Ransomware Will Get Worse This Year

Carl Weinschenk
Slide Show

Ransomware: The Rising Face of Cybercrime

Ransomware made a lot of (bad) news in 2016, and the year ahead is expected bring more of the same.

The security sector is reeling as the year begins. Rick Orloff, the vice president, chief security officer and chief privacy officer at Code42, began a column by reciting the numbers and pointing out that it “has caused absolute terror in nearly every industry.”

That has been written in different ways many times during the past year. Orloff adds to the total picture on ransomware by pointing out that one of the reasons that ransomware is popular among the darker forces is that the industry has done an admirable job of protecting itself against other kinds of attacks. Security forces in essence are victims of their own success:


Traditional data from major breaches is starting to be worth less and less as the black market gets flooded with stolen records. Got your credit card stolen? Just call a toll-free number and the problem is fixed in minutes. Even the cost of prized electronic healthcare records is down 50% to 60% from last year. This means supply is exceeding demand. But at the same time, the price per ransom has continued to climb, and much of the data being ransomed is completely worthless on the black market.

Another reason that it’s here to stay is simply that ransomware is easy for the bad guys to use. CSO Online demonstrated in a video and commentary the ease with which Locky, one of the most common types of ransomware, takes over computers. It is indeed common: It was seen in 109 countries on six continents within a week of its release. One day in October saw it infected 14 million emails.

The video is a bit chilling. It shows how easily any of the dozens of spam emails most of us get every day can lead to disaster. One slip up, one weak moment of curiosity or carelessness, and your machine is locked up and your data gone.

The story recites the most common subject lines (“Important Information,” “Attention Required,” “Overdue Invoice,” etc.) that seek to elicit that mistake. The next step, possibly, will be to use more realistic subject lines. The most important safety valve, according to the story, is simply to keep backups of important files. And, the story says, never pay the ransom.

The frightening thing is that the ease of ransomware use is running in parallel with the development of sophisticated business models. Computer Weekly discusses the development of ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) models, in which individuals with little or no technical expertise can get into the act. The story agrees with the notion that attacks will grow more clever in the year ahead.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.


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