On the First Day of Christmas, the Industry Predicted...MORE RANSOMWARE

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The festive season is upon us and Christmas is approaching fast! Soon, many of us will be able to enjoy a few hard-earned days off as we tuck into our turkey, pull open a cracker and, perhaps, have one glass of sherry too many as we indulge in the holiday spirit.

With Christmas also comes the turn of a new year; a chance to raise a glass to new beginnings, leave bad memories from the previous 12 months behind and look forward to a healthy, prosperous future. However, if there’s one thing that we’ve learnt from the past, it’s that cyber-threats refuse to be forgotten, and perhaps most importantly, continue to change and evolve.

So, as 2016 draws to a close, what lessons can we take from a year that was immersed in cybersecurity controversy and headline-making news, and what predictions can we make about what we expect to face in 2017 as a result?

Well, with 2016 arguably being the ‘year of ransomware’, taking a look at the impact this threat is likely to have next year is probably as good a place to start as any.

According to Bitdefender, ransomware operations will likely dedicate more resources to improving automated targeting in 2017, with cyber-criminals looking to build on the massive financial milestones in 2016. This feature will help them discriminate between home users and corporations, and trying to extort higher fees from the latter.

“Refining ransomware attacks to target a specific group, whether high-profile users or companies, will greatly increase the success rate of ransomware campaigns,” Catalin Cosoi, chief security strategist at Bitdefender, told Infosecurity. “The more cyber-criminals know about their potential victims, the more resources they can take advantage of. They can automatically craft compelling, trustworthy spear-phishing messages that will drive record-breaking open rates and thus, more users will get infected. 

“Also, once cyber-criminals realize they are dealing with a vulnerable, yet data-rich company, they can customize ransom messages to ask for larger amounts of money than they typically would. Companies will be more compelled to pay up than ever before.”

Likewise, Cyber adAPT predicts ransomware to ‘spin out of control’ in 2017, citing Symantec’ s Security Threat Report, which discovered an average of more than 4000 ransomware attacks per day since 1 Jan 2016 (a 300% increase on the average 1000 attacks per day in 2015) as proof that the problem is only going to escalate into the new year.

“Corporations often depend on low-overhead prevention techniques, such as firewall and antivirus solutions or intrusion prevention to mitigate ransomware threats," said Scott Millis, CTO. "These solutions are insufficient, and breach data shows that detection and incident response must be improved."

The recent trend of attackers using social engineering and social networks to target sensitive roles or individuals within a company to get to data shows the need for comprehensive security education.

"If security policies and technologies don't take these factors into account, ransomware will continue to affect organizations." 

However, it may not all be doom and gloom! Intel Security’s Raj Samani, CTO EMEA, predicts that, whilst ransomware will indeed initially keep the security industry busy in 2017, the impact of this malware across every sector will force the industry to take decisive action, meaning we could actually start to see a decrease in both volume and effectiveness of ransomware as we enter the second half of the year.

“We predict that initiatives like the No More Ransom! collaboration, the further development of anti-ransomware technologies, and continued law enforcement collaboration will reduce the volume and effectiveness of ransomware attacks by the end of 2017,” he argued. “While certain groups – such as the ‘pioneer’ creators of ransomware such as CryptoLocker and CryptoWall – may continue in the ransomware business and seek new ways to make profits, we expect many smaller initiatives to decrease in 2017.”

As the security industry and international law enforcement join forces on a greater scale to actively detect and respond to these cases, smaller, less sophisticated groups will move away from ransomware, he added.

“As the security industry continues to create awareness and mitigate these ransomware threats at an early stage, cyber-criminals will look elsewhere for ways to quickly make profits.”

>>On the Second Day of Christmas, the Industry Predicted…Poor Routine IT Practices

>>On the Third Day of Christmas, the Industry Predicted…MORE POLITICAL DISRUPTION

>>On the Fourth Day of Christmas, the Industry Predicted…CIOs to Reclaim Ownership of Data Initiatives

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