I have good news and bad news about ransomware. First, the good news — here’s a cartoon I created. I hope you enjoy it, because that’s the only good news i have. Now, for the bad news . . .
The Bad News: Be Afraid, Very Afraid
Everyone seems to be afraid of ransomware these days, but is the fear justified? Is ransomware more about hype than harm? Unfortunately, a recent study of international companies conducted by Malwarebytes provides some startling statistics to back up the fears. According to the study, 40% of companies worldwide and more than 50% of the US companies surveyed experienced a ransomware incident in the last year.
The stakes are very high — 3.5% of companies surveyed even indicated that lives were also at stake which was exemplified by a recent attack in Marin, California where doctors lost access to patient records for over 10 days.
As ransomware escalates and poses serious security risks for healthcare institutions, many privacy experts and legislators have called for more specific guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
A few weeks ago, HHS responded to these calls with a detailed fact sheet to explain ransomware and provide advice. Although most of the document outlines what should be obvious for an organization that already has a solid data security plan (including reliable back-ups, workforce training, and contingency plans), the major headline is HHS’s verdict on whether or not a ransomware attack qualifies as a data breach under HIPAA.
Security experts are sounding the alarm bell as ransomware attacks continue to increase rapidly since my last post on the subject.
Ransomware is on a rampage! Attacks are happening with ever-increasing frequency, and ransomware is evolving and becoming more powerful.
Several major media sites, such as the New York Times, BBC, AOL, and the NFL, were recently infected with malware that directed visitors to sites attempting to install ransomware on their computers.
Ransomware has the potential to attack the Internet of Things. In one instance, a researcher was able to infect a TV with ransomware.
Ransomware is now attacking smart phones.
Last month, one hospital paid $17,000 in ransom when ransomware attacked its computer system. The computer network was down for more than a week, and patients had to be transferred to other hospitals.
Ransomware is one of the most frightening scourges to hit the Internet. Ransomware is a form of malware (malicious code) that encrypts a person’s files and demands a ransom payment to decrypt them. If the money isn’t paid, the encryption keys are destroyed, and the data is lost forever.
Ransomware began to emerge in 2009, and it has been rapidly on the rise. Recently, it was ranked as the number one threat involving mobile malware. According to one estimate, “at least $5 million is extorted from ransomware victims each year.”
Ransomware became a household name in 2013, when CryptoLocker infected about 500,000 victims in just 6 months.
CryptoLocker was eventually defeated. But new variants of ransomware started popping up more frequently.