Europol warns about highest scales of ransomware attacks

Ransomware attacks exceeded other types of cyber crimes in 2017

Europol warns about highest scales of crypto-malware attacks

Europe’s international law enforcement agency warned that during the past 12 months the amount, scale, and types of cyber attacks were continuously growing. The 2017 Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA)[1] report that the biggest threat among all of them is ransomware.

File-encrypting viruses for a while were known as one of the most dangerous malicious programs. However, Europol noted that ransomware is definitely the most dangerous online threat at the moment.

According to the report, authors of various crypto-malware do not have one specific target. They might attack random home computers users, various companies and public sector organizations, for instance, hospitals.[2] Experts give worrying data that proves that cyberspace has never been as dangerous as it is now.

However, the success of ransomware attacks lies under user’s bad habits and poor knowledge about online security. Nevertheless, authorities and security experts work together to fight against ransomware and try to catch cyber criminals; the effort does not give desired results. Thus, users and companies have to put more attention to ransomware prevention.

The IOCTA also notes about an increase of hacked Internet of Things (IoT)[3] devices, DDoS attacks, phishing, payment and fraud attacks and major data breaches. Unfortunately, this concerning situation is expected to get only worse.

From home computer users to public and private sector

For a couple of years, file-encrypting viruses were aimed at home computer users. However, it seems that swindling a couple of hundreds of dollars from housewives, old people, and unskilled computer users was not enough. Crooks learn to create powerful viruses that can cause damage to corporations and public sector.

The WannaCry attack on May showed how easily malware might cause chaos in more than hundred countries all over the world. It didn’t take long for NotPetya attack to remind about a necessity to patch systems and protect networks in various organizations as well.

These two major cyber attacks of 2017 managed to disturb not only healthcare sector, but financial organizations, telecommunication companies, logistics firms, cameras, and power plants[4], including Chernobyl in Ukraine[5] too. These assaults prove that cyber criminals might be working not only for swindling the money but for causing serious problems for country’s life and even put people lives at risk.

Such attacks showed that both private and public sectors hadn't done their homework. Many organizations still use unsupported operating systems, use outdated software and do not see cyber security as a serious issue.

How to survive ransomware epidemic?

There’s no hope that cyber criminals stop their malicious activities and leave computer users, companies and public sector alone. The illegal money making programs will definitely become more dangerous, and criminals might become greedier than they are now. Therefore, people and organizations have to learn how to live in such hectic online world.

Developers of ransomware use various ways to download malware payload to the computer. While some methods require user’s participation, others take advantage of system vulnerabilities and outdated software and surprise the victim with a ransom note. Thus, users are advised to be vigilant and follow these security tips:

  • Use only supported operating system and make sure that you install all available updates and patches.
  • Do not open spam emails, especially links, buttons or documents attached to them. Even if the letter seems to be sent from the reputable organization or your business partner, always check the information before opening content provided in an email.
  • Stay away from ads offering to install software, reminding to update programs or give security alerts.
  • Avoid using unknown file-sharing sites, P2P networks, torrents or illegal download sources.
  • Create data backups and update them regularly.
  • Invest in professional antivirus and keep it updated.
  • Educate your employees about cyber security and teach them to use the Internet safely.
About the author
Alice Woods
Alice Woods - Likes to teach users about virus prevention

Alice Woods is the News Editor at 2-spyware. She has been sharing her knowledge and research data with 2spyware readers since 2014.

Contact Alice Woods
About the company Esolutions