No More Ransom project has prevented ransomware profits of at least $108 million

No More Ransom project is celebrating its three-year birthday today.
Written by Catalin Cimpanu, Contributor

On the three-year anniversary of the No More Ransom project, Europol announced today that users who downloaded and decrypted files using free tools made available through the No More Ransom portal have prevented ransomware gangs from making profits estimated at at least $108 million.

Just the free decryption tools for the GandCrab ransomware alone offered on the No More Ransom website have prevented ransom payments of nearly $50 million alone, Europol said.

Decryption tools for 109 ransomware strains

The project, which launched in July 2016, now hosts 82 tools that can be used to decrypt 109 different types of ransomware.

Most of these have been created and shared by antivirus makers like Emsisoft, Avast, and Bitdefender, and others; national police agencies; CERTs; or online communities like Bleeping Computer.

By far the most proficient member has been antivirus maker Emsisoft, which released 32 decryption tools for 32 different ransomware strains.

"We're pretty proud of releasing the decryptor for MegaLocker, as not only did it help thousands of victims, but it really riled up the malware author," Michael Gillespie, researcher at Emsisoft, told ZDNet.

"We also have a couple of decryption tools in the pipeline for strains that have claimed a huge number of victims and, in one of those cases, we'll be doing the decryption in a way that's never been done before," Gillespie said.

Image: Europol

All in all, Europol said that more than three million users visited the site and more than 200,000 users downloaded tools from the No More Ransom portal since its launch.

Site visitors came from 188 countries all over the world, showing that despite the project starting in Europe, its reach is now global.

Per statistics Europol shared today, most of the site's visitors came from South Korea, the US, the Netherlands, Russia, and Brazil.

Image: Europol

No More Ransom started out with three founding partners -- Dutch Police, Kaspersky, and McAfee -- but now has more than 150 partners across the world.

The only oddity in No More Ransom's make-up is the lack of any US-based law enforcement agency. Other than that, everyone else is represented.

Partners come from all fields of activity, ranging from law enforcement, to public organizations, and privately-held companies.

Image: Europol

"We've always had a good working relationship with European LEAs [law enforcement agencies] and sharing data with them has always been very straightforward," Fabian Wosar, CTO at Emsisoft, told ZDNet.

"Europol doesn't request that we create specific decryption tools, we simply provide them with access to the tools we've created," Wosar added. "We have, however, been asked to provide custom decryption solutions for a number of companies."

$108 million is a gross underestimate

However, an Emsisoft spokesperson told ZDNet that the $108 million estimate that Europol shared today is "actually a huge underestimate."

"They're based on the number of successful decryptions confirmed by telemetry - in other words, when the tools phone home to confirm they've done their job," Emsisoft told ZDNet.

"None of our tools phone home. They've been downloaded more 1.6 million times, so it'd be more accurate to say they've helped folk avoid north of $800 million in ransom demands."

In addition, decryption tools provided by Bleeping Computer also don't phone home, which means victims saved even more money, and crooks lost more.

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