Combating Ransomware Attacks: The Reasons for Their Rise and the Ways We Can Prevent Them

As has been widely reported, a new wave of cyberattacks has hit Europe, possibly a reprise of the widespread ransomware assault in May that affected 150 countries.

Ransomware, typically delivered via malicious email or infected third-party websites, is a family of malware that either blocks access to a PC, server, or mobile device or encrypts all the data stored on that machine. Similar to a kidnapping or hijacking with a ransom demanded in return for release, the perpetrator of a ransomware attack takes possession of valuable data or files belonging to individuals or businesses and then demands payment in the form of electronic currency called “Bitcoin” for their return.

According to a report earlier this year by NBC News writer Herb Weisbaum, citing the FBI, ransomware payments for 2016 are expected to hit a billion dollars compared to the $24 million paid in 2015. And that figure is expected to rise, with more victims and more money lost. Why the dramatic rise?

  1. Easier access to technology. Criminals have increased access to sophisticated technology to conduct these attacks. Even highly sophisticated tools developed by NSA and other similar advanced tools are now in the hands of criminals. Also, criminals are making continuous improvements to such technology, and have banded together to turn this type of crime into an organized business.
  2. Increased profitability. The business of ransomware has become highly profitable. Therefore, highly talented programmers are choosing to make this their profession— and they are making a lot of money in this way.
  3. Organizations are lagging in innovation. Arguably, the most important reason is that individuals and organizations are not paying attention to continuous improvement or innovation in the technology they use or the protection systems they have in place. Without innovation, such individuals become sitting ducks. Without innovation, regardless of how good your technology is, hackers will eventually get in. Because the probability of a higher payout with organizations is greater, criminals are targeting organizations at a higher rate. However, everyday computer users are also being targeted.

Shegoftah Nasreen Queen (SNQ), Bangla Service, Voice of America, recently interviewed Dr. Mansur Hasib, program chair, Cybersecurity Technology, The Graduate School at the University of Maryland University College, to learn more about the reasons for the rise and solutions for combating this pervasive cyber threat. Read the full interview.