Ransomware is a $24 million a year industry – and growing

Money, keyboard and hand on computer mouse

According to the FBI, ransomware attacks took a huge financial toll in 2015. And one group is saying that 2016 will be “the year ransomware holds America hostage.” Find out what you can do to keep from falling victim. 

A soon-to-be-published report by the FBI reveals that ransomware attacks hit at least 2,453 victims who paid close to $24 million to get access to their locked files last year, according to an Article in the Wall Street Journal (paywalled). And it expects that to get worse.

And that could be much worse considering these were just people who paid the ransom and admitted to doing so. That’s a small piece of the overall picture, more than likely. Most companies and individuals who did pay likely wouldn’t want that information to get out (and many are under no legal duty to do so).

Striking a similar note, the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology has warned that 2016 is going to be a huge issue for companies this year. In a wide-ranging 44-page report, expert analysts trace the trend of ransomware from its late 1980s introduction to predictions for the future.

The future, looks bleak in their assessment, given ransomware attackers unique position to bring business to a halt:

Ransomware criminals concern themselves with what they can disrupt. As harsh as it sounds, businesses can easily continue operations after a data breach. Customers and end users tend to be the long-term victims. The same cannot be said for an active ransomware attack. Business operations grind to a halt until the system is restored or replaced. Moreover, unlike traditional malware actors, ransomware criminals can achieve some profit from targeting any system: mobile devices, personal computers, industrial control systems, refrigerators, portable hard drives, etc. The majority of these devices are not secured in the slightest against a ransomware threat.

Staying safe

The only way to prevent ransomware attacks isn’t actually all that high-tech. It involves users being careful and meticulous in their browsing, opening of attachments and just about every other thing they do on a computer or phone. Easy, right?

In reality, ransomware is unstoppable, and the only real choice you have is in how to react. While most experts don’t recommend giving in to attackers, it’s probably a much more common strategy than people want you to believe.

The best bet is to make your higher-ups aware of this method of attack and all its possible implications. Then get them to commit to a strategy (or at least an overarching plan) before you’re left with a countdown clock and no idea how to proceed.

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