Global ransomware attacks are diminishing, but malicious cyber assaults are becoming bolder and more successful companies are sticking around, with data encryption a key target.
Europol also expressed concern about the increase of so-called “explicitly created content” developed by minuscule children who exchanged pornographic images and videos with peers on smartphones and became vulnerable to sexual offenders.
Police and private industry “confirm a decrease in ransomware attacks against individual citizens” but such attacks “get bolder,” according to the department, when it released its most recent annual report on organized crime on the Internet.
Ransomware is a type of software that Internet users use to extortion money.
One of the most noticeable ransomware attacks occurred in March of the last year, when SamSam malware crippled Atlanta for 6 days.
While the attackers demanded a loan of approximately $50,000 (€ 45,000), it cost more than $2.6 million to City of Atlanta to respond to the attack, according to science and technology Wired Magazine.
The US Department of Justice later charged two Iranian hackers to deploy the ransomware to networks of more than 200 U.S. and Canadian institutions, encrypting their operations and making them unavailable before their owners paid ransoms in bitcoin.
“This was just the tip of the iceberg,” Europol said. “There are instances in which encrypted files of a company have been saved for over EUR 1 million,” said the department.
Globally, ransomware losses rose by 60 percent last year to $8 billion, according to data compiled by the digital confidence alliance of the Internet Society.
Ransomware “has become more focused because it’s like every model of business,” said Craig Jones, Interpol’s CEO for CyberCrime.
Criminals. Jones told AFP about the joint cyber-crime conference organized by Europol and Interpol in The Hague as entrepreneurs ‘ look to see where they can make the most money where the sweet spot is.’
Company data continues to be a key objective, said Europol not only for conventional ransomware attacks, but also for sabotage.
During the first six months of 2019, these attacks that permanently delete or irreversibly harm company data doubled and centered on the manufacturing sector, said Europol.
It included a new malware strain called GermanWiper that, instead of encrypting documents, rewrites the contents leading to the permanent destruction of information on the victims.
The online child sexual exploitation study was also highlighted as an ongoing concern by the organization Internet Organized Crime Threat Assessment-with kids themselves supported by greater access to smartphones.
“Explicit self-generated materials have become increasingly concerned for several years as more and more young children post explicit materials online,” Europol said.
“Children now have access to smartphones and other devices that are capable of taking high resolution images, are on different social media sites, so it’s simple,” said Philipp Amann, the strategic head at the Cybercrime Center of Europol’s EC3.
“As far as the law is concerned, for example, although a 14-year-old receives an (explicit) photo of his 13-year-old girlfriend that could still technically be considered child abuse material,” he said to AFP.