Ransomware — Stronger Than Ever

Ransomware, the malicious malware that can spread quickly across a computer network, encrypting or otherwise locking down access to data, cost businesses, health organizations, educational institutions, and others millions of dollars in lost revenue and disrupted operations in 2019.

Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

It’s hard to believe that the first ransomware virus was created three decades ago. In 1989, Joseph L. Popp infected 20,000 floppy disks (remember those?) with a virus, which were distributed at a global World Health Organization gathering. Nonetheless, it took another seventeen years before ransomware began to achieve a high level of sophistication.  It wasn’t until 2005 that the first contemporary ransomware programs began to show up. In 2008, Bitcoin’s emergence was a game changer for ransomware cyber criminals by providing a mostly anonymous system of transferring money and making it easy for them to extort their victims.  Since 2011, large scale ransomware attacks have escalated. For a recap of these and other key events and attacks from 2005 through February 2020, see KnowBe4’s timeline.

A lot is written about ransomware. Enter Infographics, one way to obtain a quick and clear visual overview of the current state of ransomware. For example, MalwareFox offers an infographic that outlines the trends and figures for ransomware statistics in 2019.  According to their infographic, desktops were the most infected device (80%), access was gained most often through phishing via email or social media (69%), the major cause of attacks started with careless employees (51%), and 46% of victims did not pay the ransom and instead decrypted on their own or replaced data with backup. The infographic also includes a map that reveals the distribution of ransomware attacks across the world — the U.S. was hit 46% of the time, while other countries or continents were hit less than 10% of the time.

Darwin Laganzon-Pixabay What makes ransomware difficult to deal with is the continuing evolution of new strains of ransomware. If you are interested in learning what the 10 “monstrous ransomware strains that haunted 2019” were, take a look at this infographic from Acronis. Details on each monster strain appears just beyond the infographic. Ryuk, number seven on the list, was responsible for a pervasive attack that halted production at a giant Belgian airplane parts manufacturer for weeks and sent home nearly 1,000 employees on paid leave while the company struggled to restore critical systems frozen by the attack.  The Ryuk virus continues to attack, most recently hitting the Tampa Bay Times in January 2020.

Network file encryption is a type of attack that locks access to files by encrypting them. Vectra AI’s infographic breaks down the victims of this type of attack by industry around the world and in the U.S. The finance and insurance industry is hit hardest in Europe and the Middle East (35%), with the healthcare industry at 18% and energy industry at 17%. Like Europe and the Middle East, in the U.S. the finance and insurance industry is hit hardest at 38%. Education is a close second at 37%, followed by governments at 9%. The infographic also shows where network file encryption has been detected by region.

An infographic from Dropsuite provides additional information on the most targeted industries along with a list of the most notorious attacks since 2013, and the top ransomware infiltration tactics. Interestingly, Dropsuite predicts a five times increase growth of ransomware attacks on hospitals by 2021.

What’s ahead, you ask? According to Comm & Tech Blog’s infographic, ransomware attacks will increase to 1 in every 11 seconds by 2021.  They also predict that 70% of the people who pay ransom will not get their data back. McAfee’s threats prediction infographic describes new directions ransomware attacks will take, including the emergence of cyber criminals merging to create malware-as-a-service families, evasion techniques moving toward the use of AI, and attacks moving to target cloud services. Notable is the prediction of issues presented by voice-controlled digital assistants allowing entry into the home. It looks like ransomware may be coming very close to home. You might want to reconsider buying those smart appliances … or … take charge and learn how to protect your smart home from potential hackers.

Pixaline-Pixabay

Images from Pixabay contributors: Gerd Altmann, madartzgraphics, and Pixaline.

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