Why is Ransomware on the Rise?

February 26, 2018 10:30 am Published by Leave your thoughts

If it feels like you’ve seen a growing number of ransomware cases in the media lately, you’re not wrong. Ransomware attacks are on the rise, and we’re seeing no signs of this trend stopping.

Not only is ransomware more prevalent than ever, but it’s also evolving and expanding into new locations. Ransomware attacks increased by 250% on mobile in 2017 and 1000% overall within the Asia Pacific region, including Australia. The latest annual report from Malwarebytes also revealed that ransomware attacks on businesses increased by 90% in 2017.

Unfortunately, these startling statistics are only expected to increase, and proactive intervention is needed. But before we get to the ‘why’, we first need to explain what ransomware is and how it came to be.

What Exactly is Ransomware?

A ransomware attack is a type of malicious software that results in users being locked out of their devices or blocked from accessing their files until money or ransom is paid. To a business, a ransomware attack can often result in downtime or even lead to additional infection, even after the ransom is paid.

A ransomware infection usually occurs when email messages carrying downloader trojans attempts to install ransomware, or when website hosting exploit kits take advantage of web browser vulnerabilities and other software in order to install ransomware.

Ransomware continues to evolve and expand, and it has proven to be highly effective because the encryption used is almost impossible to break. So, it’s not hard to see why ransomware has proven to be a very successful criminal business model.

The Rising Threat of Ransomware

Ransomware has been described as the ‘go-to method of attack’ for cybercriminals and is considered to be the epidemic of our time. But this threat isn’t new. The expansion of ransomware was predicted back in 2014, and as promised, it has become a significant problem globally and will continue to be until cybersecurity measures are put in place by organisations who are threatened to be involved in such an attack.

The evolution of ransomware is also fuelling its expansion. Since 2015 we’ve seen a massive growth in the number of new ransomware families at over 750%. The problem is so rife that a Cyber Security Ventures report precited that ransomware would result in damage costs exceeding $5 billion in 2017.

There’s no avoiding this problem. Ransomware is a major issue and will continue to be. Hence it’s one that businesses must address by implementing robust cybersecurity measures.

Why is Ransomware on The Rise?

Essentially, ransomware is on the rise because it is the easiest way for cybercriminals to get their hands on money. The cybercrime industry is viewed to be going through a growth spurt currently as more people learn how to take advantage of this grab for cash.

But despite ransomware’s prevalence in the USA and the UK since 2013, Australia has only become a major target in 2017 and will become a more prevalent threat here in the future. The rise of ransomware in our region comes down to the fact that businesses down under are largely unfamiliar with this threat. When companies aren’t aware of the threat, they don’t know how to handle it and are unlikely to have precautions in place. Cybercriminals are aware of this and are taking advantage of this vulnerability.

A surge in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has also fuelled the fire with hackers taking full advantage of this 100% online and untraceable currency. In fact, many cybercriminals have become reliant on it. Requesting cryptocurrency as payment instead of traditional money transfer methods is seen by cybercriminals to be far less risky, hence this rising trend.

Ransomware attacks are also successful in many cases because businesses don’t follow security best practices. Maintaining baseline IT security paired with developing appropriate end-user security culture can help mitigate this.

The Future of Ransomware

Digital extortion isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and with technology growing at such a rapid pace, the opportunity to exploit vulnerabilities expands also.

So, what’s next on the radar for ransomware?

As cryptocurrency continues to rise, the number of tools to hack digital wallets is set to increase. Ransomware is also starting to impact gamers, resulting in victims being locked out of their PC games until they pay up.

Smart home technology and even smart cars may also be likely targets for future ransomware attacks. Can you imagine having the front door to your home locked or the engine turned off in your car until you pay a ransom? Some say this is unlikely to be a problem while others see it as a big threat. Watch this space.

Avoid the Rising Threat of Ransomware

Ransomware modifications keep on increasing as do the number of people affected. But given the volume of mitigation currently available to tackle the ransomware issue, the quantity and frequency of these attacks simply shouldn’t be happening at the rate it is today.

If ransomware has been an issue for your organisation, ask your IT department or provider why it’s getting through, because if a solid cybersecurity contingency plan is in place, you wouldn’t be facing this problem. Consider adapting the KPI’s within your IT department or review the service contract with your IT provider to make sure you’re adequately protected.

Want more information? The Australian Signals Directorate is a worthwhile resource to turn to with advice and assistance on information and communication security supplied by the Department of Defence.

Ransomware is a constantly evolving threat, and it’s one we all need to prepare for, so if your organisation would like to be preemptive when it comes to ransomware, talk to our team at Cymax about implementing a comprehensive cybersecurity contingency plan. From updating outdated security systems and software to ensuring your employees know how to identify and steer clear from such attacks, at Cymax we will do what it takes to keep your organisation safe from this threat.

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