Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

3/16/2016
05:50 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Ransomware Will Spike As More Cybercrime Groups Move In

The lure of easy money attracting organized groups is a trend that spells more trouble for enterprises, researchers say.

Look for a sharp uptick in the quantity and quality of ransomware this year as more organized cybercrime groups employ ransomware, thanks to the huge success other criminals have had monetizing these attacks, security experts say.

Take the Dridex group, a Russian cybercrime gang that until now has been known mainly for operating one of the most successful banking Trojans ever. The group is believed to be behind a recently released ransomware tool dubbed Locky that has begun proliferating in a major way on computers worldwide.

Locky, which was what some think was used in the recent ransomware attack on Hollywood Presbyterian Memorial Hospital, surfaced in mid-February and has already emerged as one of the top 5 ransomware tools in circulation. A recent report by security vendor Fortinet in fact, puts Locky as second only to CryptoWall, a ransomware tool that is believed to have generated tens of millions of dollars in revenue for its operators. Forbes last month pegged Locky as infecting a staggering 90,000 computers a day worldwide.

“In the case of Dridex, the lines between crimeware and ransomware are starting to blur,” says Ronnie Tokazowski, senior researcher at PhishMe. “For most of the life of Dridex, the attackers would focus on banking as a primary target for attacks,” he said. But as of last month, “they have shifted and are now trying to monetize from ransomware as a way to cash out and still remain anonymous by using Bitcoins.”

Dridex is not the only example. This week, Reuters quoted executives from three security firms warning about a Chinese group called Codoso being involved in several recent ransomware attacks against US firms. Like the Dridex operators, the Codoso group too appears to have diversified into the ransomware space after initially focusing on another area—in its case, cyber espionage.

Victims of the group include a transportation company and a technology firm that had 30 percent of its machines infected by ransomware, Forbes said.

Expect more such groups to enter the ransomware business, says Stu Sjouwerman, CEO at KnowBe4. “Ransomware is the new criminal business model."

The significant amount of revenue to be made in ransomware is sure to drive more interest from groups like the operators of Dridex. Such groups already have considerable experience in cybercrime, as well as the infrastructure to quickly ramp up their presence in the ransomware space, says Sjouwerman. The fact that Locky has already become such a widespread threat is one indication of how such groups can change the landscape, he says.

“This is bigger than people think. This is the year when ransomware is finally going to be recognized in the mainstream,’’ he says.

And it is not going to be just for the number of infections either. The money to be made in ransomware is also driving up the quality and lethality of the ransomware tools that have begun surfacing in recent months, say analysts.

In February for instance, the FBI warned of a ransomware variant, called MSIL/Samas.A, that for the first time was designed to infect entire networks and to use persistent access to find and delete network backups. “Many of the executables and tools used in this intrusion are available for free through Windows or open-source projects,” the FBI had warned.

Another example is TeslaCrypt, a ransomware variant that has been around for some time and has constantly kept mutating in its efforts to evade detection. The latest version of the malware, which some consider as one of the most sophisticated ransomware variants currently in use, lets criminals use unique encryption keys for each victim, thereby eliminating any likelihood that a single key could be used to unlock multiple encrypted systems.

2016 will be the year that ransomware wreaks havoc on the US critical infrastructure community, said the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT) in a recent 44-page report examining the ransomware crisis.

For instance, healthcare organizations that were hitherto off-limits for ransomware operators are no longer safe from the threat, ICIT said. The organization surmised the trend might have to do with the appearance of sophisticated Advanced Persistent Threat groups who are entering the stage because of the money to be made in such schemes.

“Ransomware attacks are under-combated and highly profitable,” ICIT said in its report. “With [the] prevalence of mobile devices and the looming shadow of the internet of things, the potential threat landscape available to ransomware threat actors is too tantalizing a target to ignore.”

Related Content:

Interop 2016 Las VegasFind out more about security threats at Interop 2016, May 2-6, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Las Vegas. Register today and receive an early bird discount of $200.

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
thomasfischer
50%
50%
thomasfischer,
User Rank: Author
3/17/2016 | 5:11:59 PM
Great article
Great article Jai. I think the question becomes if you should pay the ransomware or not. I am a strong advocate against this tactic but see this trend rising among companies, especially smaller victims. 
For Cybersecurity to Be Proactive, Terrains Must Be Mapped
Craig Harber, Chief Technology Officer at Fidelis Cybersecurity,  10/8/2019
A Realistic Threat Model for the Masses
Lysa Myers, Security Researcher, ESET,  10/9/2019
USB Drive Security Still Lags
Dark Reading Staff 10/9/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
7 Threats & Disruptive Forces Changing the Face of Cybersecurity
This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at the biggest emerging threats and disruptive forces that are changing the face of cybersecurity today.
Flash Poll
2019 Online Malware and Threats
2019 Online Malware and Threats
As cyberattacks become more frequent and more sophisticated, enterprise security teams are under unprecedented pressure to respond. Is your organization ready?
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-17593
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-14
JIZHICMS 1.5.1 allows admin.php/Admin/adminadd.html CSRF to add an administrator.
CVE-2019-17594
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-14
There is a heap-based buffer over-read in the _nc_find_entry function in tinfo/comp_hash.c in the terminfo library in ncurses before 6.1-20191012.
CVE-2019-17595
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-14
There is a heap-based buffer over-read in the fmt_entry function in tinfo/comp_hash.c in the terminfo library in ncurses before 6.1-20191012.
CVE-2019-14823
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-14
A flaw was found in the "Leaf and Chain" OCSP policy implementation in JSS' CryptoManager versions after 4.4.6, 4.5.3, 4.6.0, where it implicitly trusted the root certificate of a certificate chain. Applications using this policy may not properly verify the chain and could be vulnerable to...
CVE-2019-17592
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-14
The csv-parse module before 4.4.6 for Node.js is vulnerable to Regular Expression Denial of Service. The __isInt() function contains a malformed regular expression that processes large crafted input very slowly. This is triggered when using the cast option.