Perhaps the fastest growing cyber crime, ransomware is on the rise this year, just as it was in 2015. Last year, twice as many corporate computer networks fell victim to ransomware as the previous year according to Kaspersky Labs. Furthermore, many industry experts suggest that ransomware results in $500 million in profits annually and will soon approach $1 trillion.
If you are unfamiliar, ransomware describes a particular type of cyber attack in which criminal hackers remotely lock files in order to extort ransom payments from victims.
Corporate networks and hospitals have been among the favorite targets for ransomware in recent years, and in fact a recent string of successful attacks on hospitals have helped put ransomware in the cyber crime spotlight. In February a California hospital paid $17,000 in ransom fees in order to free its network from a hacker’s virus. In addition, MedStar Health was the target of a ransomware attack in March, one of the largest healthcare organizations to fall victim at $5 billion in revenue, 10 hospitals, and more than 250 outpatient facilities.
Now federal agencies are on high alert as more than two dozen have been hit by attempted ransomware attacks since last July according to the Department of Homeland Security. Thus far none of the agencies have been successfully extorted, as the ransomware virus was not able to successfully infect the government’s networks.
The Department of Justice Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) had received 7,694 overall ransomware complaints since 2005, recouping $57 million in ransom payments from criminals. But experts say those numbers likely pale in comparison to the actual presence of ransomware, which often goes unreported. That is a trend the Department of Justice hopes to change. For example, many state and local governments have contacted the FBI for assistance following ransomware attacks, and local police departments have paid ransoms ranging from $300 to $500 to unlock their systems.
Companies should consider stronger defense mechanisms to counter the increasing threat of ransomware. Endpoint modeling can provide a first line of defense, warning your IT team when viruses and other ransom attacks cause systems to behave out of character. Stay tuned for a follow-up blog article that will describe our own position on ransomware attacks and how we’re helping our clients protect their companies from this threat.
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