Ransomware Raked in $1 Billion in 2016

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An anonymous security expert has suggested that ransomware cybercriminals have made about a billion dollars in ill-gotten gains in 2016.

A report in Network World has highlighted insights from an anonymous security researcher who has suggested that cybercriminals have taken in about $1 billion last year, from ransomware payments made in the digital currency Bitcoin.

The cybersecurity researcher and expert went into further details, elaborating:

  • 3 separate bitcoin wallets associated with the Locky ransomware took in over $50 million each, while a fourth one accumulated nearly $70 million.
  • The infamous Cryptowall ransomware took in $100 million on its own this year, before it was eventually shut down by law enforcement agencies who apprehended its developers.
  • The CryptXXX ransomware took in $73 million during the second half of 2016 alone.
  • The Cerber ransomware strain raked in $54 million through its bitcoin wallet.
  • Smaller ransomware families took in a combined $150 million.

Separately, the FBI reported $209 million in ransomware payments during the first quarter of 2016. Beyond all of the above, there are plenty of other unknown and uncounted bitcoin wallets that have been abused by ransomware extortionists, altogether totaling to $1 billion in 2016.

That staggering estimate, could still be low, according to Trend Micro vice president of cloud research, Mark Nunnikhoven. “The $1 billion number isn’t at all unreasonable and might even be low,” the executive said.

Pointing to a 400% increase in ransomware variants through 2016, he also expects a 25% growth in ransomware families in 2017.

He added:

It’s getting difficult to track the amount of money flowing into criminals’ Bitcoin wallets because they’ve started to try and hide the transactions across a large number of wallets.

With the ease in which cybercriminals get into the ransomware business that sees immediate payouts, experts point a growing trend that will see attacks only compound in the future.

According to one Gartner estimate, 2016 saw anywhere between 2 million and 3 million successful ransomware attacks. That number is expected to double year over year, until 2019.

An increased end user-awareness of phishing threats, enhanced antivirus technology with ransomware detection filters and other efforts by law enforcement agencies, put together, is perhaps the only way to combat ransomware attacks going forward.

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