Ransomware may be one of the newer weapons in the cyber criminal’s arsenal but it is fast becoming one of the most popular. This simple malware concept worms its way into a system and then encrypts all the files that it comes across, effectively holding them for ransom until some kind of (usually financial) penalty is paid. In America, the FBI recently revealed that between April 2014 and June 2015 the CryptoWall variant of crypto-ransomware generated costs of $18 million for consumers and businesses. These costs included everything from legal fees through to a loss of productivity and credit monitoring services.
An increasing threat
Ransomware is proving particularly effective as a form of extorting money as almost half of those who are affected will pay up in order to regain access to their files. This success rate is what is driving more and more ransomware onto the market – in the first quarter of this year, McAfee Labs reported a huge 165% increase in new ransomware, as compared to the previous quarter. CryptoWall remains the biggest threat but there have been new entrants onto the market, such as the hard-to-detect CTB-Locker ransomware family.
What this indicates is that ransomware continues to be a serious threat for businesses and consumers and one that can be costly. We have seen law firms and health service providers targeted, as well as a European national bank that suffered service issues for six hours during peak time as a result. If these huge, secure institutions can fall victim then that means every business is vulnerable. With rewards of $8,000-$10,000 net profit per month for those behind the ransomware most experts believe the attacks will continue to rise, rather than abate.
Protecting against ransomware
For businesses looking to avoid loss of control of their files, educating users within the company is key, as it’s the opening of malicious files that infects systems. Backing up data, ensuring patches are up to date and blocking unwanted programmes or traffic is important, as is using antispam to block ransomware attachments. Network monitoring and security consultancy can also be a valuable investment for protecting vulnerable systems.