Ransomware exploded onto the network security scene in 2016, targeting both businesses and consumers; the risk for anyone who stores information on a computer or network continues to rise. At its most basic, ransomware kidnaps the user’s systems, data or network, encrypting the files or locking the user out until a ransom is paid. Any business that relies on data, from inventory to health and legal records and even school transcripts is at risk from this growing threat.
The Rise of Ransomware
$209 million in ransomware payments was handed over to cyber criminals in just the first three months of 2016; this figure far surpassed the paltry $24 million paid to ransomware thieves in all of 2015. According to IBM, an increase in spam may be related to the rise in ransomware; the volume of spam sent has quadrupled in the last two years; ransomware is often attached to spam in an attempt to spoof victims into downloading the program that will lock up their files.
Figures from the FBI estimate that ransomware payments could surpass $1 billion annually and to keep rising in 2017.
What Data and Institutions are Being Targeted?
One of the biggest threats posed by ransomware is the simple fact that anyone who wants to keep and use their own data is at risk. Mid-sized businesses, churches, schools and healthcare facilities that have the ability to pay a ransom are obvious targets, but so are individuals keen on restoring their family photos, half written novels, and other data. The average amount demanded by a ransomware criminal is $500 for consumers but soars rapidly once businesses with larger budgets are targeted
Do Consumers Care about Ransomware?
Though they remain tempting targets and easy prey, consumers, in general, have a shockingly low level of awareness of ransomware. According to IBM, only one out of every 3 customers understood what ransomware was or what it did.
While consumers are blissfully unaware of the growing ransomware risk, they are more in touch with the threat of data loss. Most respondents were not willing to pay a criminal to recover their data – unless that data had sentimental value. More than half of the parents surveyed indicated they would pay to restore photos and other precious memories.
Ransomware for Enterprise
According to IBM, many small and mid-sized enterprises remain unaware of the growing threat or lack a full understanding of what a ransomware attack could do to their business. The computing giant also found that companies who had been victimized once were more likely to pay the ransom if they were hit a second time; most respondents indicated a willingness to pay up to $50,000 for restoration.
Should you Pay Up?
It’s a personal decision and should be based on your comfort level, risk, and level of expertise or support. Most law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, feel that paying a ransom only encourages the criminal activity, but schools, healthcare facilities, and businesses have paid for restoration in the past. Having a reliable backup and an emergency plan should help protect you and keep you from having to pay a ransom if you fall victim to one of these schemes.
Concerned about the growing threat posed by ransomware? At Boston HelpDesk, we understand the risk and take measures to educate, inform and protect our Boston clients. Contact us at (617) 848-9393 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about this insidious form of malware and to be sure your organization is protected.