The rise in ransomware extortion as a reliable weapon for cybercriminals to make the most of victims' system vulnerabilities has now spanned the better part of a decade. But the last year has seen hockey stick growth as attackers perfected their methods and targeted victims. At this point ransomware has established itself as $60 million a year criminal enterprise, with that number sure to rise as the income is funneled into improving the next ransomware generation.
"Businesses often believe that paying the ransom is the most cost effective way of getting their data back - and this may also be the reality," writes William Largent, threat researcher with Cisco Talos. "The problem we face is that every single business that pays to recover their files, is directly funding the development of the next generation of ransomware. As a result of this we're seeing ransomware evolve at an alarming rate."
In order to understand where ransomware is going, it is important to understand its roots. In this slide show, we take a look at some of the notable variants that have cropped up over the years. Special thanks to Largent and researchers at Cisco Talos who accumulated and condensed much of the info included here. You can check out their take on Ransomware: Past, Present and Future here.