Ransomware attacks dominate news coverage of the cybersecurity industry. And it’s no wonder – with million-dollar payouts, infrastructure attacks and international manhunts, ransomware makes for exciting headlines. But its recent domination of the airwaves has been a long time coming.
“The first types of ransomware have existed for quite some time, going all the way back to the early 2000’s,” says Grayson Milbourne, security intelligence director at Carbonite + Webroot. Going through the history of ransomware, Grayson notes that it started as small time swindles “with the goal of getting you to pay 50 bucks.”
The ransomware we see today has evolved over the last 20 years to become the monster seen in news headlines. Instead of petty crooks, we now see criminal gangs that combine ransomware with worm-like capabilities that utilize a double extortion method.
In other words, “ransomware isn’t just a targeted model that you have to click on to fall for. Anybody can be attacked and breached,” explains Tyler Moffitt, senior threat analyst at Carbonite + Webroot.
The New Standard of Ransomware
Hackers not only steal and lock files away, they also leak data in the most damaging way if a ransom settlement is not reached. And the new brand of ransomware spreads through networks and across businesses so you might fall victim even though it was your colleague or business partner that clicked on the wrong link.
These new methods helped skyrocket the average ransom payment to almost $150,000. Even worse, most ransom payments end being around $50,000. The high average payment is buoyed by a few million-dollar ransoms, but most victims are small and medium businesses.
Luckily, the news isn’t all bad. Yes, ransomware has had years to evolve into the juggernaut it is today. But analysts, security experts and threat researchers have also had time to craft new tools to keep people and businesses safe.
“It’s so much better modernizing your infrastructure up front in the appropriate defense in depth,” says Jon Murchison, CEO of Blackpoint Cyber. For Murchison, security efforts cannot wait until an attack happens, they need to be adopted in advance.
But the right tools, Murchison says “will save you from a bad day or an existential day to your business.”
Then stay tuned for Carbonite + Webroot’s episode 3 in our series on ransomware.