Ransomware: Are You A Target?
Although it’s starting to be overshadowed by other types of malware, ransomware remains a significant feature on the cybercrime threat landscape. Ransomware developers are still very much active, continually reviewing and fine-tuning their strategies. As one potential group of targets becomes less profitable, attackers move on to find other, more lucrative targets. Could you be one of them?
Ransomware goes back to the earliest days of personal computing. It rose to public prominence in 2013, when a wave of encryption ransomware hit unsuspecting users. CryptoLocker and similar infections used military-grade encryption to render victims’ files unrecoverable without a decryption key. Initially, desktops were the primary targets; the following year, the first major wave of attacks aimed at mobile devices began. Attackers were already adapting.
Once the general public became aware of CryptoLocker and its ilk, ransomware became somewhat less lucrative. Users tightened security and anti-malware vendors adapted their products to take care of the new type of threat, making life harder for ransomware distributors. The developers behind the malicious code responded by raising their sights: instead of targeting individual users, ransoming household accounts and family photographs, they began targeting businesses and organisations. Even the UK’s National Health Service did not escape, with NHS systems seeing massive disruption due to a network-wide ransomware infection. By late 2017, analysts reported that around 35% of all small to medium-sized enterprises had been affected by ransomware attacks.
Once again, ransomware became a victim of its success. As awareness of the threat grew, so did users’ savviness. Outdated software got patched and upgraded; businesses rushed to put backups and recovery systems in place. The ransomware problem didn’t go away, but the attacks no longer netted the payouts they once had.
That begs the question: who will the next targets be? Experts speculate that ransomware developers are likely to look toward emerging markets such as Asia and South America. As new businesses spring up and existing enterprises expand, IT security will probably lag. The combination of weak protections and additional money could make these new markets a tempting target for ransomware developers in the future.
While developers may focus on new and different platforms and demographics, nobody should imagine that they are safe just because they don’t belong to the most recently targeted group. Anyone who neglects to make regular backups or fails to put a recovery plan in place can become a target, as can those who don’t install anti-malware programs, use outdated software, and skip security updates. If any of this describes your IT situation, you could be the next victim.