Turns out you're most likely to get shaken down by ransomware in the Las Vegas/Henderson area, which in the US has the largest number of overall ransomware detections, the most detections per individual machine, and the most detections per population, according to a new study by Malwarebytes.
Six of the top 10 cities for ransomware detections are in the Rust Belt, including Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus, Ohio, Detroit, Fort Wayne, Ind., and Toledo.
Nima Samadi, data science analyst for Malwarebytes, says the study is based on research from July 1 through October 15, 2016. Malwarebytes detected more than 400,000 ransomware incidents in more than 200 countries, with the US experiencing the largest number of incidents - at 26% overall. Malwarebytes' data is specifically based on detected ransomware incidents, some of which may have resulted in actual infections and others, not.
"We can theorize on way the Las Vegas area was such a hotbed for ransomware," says Samadi. "Even if they are on business, people tend to be in vacation mode, so their guard is let down, plus they are accessing the Internet on unsecured Wi-Fi networks."
Malwarebytes CEO Marcin Kleczynski says that computer users in Rust Belt states may not be as readily exposed to security education and techniques, plus those states have been hit hard by job losses and the collapse of the manufacturing base.
"People without jobs or opportunities are more prone to financial scams," he adds.
Kleczynski also points out that while high-profile cases such as last week's ransomware attack on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency make the news, the more prevalent threat is from scammers sending out indiscriminate email blasts. The high-profile cases tend to be in big cities, but the Malwarebytes study found that 86% of detections occurred in cities with fewer than 250,000 residents.
"Think of the economics: it only costs a couple of dollars to send out an email blast, but if they get one hit, the return on investment could be $500 or more," Kleczynski says. "At least at this point, the ransomware scammers would rather take their chances with a random email blast to see what they get versus a targeted attack."
According to the study, Cerber, Locky, and CryptoWall were the three most commonly detected ransomware families. While Cerber had the lead earlier this year, Locky took the top spot in the end.
Locky, which was released in February of this year, has risen to become one of the most prolific ransomware attacks of this year, the study says. The rapid increase of Locky’s global footprint so soon after it was released makes it especially scary. On day one of its detection, Locky had already spread to 18 countries. By day two, Locky was in 61 countries, and by day three, 85 countries. After the first month, Locky had spread to 161 countries and right now, Locky has been detected in nearly 200 different countries.
Here's a look at the top 10 locations for ransomware, according to Malwarebytes:
Top 10 Countries for Ransomware Detections
- United States
- United Kingdom
Top 10 US Cities for Ransomware Detections
- Las Vegas/Henderson, Nev.
- Memphis, Tenn.
- Stockton, Calif.
- Detroit, Mich.
- Toledo, Ohio
- Cleveland, Ohio
- Columbus, Ohio
- Buffalo, N.Y.
- San Antonio, Texas
- Fort Wayne, Ind.