Everyone is familiar with ransomware. What most people don’t know is that ransomware consists of more than just developers. There is an entire ecosystem of contributors to the ransomware economy. “Ransomware Economy?” Yes. Unfortunately, hackers and scammers alike have helped evolve ransomware into such a profitable outlet for currency that it has generated a ransomware economy that continues to proliferate as the years go by.
The growth of the ransomware economy poses a major threat to businesses of all shapes and sizes with an online presence. That’s why it is important to have a general understanding of what you’re up against. Familiarizing yourself with how the ransomware economy operates, the threat it poses to business, and the footprint of ransomware will help you be better prepared in the event that your business experiences a ransomware attack.
Ransomware: An Emerging Service
Operators and their affiliates are the players who carry out attacks in the ransomware economy. Operators sell ransomware as a service, which poses the greatest threat to businesses and organizations nowadays. These cybercrime syndicates realized that they could actually license and sell their tech to affiliates who use this software to execute their own crimes. In doing so, everyone involved takes a portion of the ransom.
The operators advertise these partner programs on the dark web and vet their affiliates before bringing them on in order to filter out undercover law enforcement officials. These syndicates that operate as a service enable even the most amateur cyber criminals to commit crimes. These amateurs often target small businesses who don’t have the resources to implement sufficient security measures, making them easy targets. However, by staying on top of antivirus safeguards and detection, even small business owners can increase their chances of recognizing the attacks before it’s too late.
It should be noted that part of the ransomware ecosystem includes service providers who operate on the side of the victim of the attack(s). These providers also stand to profit from ransomware attacks, even if they weren’t directly involved in committing them. Beware of ransomware brokers, some insurance providers, and legal counsel, who often only have their best interests in mind. Be sure to vet a victim-side provider before considering their services.
Ransomware Groups Currently in Operation
The development and growth of the ransomware economy has led to the evolution of syndicates to operating from basements and alleys to boardrooms. Cybercriminals have evolved from rag-tag groups to highly complex and organized crime syndicates that operate through a sophisticated business model.
The operators of these syndicates now consider customer service and user experience just as seriously as a legitimate business owner. Some of the top ransomware brands operating today consist of over 100 different ransomware variants, with new players entering the fold each day. Unfortunately, lists conjured by the FBI are often obsolete the next day. Ransomware brands change with cybersecurity tides, and reorganize everytime that there is a threat to their identity.
How To Protect Your Business from Ransomware
Developing a level of awareness regarding where ransomware attacks originate can help prepare you and your business for potential threats regarding cybersecurity. Keep in mind that ransomware operators may appear to be single entities, but there is a broad ecosystem of players behind them ranging from analysts to negotiating agents. These operators are sophisticated business entities who, in 2020, raked in around $406 million or more.
As a business, it is important to avoid suspicious activity, report it, and ultimately implement security measures that will protect against ransomware. Don’t wait until it’s too late to protect yourself against a ransomware attack–or the ransomware economy as a whole!
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