Digital extortion by means of ransomware or a systems breach was one of the most prominent threats to consumers and businesses in 2016 that have ineffective endpoint security. Ransomware is a generic name for a family of computer bugs programmed to lock up an endpoint, such as a PC, server, or mobile device, in various ways. Ransomware revokes access to the endpoint itself, or encrypts data on the endpoint, and then asks the victim to pay a ransom to regain control of the data or the endpoint. A ransomware attack can affect an individual or organisation anywhere in the world.
Spam emails loaded with ransomware increased by 6,000 percent in 2016 compared with the previous year a new study from IBM Security has found. Ransomware was in almost 40 percent of all spam messages in 2016.
The problem is the business model works: the study found that 70 percent of business victims paid the hackers to get their data back. Of those who paid, 50 percent paid more than £8000 and 20 percent paid more than £32000.
Ransomware is on track to be a £800 million business in 2016, despite the fact that the FBI and other national security agencies recommending that victims not pay their attackers but contact law enforcement instead.
In 2016 cybercriminals breached the systems of San Francisco’s light rail network — which avoided paying because its systems were backed up — and a Hollywood hospital — which was forced to pay $17000 in bitcoin to retrieve its data.
Hackers are indiscriminate in choosing their victims, targeting individual consumers as well. Almost 40 percent of consumers would be willing to pay more than $100 to get data back. Most ransomware fetches over $300 per victim according to IBM.
More than half of parents surveyed by IBM said they would pay the ransom to get back personal photos and memories and 40 percent of parents said they were worried about hackers hijacking gaming devices, IBM found.
“The digitisation of memories, financial information and trade secrets require a renewed vigilance to protect it from extortion schemes like ransomware,” wrote Limor Kessem, executive security advisor at IBM Security. “Cybercriminals are taking advantage of our reliance on devices and digital data creating pressure points that test our willingness to lose precious memories or financial security.”
IBM’s findings are backed up by those in Radware’s annual security report. It discovered 49% of European businesses believe ransom was the top cyber attack motivation in 2016. This compares to just 25% in 2015.
Additionally, 25% of European IT professionals surveyed said they fear a total or partial outage from cyber attacks and 23% said data leakage or loss was their primary cybersecurity concern. This was followed by reputation loss (18%), service degradation (7%) and customer or partner loss (6%).
Of all organisations surveyed, half have experienced a malware or botnet attack in the last year and 55% said that IoT makes defending cyber crime more complicated as it increases the surface of the attack landscape.
Despite this, the research also indicated less than half of European businesses claim to be well prepared to fight ransom attacks with 44% having no cybersecurity or endpoint security response plan in place. Pascal Geenens, EMEA security evangelist at Radware, commented:
“The message from our report couldn’t be clearer: Money is the top motivator in the threat landscape today. Attackers have expanded their skillset and are leveraging new tools in their attempts to access lucrative data. “Whether it is a ransom attack to lock a company’s data, a DDoS smokescreen to facilitate information theft or a brute force attack to attempt to gain direct access to internal data, attackers have shown that unprepared businesses will be easy targets.”
Northdoor is an IT Consultancy with over 25 years of experience helping clients store, protect and use their data effectively for competitive advantage and solve business problems. Northdoor is an IBM Platinum Business partner status – the highest accreditation having consistently demonstrated proven capabilities and expertise in IBM technologies. We are well positioned to help our enterprise clients use the increased business awareness of the risk posed by ransomware to support a new, targeted approach that draws on the expert resources of trusted technology partners. Should you have any queries about this article, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more statistics and advice to help you minimise the window of opportunity for a ransomware attack, download the full IBM report, “Ransomware: How consumers and businesses value their data