The world is being hit by ransomware, but the attacks have largely fallen by the wayside, according to a new study.
In fact, researchers from security firm Symantec say the world is likely now facing a global cyberattack that is now expected to take place in 2017.
While ransomware infections have been on the rise for several years now, this latest threat is so new, Symantech researchers said the trend could be attributed to “a combination of factors, including new threats to the internet, a more concerted effort by cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities and vulnerabilities in the current security architecture, and the growing use of the cloud in digital communication.”
Symantech and security firm Rapid7 conducted an extensive survey of more than 1,500 companies in Europe and North America, and found that nearly half of them had at least one person who was infected with ransomware.
Symantec researchers say the ransomware has been used in a total of 4,000 incidents across Europe and about 2,000 in North America.
In the United States, the number is about 1,400.
Symentech researchers believe that while the recent uptick in ransomware activity has been driven by a “fear of more aggressive attacks,” the threat could also be driven by the fact that new types of malware have emerged in the past year.
“The rise of new malware, the proliferation of malware-like capabilities and the increased availability of cloud storage are all driving this growth,” the Symantepers report states.
“This is a global issue, and we believe that the world will be hit with ransomware attacks in 2017,” said Michael Osterholm, vice president and senior director of threat research for Symantek.
“There are several factors that are contributing to the surge in ransomware attacks that have occurred over the past few years,” Osterholm said.
“It’s not just that ransomware has gotten easier to acquire, or that ransomware is more difficult to remove.
It’s also that ransomware attacks are increasingly taking place in the cloud.”
The researchers said that ransomware, once a relatively new type of threat, has quickly become more sophisticated, with attackers able to bypass the usual layers of security and infect users through the internet.
For example, they noted that in 2017, the ransomware threat accounted for about 5 percent of the total ransomware attacks.
Symantebut noted that there was also a spike in the amount of personal data stolen by ransomware.
“As ransomware becomes more sophisticated and the cost of its theft increases, the criminals have adapted their methods to more accurately target individuals,” Ostersholm said.