Ransomware attacks are on the increase, experts warn

Professional hacker says the cyber-attacks are impossible to stamp out completely

Ransomware attacks, such as the massive global cyber-attack on Friday, are on the increase,  according to the security software firm SonicWall. File photograph: Getty Images/Flickr RF

Ransomware attacks, such as the massive global cyber-attack on Friday, are on the increase, according to the security software firm SonicWall. File photograph: Getty Images/Flickr RF

 

Ransomware attacks, such as the massive global cyber-attack on Friday, are on the increase, with an estimated 638 million such incidents worldwide last year, according to the security software firm SonicWall.

That is more than 167 times the number recorded in 2015, when 3.8 million ransomware attacks were reported.

Jeremiah Grossman, a professional hacker who is chief of security strategy at SentinelOne and the founder of WhiteHat Security, said the attacks, which use malicious software to hold computer files for ransom, were impossible to stamp out completely.

Mr Grossman was speaking to The Irish Times from Belfast, where he was speaking at a cyber-security conference.

“People and businesses are increasingly aware of ransomware, but it is something that is difficult to manage because it is so effective.

“The problem is that you are supposed to click on things with a computer, that’s how it all works, so it is hard to tell people not to do that,” he said.

“Like traditional kidnapping and ransom, it is not something that is going to go away, but we can figure out a way to deal with the impact of it,” Mr Grossman added.

Payouts

He said he was aware of incidents in which insurers had paid out money to cyber-attackers.

“In the US last year, roughly $1 billion (about €900 million) in payments were made and [those] are just the ones we know about.

“If you think about traditional kidnapping and ransom, people have always paid out and it is currently reckoned to be a $5 billion-a-year industry.

“Ransomware could easily grow on a similar scale, because there are definitely instances where money will be paid out to to recover data.”