Racking up $1 billion in financial losses, 2016 was the year of ransomware. And 2017 will turn encrypting ransomware with automated targeting into a threat more prevalent than ever. The pervasiveness of IoT devices -- and their lax security -- across industries will enable further DDoS attacks through IoT botnets infected with Mirai malware, turning them and SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) incidents into the top cyberthreats in 2017.
Ransomware is one of the most aggressive online threats, leading to significant revenue loss for the companies infected. In 2016 alone, reports show, almost half of companies in the United States have been hit by ransomware. And the threat is growing, according to the FBI, as hackers start targeting corporations in an attempt to extort higher ransom fees.
Ransomware variants for Linux, Windows, Android, and Mac OS have been shown to target both private users and enterprises, with criminals not only encrypting computer data, but threatening to reveal all the information online unless the victim pays a substantial amount in bitcoin.
So far, ransomware attacks have been revealed worldwide against healthcare facilities and hospitals (Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center and Kentucky Hospital, both in the US), universities (University of Calgary in Canada and Bournemouth University in the UK), and police departments (Melrose Police Department in the US), with ransoms ranging between $200 and $10,000. And, in 2017, ransoms are likely to rise as attacks become fiercer.
From the beginning, ransomware has been successful because victims are usually willing to pay to regain access to their private data, although the amounts differ based on geographical areas. In this sense, US consumers have shown more attachment to their data and a greater willingness to pay ransom than German consumers, according to a Bitdefender survey.
Criminals don’t need a deep technical background or much money to attack a business or government. Hackers can just go to the dark web and buy a ransomware package, sometimes quite cheaply. For criminals, it’s easy money. But as they gain experience, it’s a challenge to keep track of all the ransomware variants developed to bypass traditional antimalware solutions. CryptoLocker, CryptoWall, Petya, Locky, and TeslaCrypt are only some of the types out there. Since CryptoLocker was terminated in 2014, CryptoWall has been one of the most prominent types of malware used in the US, according to the FBI.
Ransomware can hide inside an app you’ve just downloaded, a spam email campaign, or most often on suspicious websites that will infect your device. Most frequently, users fail to recognize it because it makes clever use of social engineering to impersonate law enforcement or other instructions and trick users into believing they have to pay a fine or take some other action.
Theoretically, you get access back after paying ransom in bitcoin. In many cases, though, the data is never recovered, even after a ransom payment. But should you pay the ransom if your company network has been affected? The FBI says no and encourages users to immediately reach out to them.
To minimize the risks of ransomware infection, use a reputable endpoint security solution and regularly patch or update endpoint software to prevent vulnerability exploits. Perform constant backups of your data, limit user access to mapped network drives, and train employees to detect malware campaigns and to exhibit safe online behavior.