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The use of ransomware by cyber gangs to blackmail their victims and demand large payments to release their information is on the increase.  The methods used by such criminal organizations are growing in their level of sophistication as well.  When ransomware first hit the web is was limited to locking a person's computer or companies network with a demand for payment to release the system.  This method could often be unlocked without paying a random with the help of a knowledgeable IT security firm.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that blocks access to the victim's data and threatens to publish or delete it until a ransom is paid. While some simple ransomware may lock the system in a way which is not difficult for a knowledgeable person to reverse, the more advanced malware uses a technique called cryptoviral extortion, in which it encrypts the victim's files, making them inaccessible, and demands a ransom payment to decrypt them.

Times are changing and fast, according to a report recently released by Kaspersky Security Network (KSN).  In their report, titled Ransomware in 2016-2017 they have found the number of ransomware attacks has increased along with the methods and level of sophistication.  The malware used to trap victims now has the ability to target specific networks and alter the amount of money demanded as ransom based on the location and size of the targeted system.

Cybergangs have increased the threat level of ransomware by using encryption to lock an individual computer or network system instead of a password hack.  This new development in the past year has made it more difficult to unlock an infected system without paying a ransom.

The battle for ransomware dominance increases

The KSN report also finds that as profits from ransomware increases so does the war between cyber gangs.  This could lead to less organization by criminal enterprises involved in ransomware activities as they focus on fighting each other.

"Theoretically, this is good, because the more time criminal actors spend on fighting and fooling each other, the less organized and effective their malicious campaigns will be", says the Kaspersky report.

The ransomware solution

The report might sound gloomy, but researchers say ransomware can be stopped with collaboration. "To make it stop the world needs to unite to disrupt the criminals' operations and make it increasingly difficult for them to profit from attacks," say researchers.

Cyber security firms and law enforcement are teaming up around the world to help disrupt and slow the increase in ransomware being used to fund criminal enterprises.

The silver lining from the increased threat is an increased response, one notable effort by Europol, Dutch Police, Intel Security, and Kaspersky Lab resulted in the launch of the 'No More Ransom' organization.

According to the NMR organization, you should never pay the ransom because there is no guarantee that the criminals will unlock your system.  Once payment is made and they know you are willing to pay they will continue to demand more money based on the value of the system.

If you find your computer or network has been locked by ransomware contact No More Ransom or other similar organizations that can help you gain access to your system.