $300 to $500 range, some organizations are paying several thousand dollars at a time to recover systems. The details are not always known, because unlike data breaches, ransomware attacks do not need to be disclosed by law.

The biggest payout in the news recently was the $17,000 ransom paid by Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital last month. It was not the only organization to lose thousands to a ransomware threat though. According to the report, "Horry County school district in South Carolina paid $8,500 to decrypt their 25 servers after an FBI investigation yielded no alternative action." 

The report also cites attacks last month to another county school district, as well as two churches, but predicts "financial institutions are likely the next major sector to be targeted by
ransomware, if their systems have not been infected already."

Researchers also considered the possibility that the two different types of ransomware -- lockers and cryptoransomware -- could be used in tandem. They wrote, "it will be interesting to see if locker ransomware resurges with cryptoransomware running behind the scenes. Layering the types seems unnecessary now, because victims often pay and because neither security researchers nor law enforcement can break the strong encryption used; however, if either of those cultures change, then locker ransomware, which prevents most user action, may return with controls borrowed from crypto ransomware."

Related content:

Interop 2016 Las VegasFind out more about security threats at Interop 2016, May 2-6, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Las Vegas. Register today and receive an early bird discount of $200.

Sara Peters is Senior Editor at Dark Reading and formerly the editor-in-chief of Enterprise Efficiency. Prior that she was senior editor for the Computer Security Institute, writing and speaking about virtualization, identity management, cybersecurity law, and a myriad ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
RyanSepe
100%
0%
RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
3/11/2016 | 2:54:06 PM
Variance is easily accomplished
The fact that ransomware is easily created and signatures are rendered ineffective once a bit is changed makes it increasingly difficult to defend against. A good way to defend against it is heavy user awareness on what to look for. Preventative instead of corrective action favorable.
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Five Emerging Security Threats - And What You Can Learn From Them
At Black Hat USA, researchers unveiled some nasty vulnerabilities. Is your organization ready?
Flash Poll
10 Recommendations for Outsourcing Security
10 Recommendations for Outsourcing Security
Enterprises today have a wide range of third-party options to help improve their defenses, including MSSPs, auditing and penetration testing, and DDoS protection. But are there situations in which a service provider might actually increase risk?
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-7445
Published: 2015-10-15
The Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) subsystem in the Linux kernel through 4.x mishandles requests for Graphics Execution Manager (GEM) objects, which allows context-dependent attackers to cause a denial of service (memory consumption) via an application that processes graphics data, as demonstrated b...

CVE-2015-4948
Published: 2015-10-15
netstat in IBM AIX 5.3, 6.1, and 7.1 and VIOS 2.2.x, when a fibre channel adapter is used, allows local users to gain privileges via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2015-5660
Published: 2015-10-15
Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in eXtplorer before 2.1.8 allows remote attackers to hijack the authentication of arbitrary users for requests that execute PHP code.

CVE-2015-6003
Published: 2015-10-15
Directory traversal vulnerability in QNAP QTS before 4.1.4 build 0910 and 4.2.x before 4.2.0 RC2 build 0910, when AFP is enabled, allows remote attackers to read or write to arbitrary files by leveraging access to an OS X (1) user or (2) guest account.

CVE-2015-6333
Published: 2015-10-15
Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) 1.1j allows local users to gain privileges via vectors involving addition of an SSH key, aka Bug ID CSCuw46076.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join Dark Reading community editor Marilyn Cohodas and her guest, David Shearer, (ISC)2 Chief Executive Officer, as they discuss issues that keep IT security professionals up at night, including results from the recent 2016 Black Hat Attendee Survey.