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Ransomware took in $1 billion in 2016--improved defenses may not be enough to stem the tide

Maria Korolov | Jan. 6, 2017
According to a security expert who requested anonymity, ransomware cybercriminals took in about $1 billion last year

"The reality is that every single customer I speak to, anyone in the industry really, this is their number one concern," he said.

Better defensive technology and collaboration will help, he said, but the problem is going to get worse before it starts to get better.

Gartner analysts estimate that there were between 2 million and 3 million successful ransomware attacks in 2016, and that the frequency will double year over year through 2019.

"I think they're right," said Bain.

But not all experts think the future is quite that bleak.

Raj Samani, vice president and CTO at Intel Security, predicts that anti-ransomware efforts will begin to pay off in the next few months.

"We'll see a spike earlier on this year, but then I anticipate our efforts with law enforcement to be successful," he said.

Intel, along with Kaspersky Labs, Europol, and the Dutch National High Tech Crime Unit formed an alliance this past summer, No More Ransom. Since then, more than a dozen other law enforcement agencies have joined up, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Colombia, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Several other security vendors have also joined up.

"Now that we've got more law enforcement agencies on board, and more private sector firms, we expect to see an increase in successful take-down operations," said Samani.

In addition to working together to bring down ransomware operations, the group also distributes free anti-ransomware tools.

That, combined with more user awareness about phishing and better detection technologies, will combine to stop the growth of this attack vector, Samani said.

"As an industry, we've started to develop new products, sandboxing, threat intelligence exchanges," he said. "It is getting better."

However, he warned that malware authors do have one significant advantage.

"There's an asymmetry of information," he said. "They have tools and services that will allow them to run their malware through all the anti-virus engines out there. They can install our products and they know how our products work because we openly talk about them. This is one of the big security challenges."

 

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