The cybersecurity industry is growing fast, with experts predicting that ransomware attacks will be the next big challenge for the tech industry. Despite that fact, the industry has yet to figure out a solution to this growing threat. Part of the reason behind that is that ransomware attacks are fairly easy to pull off, so there’s not a lot of industry competition at the moment to try and crack down. But that’s about to change.
Ransomware attacks, the malicious code that encrypts infected computers and demands ransom in exchange for the decryption code, are not quite as common as they used to be. However, the threat is still there. Since the Ransomware attacks are not understood by the average user, there is a growing risk that people won’t recognize them for what they are. If you are not sure if your PC is infected, check out our Ransomware Checker
Although ransomware attacks have only become fashionable in the last decade, the method of infiltrating devices and stealing data has been around since the late 1980s. Almost every other technology from that era, from the VHS player to the Game Boy brick, has been greatly outdated and replaced in the last 30 years. Yet ransomware continues to exist.
Despite predictions five years ago that ransomware would gradually disappear in favor of more sophisticated forms of cyberattack, it seems that by 2021, every headline will mention a new data breach resulting from a successful ransomware attack. Is ransomware really on the rise and what can the average user do to protect themselves?
Ransomware on the increase
In February, a ransomware attack caused a water treatment plant in Oldsmar, Florida, to raise the alkalinity level of drinking water to dangerous levels. In March, one of the largest insurance companies in the U.S. was cut off from its network for nearly two weeks due to ransomware. In April, the Houston Rockets fell victim to a ransomware attack that resulted in the theft of contracts, non-disclosure agreements and other sensitive data. In May, the East Coast lost most of its gasoline supply when the Colonial Pipeline was shut down due to an extortion scheme. More recently, in June, a ransomware attack took down a multinational meat producer for two days, likely leading to a shortage of beef in the coming weeks.
These ransomware attacks are far from the only ones occurring in the United States and around the world. The FBI estimates that more than 4,000 ransomware attacks occur every day and that every 11 seconds a business in the world is hit by a ransomware attack. There’s no doubt about it: Ransomware is becoming increasingly popular with cybercriminals, and it doesn’t look like they will be giving up on this method of attack anytime soon.
Ransomware is cheap, easy and effective
The main reason for the increase in ransomware attacks is that it is one of the easiest and cheapest types of attacks to carry out. A lazy cybercriminal who knows little about hacking can buy a set of ransomware online and spread it via email or social media. This author will probably have some success and make a small profit without much effort. Given the number of budding cybercriminals in the world and the number of black hat organizations like DarkSide willing to sell them tools and train them, it’s easy to understand why ransomware attacks are spreading.
What’s more, there have never been more ways to exchange payments online, which means there are more ways to get money back. Cryptocurrencies in particular are attractive to cybercriminals because they enable anonymous payments. Unlike wire transfers or prepaid gift cards – the most common payment methods before the advent of cryptocurrencies – criminals can receive payments without fear of being identified or having their extortion attempts capped.
Not everyone is at risk from ransomware
Unfortunately, as long as people fall victim to ransomware, it will continue to be a threat. While some ransomware scams target all types of computer users, the average user is unlikely to encounter a ransomware attack that demands more than a few hundred dollars in ransomware. On the contrary: Organizations – especially large multinationals and government agencies – have a lot to fear from ransomware attacks. Companies rely heavily on their digital infrastructure, have incredibly valuable data and have deep pockets to pay ransoms in the thousands or even millions. In addition, disrupting the activities of companies or governments is the mission of many black hat hacker groups.
Fortunately, there are ways for everyone to avoid even the worst ransomware attacks. The average computer user can install antivirus software that detects and protects against ransomware. Companies can install system backups and take more stringent cyber security measures to keep hackers out. More importantly, with proper cyber hygiene, anyone can use devices and data to detect potential ransomware threats before they do any damage.
The number of ransomware attacks has never been higher, and the number is likely to increase rather than decrease. However, a ransomware attack is not inevitable, either for the average user or for an organization, and we can all work together to make ransomware obsolete.
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