FBI records lowest number of ransomware complaints in four years

9 May 2018

| Author: Jay Jay

Even though security experts observed the arrival of many new ransomware variants in the past year and also saw many ransomware attacks crippling operations at businesses, healthcare organisations and firms across hospitality and manufacturing sectors, the FBI says it received only 1,783 complaints regarding ransomware infections in 2017 compared to 2,673 complaints in the previous year.

A huge reduction in ransomware complaints

According to the FBI’s yearly Internet Crime report, even though businesses and organisations in the United States reported 2,453 complaints regarding ransomware infections in 2015 and 2,673 in 2016, the number of such complaints reduced drastically to a mere 1,783 in 2017.

The reduction in complaints comes at a time when there is no sign of a let up in ransomware attacks and that newer organisations in newer regions are now facing such attacks on a regular basis. The FBI is now urging victims of ransomware attacks to report ransomware attacks to it as paying ransom to cyber criminals does not guarantee an organization will regain access to their data.

“The FBI does not support paying a ransom to the adversary. Paying a ransom does not guarantee an organization will regain access to their data; in fact, some individuals or organizations were never provided with decryption keys after having paid a ransom.

“Paying a ransom emboldens the adversary to target other organizations for profit, and provides for a lucrative environment for other criminals to become involved. While the FBI does not support paying a ransom, there is an understanding that when businesses are faced with an inability to function, executives will evaluate all options to protect their shareholders, employees, and customers,” it said.

Major rise in ransomware attacks

The fact that the number of complaints received by the FBI in 2017 was not a reflection of the true picture needs little qualification. For instance, in August last year, security firm Malwarebytes had revealed that Mac and Android devices were hit by more ransomware attacks in the first half of 2017 compared to all of 2016.

In fact, the firm detected a 100% rise in Android ransomware detections in 2017 compared to the previous year. The detections also rose by 137.8% from Q1 to Q2 globally. The firm noted that three ransomware families, namely Jisut, SLocker, and Koler, accounted for over 95% of all ransomware detections in 2017, thereby signifying the threat that they pose to businesses and government organisations globally.

Whats more, in a fresh report published in December, Malwarebytes added that the number of ransomware detections across the world grew by a stunning 1,989% since 2015, with average monthly ransomware detections growing by 94% since 2016.

According to Marcin Kleczynski, CEO of Malwarebytes, such ransomware attacks are being carried out by four different groups of cyber criminals, namely traditional gangs, state-sponsored attackers, ideological hackers and hackers-for-hire.

All these hackers, who form part of the global ransomware mafia, may have different motives, but the impact of their operations is being felt by businesses all over the world, many of whom have been unable to recover following devastating ransomware infections.

‘These new syndicates are characterized by: the presence of an organizational structure akin to crime families, the sophistication of hacking, the emergence of a highly professional service economy for cybercrime, and the co-option of these services by ideological groups and nation-states,’ Malwarebytes noted.

‘Collectively, these gangs form an incredible diverse, incredibly dangerous set of online operators, with motivations as different as their backgrounds,’ it added.

FBI unable to fight ransomware infections?

“I think this news is very alarming. According to many different reports, both the quality and quantity of ransomware is steadily growing (omitting minor fluctuations), so the fact that victims are reporting less cases to the FBI may simply mean that they are disappointed by the FBI’s inability to help recover the data or at least prosecute offenders,” says Ilia Kolochenko, CEO & Founder of High-Tech Bridge.

“People are losing their confidence in government and law enforcement agencies to protect them from cybercriminals. At the end of the day, private cybersecurity companies will most likely benefit, as people consider them as a more reliable alternative to the government. However, in the long term, the long-standing authority of government may be undermined due to its inability to ensure the security of its citizens in the digital space.

“To minimize exposure to ransomware, one should keep all systems and software up to date, install a free antivirus at the very least, carefully check any links or attachments before opening them and maintain a zero-trust policy with online contacts,” he adds.

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