The cost of ransomware attacks: $1 billion this year

And it's only the beginning, with file locking malware only set to grow and take larger role in cybercrime, warn researchers.

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The threat of ransomware continues to grow

Image: iStock

The rise of ransomware means the total cost of damages related to attacks using cryptographic file-locking software could reach $1 billion this year, a report cybersecurity company Herjavec Group has warned.

The report, Hackerpocalypse: A Cybercrime Revelation, suggest that individuals and organisations who feel they have no choice but to pay a fee to unlock their files have lead to the rise of this particular cyberattack. It even notes how even the law itself isn't except from becoming a victim as police departments have been infected with ransomware and have had to pay a ransom to unlock the encrypted files.

It's estimated that last year saw cybercrime victims pay out $24 million to hackers deploying ransomware. According to the Herjavec Group, the amount paid out by victims of ransomware in just the first three months of this year came to a total of $209 million. The report suggests that at that rate, the total cost of ransomware is set to reach $1 billion for all of 2016.

The lucrative nature of ransomware - combined with the fact this particular type of cybercrime is relatively easy to pull off - means that cybercrminals are not only increasingly deploying it, but they're also increasingly attacking bigger targets in order to extract larger ransoms.

The Herjavec Group, like others have done, have lined the rise of the crytographic Bitcoin digital currency to the rise of ransomware.

"The rise of Bitcoin and other crypto currencies has made it possible, safe, and easy, to demand and receive payments and transfer money anonymously. This has had a dramatic impact on the number and type of cybercrime opportunities. It really is the engine of cybercrime, and it will continue to enable and embolden the criminals," said Matt Anthony, Vice President of Remediation Services at Herjavec Group.

The report warns that as ransomware continues to grow - especially as it becomes even easier for even those without any hacking skills to carry out - ransom payments will rise and make up a substantially larger percentage of cybercrime costs over the next five years. The overall annual cost of global cybercrime was thought to be $3 trillion in 2015 and this is expected to double to $6 trillion a year by 2021.

Damage and destruction of data, stolen money, lost productivity, theft of intellectual property, theft of personal and financial data, theft and deletion of hacked data and systems, reputational harm and more all contribute to money businesses are losing due to being victims of cybercrime.

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