The Rise of Ransomware

The first known instance of ransomware (malware extortion attack) was the “AIDS Trojan”, also known as “PC Cyborg”, written by Joseph Popp in 1989. Files were hidden on the hard drive and the names were encrypted with users being asked to pay $189 USD to get their files back. Since then thousands upon thousands of variations have been written, each becoming more complex and harder to stop.

Interestingly, that very first ransomware attack did not require paying at all, as the key to unlocking the files was located in the code of the attack. The ransomware of the future, however, is not the ransomware of the past and has cost organizations millions of dollars to unlock systems and retrieve files. This has affected all industries from multi-billion dollar corporations to people on their home computers.

The top 5 industries targeted and largest financial losses reported due to ransomware in 2020 were:

  1. Healthcare
  2. Legal Sector
  3. Farming and Agriculture
  4. Education
  5. Manufacturing

However, being in the top 5 sectors targeted does not mean these are the only sectors that have been targeted or paid heavily. Ransomware has been on a sharp and steady rise in 2020, with Checkpoint Research, a security research company, finding that the daily average ransomware attacks in Q3 2020 was up 50% from the first half of the year. It is estimated that the financial impact of ransomware in 2020 was $20 billion, with 2019 – $11.5 billion, and 2018 – $8 billion. This is an alarming trend with 2021 estimated to only grow in attacks both in number, in financial impact and in complexity.

The good news is that there are steps that can be taken to mitigate ransomware attacks:

  1. Back up your data
  2. Keep your software and operating system up to date
  3. Keep your hardware up to date
  4. Employ advanced end point protection and email security gateways
  5. Utilize a VPN when using public wifi
  6. Security awareness training
    • Do not open untrusted email attachments
    • Only download from sites you trust
    • Never click on unverified links
    • Never plug in a USB stick you’re not sure about
  7. Back up your data!

By taking proper precautions against ransomware, you can help to protect and mitigate the risk to your business. If you are not sure where to start or need help to assess your situation, please give us a call or email: