I recently spoke to Jeremy Vine and his listeners on Radio 2 about ransomware.
Action Fraud reported last year that 4,000 people in the UK have been a victim of ransomware, with over £4.5 million paid out to cyber criminals. As these are the reported figures, it is unfortunately guaranteed that the number of people impacted, and the sum paid out to criminals, will be significantly higher.
The first known ransomware was reported in 1989 and called the ‘AIDS Trojan’. It was spread via floppy disks and did not have much of an impact. Times have changed since 1989 and ransomware as a means of extortion has grown exponentially in recent years due to a combination of factors:
- Society’s growing use of computers and the internet
- Developments in the strength of encryption
- The evolution of bitcoin and the associated opportunity for greater anonymity
Last year we saw reports of strains whereby victims are promised the decrypt key if they infect two of their contacts (called Popcorn Time) and others in which criminals promise to unlock data when the victim reads some articles on cybersecurity (known as Koolova). Ransomware-as-a-service, in which criminals essentially franchise their ransomware tools on the dark web, appears to be very profitable for criminals, with Cerber ransomware reportedly infecting 150,000 devices and extracting $195,000 in ransom payments in July 2016 alone.
Listen to my chat with Jeremy Vine and his listeners for more information on ransomware and what to do if you’re hit. *Spoiler*: I recommend offline back-ups a lot and plug The No More Ransom Project, an initiative between law enforcement and IT Security companies to fight against ransomware.