Ransomware in 2021: How did we get here?

  • 27 August 2021
  • 1 reply
Ransomware in 2021: How did we get here?
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  • Sr. Security Analyst & Community Manager
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Ryuk, SamSam, WannaCry, NotPetya, Darkside, REvil…

Somewhere along the line, ransomware variants became household names for anyone with an even passing interest in infosec. But how did we get here?

In the second episode of our series on ransomware, featured experts chart the rise of ransomware from a scam run by fake AVs to the multi-billion-dollar racket it is today. From humble origins, this form of online extortion has been co-opted by state-sponsored hackers and turned into a business model with ransomware as a service.

An increasingly dangerous (and democratized) threat

As reliance on IT systems grew among businesses, cybercriminals began to realize they could target digital files and demand hard currencies in return. With WannaCry and NotPetya, ransomware combined with worm-like exploits spread with catastrophic consequences.

Next, cryptocurrencies made it even easier for ransomware actors to receive and launder funds, leading to “an absolute explosion in extortion and ransomware-based attacks holding companies hostage.” Not only added anonymity, the advent of technologies like Bitcoin also provided an immutable ledger system that doesn’t rely on third parties, cannot be stopped by governments, and spawned entire new business models for cybercriminals.

Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) – the practice of purchasing out-of-the-box ransomware variants from vendors on hacking forums or the dark web – spelled the end of technical expertise as a prerequisite for these types of attacks. The gates to the armory were opened to whoever could afford the price of admission or profit share with the malware authors.

And then the pandemic hit.

“COVID has been the juiciest trend for hijacking that’s ever existed,” security intelligence director Grayson Milbourne says. Cybercriminals turned on a dime to capitalize on the thirst for information immediately sprung into existence surrounding the virus. Phishing-enabled scams and fake COVID trackers popped up almost overnight.

Catch Episode 2: The Rise of Ransomware today

Our experts predict cybercriminals will be ready and waiting to take advantage of the next global crisis, so knowing them now could help prevent infections among businesses and individuals.

Be sure to watch and share the episode, which covers key developments in ransomware including:

  • What happens when ransomware spreads with worm-like capabilities
  • The emergence of the ransomware-as-a-service business model
  • Cryptocurrency’s effect on online extortion rackets
  • COVID-19’s impact on global cybercrime

If that wasn’t a rousing enough intro, the episode even features an appearance by yours truly, so be sure to watch and share.


1 reply

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I find it incredibly sad that so many people think the only way to make money is on the plight/loss of others. The exponential growth in ransomware and phishing makes me sad to be part of the same humanity. I put these people doing this right up there with most health care insurance companies, who profit off the backs of sick people by denying and delaying payments of their claims. 

 Keep reporting this stuff, it is all good to read and kearn. It is just very sad at the same time.