Department of Justice reports 400% increase in ransomware attacks since 2015

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Date: Monday, August 22nd, 2016, 05:52
Category: News, security, Software


You need to be careful out there.

Ransomware attacks have apparently quadrupled over the last year according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The agency reported that the attacks have now escalated to approximately 4,000 per day. Typical ransomware payments range from $500 to $1,000, according to cyberrisk data firm Cyence Inc., but some hackers have demanded as much as $30,000 in an attack that crippled a large portion of the hospital’s computer systems.

Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles paid roughly $17,000 to unlock files in February, following an attack that crippled a large portion of the hospital’s computer systems.

In the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center hack, cybercriminals broke into a server in late January. After two weeks of reconnaissance, they struck on a Friday night, when the hospital’s tech staff was off, encrypting data on 850 computers and 150 servers and rendering documents unreadable, according to Steve Giles, the hospital’s technology manager.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said ransomware attacks cost victims $209 million in the first three months of 2016, including costs, such as lost productivity and staff time to recover files, that is an average of about $333,000 an incident, based on complaints that it has received. The total is up from $24 million for all of 2015, or about $10,000 an infection, the FBI said.

Ransomware attacks themselves are remarkably simple. After tricking a user into clicking on a malicious link or attachment, the software then encrypts files – often critical Microsoft Office documents – and displays a message with instructions to recover them.

Many ransomware attacks exploit known bugs in software, and attackers depend on people not installing updates. Criminals find ransomware easier and more profitable than other scams, such as breaking into consumers’ computers and stealing money via online banking, said Juan Andres Guerrero-Saade, a researcher with Kaspersky Lab ZAO.

A large number of attackers demand payment via Bitcoin, which allows users to send and receive money from anywhere in the world, often anonymously.

As of now, there are relatively few ransomeware programs circulating for the Mac, but this could always change over time. So, keep your operating system and applications updated, try to be careful in terms of what web sites you visit and what programs you download and install and for the time being, take a look at Objective-See’s RansomeWhere utility for the Mac, which can inform you if a program is trying to lock or encrypt a portion of your files.

Via The New York Times

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