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article imageRansomware cybercrime soars globally - Has become an 'epidemic'

By Karen Graham     Sep 27, 2017 in Technology
A Europol report warns of the increasingly professional nature of cybercrime and how the likes of WannaCry demonstrates how ransomware is eclipsing most other online crimes.
Calling the ransomware attacks a "global epidemic," the 80-page Europol report says the attacks are taking over computers as well as Internet-linked devices like routers and CCTV cameras to turn them into tools for criminals.
"Ransomware attacks have eclipsed most other global cybercrime threats, with the first half of 2017 witnessing ransomware attacks on a scale previously unseen." But the report also cites information-stealing malware like banking Trojans as remaining a key threat.
Europol director Rob Wainwright said, in talking about Internet crime threats, “Growing sophistication in the cybercrime community”, where criminal groups band together to offer “cybercrime services”, is becoming the major engine of growth in online crime for illegal profit.
Cyber intrusions are becoming more commonplace  more dangerous  and more sophisticated.
Cyber intrusions are becoming more commonplace, more dangerous, and more sophisticated.
Cyberattacks on critical infrastructure
One especially big concern is the increase in cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, that included the WannaCry ransomware attack in May. It is estimated that over 300,000 targets in 150 countries were infected, including some high-profile ones such as Britain's National Health Service, Spanish telecoms company Telefonica, and logistics company Fed-Ex.
Wainwright adds, "The global impact of huge cybersecurity events such as the WannaCry ransomware epidemic has taken the threat from cybercrime to another level. Banks and other major businesses are now targeted on a scale not seen before."
The report points out that in late 2016, we saw the first "massive attacks" on insecure devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). The report cites one such case where Mirai malware hacked into about 150,000 Internet-linked devices like cell phones, routers, printers and security cameras to mount a "complex... sophisticated" attack.
The Mirai malware transformed the devices into botnets capable of launching a so-called distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, Europol said. Europol also warns us, "collective response to cyber-criminals is still not good enough."
Vast amounts of data being stolen
One of the biggest increases in cybercrime activity was data breaches with vast amounts of data being stolen, including over two billion records related to EU citizens reportedly leaked over a 12-month period. European safety commissioner Julian King said Europol's latest report "shows online crime is the new frontier of law enforcement."
Just last week, Montgomery County Alabama, the largest county in the state, was forced to pay a ransom of $37,000 worth of Bitcoin to unlock nearly 70 terabytes of data after a ransomware attack.^ The attack “locked up” the county’s system and prevented the probate office from working with vehicle tags and registrations as well as business and marriage licenses.
Montgomery County spokeswoman Hannah Hawk told RT America that county officials were forced to pay hackers nine Bitcoin in order to access the data. They were given one week to come up with the ransom or all the data would be erased from their servers. County Commission Chairman Elton Dean said that the files were valued at $5 million and called the attack an “emergency situation.”
The FBI does not agree with paying hackers in response to a ransomware attack, stating that: “paying a ransom doesn’t guarantee an organization that it will get its data back.”
There have been cases where organizations never got a decryption key after having paid the ransom,” the FBI said on its Cyber Crime web-page. “Paying a ransom not only emboldens current cybercriminals to target more organizations, it also offers an incentive for other criminals to get involved in this type of illegal activity. And by paying a ransom, an organization might inadvertently be funding other illicit activity associated with criminals.”
If the demand for money isn't bad enough, last week, MalwareHunterTeam, experts in malicious ransom software, published details of a virus, called nRansomware, which demands nude pictures which it claims it will sell on the Dark Web, where IP addresses are anonymous.
This virus doesn't encrypt infected files like WannaCry, but it does lock the user's screen. The following message is displayed over a tiled picture of Thomas the Tank Engine: "Your computer has been locked. You can only unlock it with the special unlock code,” the message reads. "After we reply, you must send at least 10 nude pictures of you. After that, we will have to verify that the nudes belong to you.”
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