When we hear of the traditional Cyber attack, not only do we hear about the innocent victims that have been impacted, but we also hear about the financial loss that occurred to not only the business or organization that has been impacted, but also the impact that has happened to the victims as well.
It is interesting enough to note that we never hear a specific financial amount as it relates to the victim – we only hear a certain range.
Maybe investigators want to keep this a secret? Or perhaps the business entity that was impacted does not want to reveal the exact amount so that they don’t lose any further business or face more brand loss? Who knows.
In fact, I never even really thought about this until just now. As I was scouring the news headlines as to what is happening today in the Cyber security world, I came across a very interesting article, in which an actual dollar has been quantified.
The type of Cyber attack we are talking in these particular circumstances is that of Ransomware. This is a hot topic these days, as this is one of the most prevalent threats that are out there today. I think I have maybe touched upon this in a previous blog (I have written numerous articles on it for other clients), but I will delve more into this topic in the future.
Essentially, with a Ransomware attack, the Cyber attacker sends a specialized kind of Malware file that literally locks up your computer screen and all of your mission critical files.
This can be obviously very disruptive not only for an individual, but to businesses as well, no matter how small or how large. In fact, this kind of attack is having a pronounced effect upon the healthcare industry, of which now these kinds of attacks are targeted towards to.
In order to unlock your computer, you have to pay the Cyber attacker a ransom (thus its name). But, the caveat here is that it is not just a cash payment that will work; rather, the Cyber attacker the Cyber attacker wants to be paid by Bitcoin, the virtual currency.
The primary reason for this is that this kind of money leaves no trail, thus the chances of recovering any money, or for that matter, trying to bring the Cyber attacker to justice is almost nil.
Because of this, the money that the Cyber attacker earns from launching this kind of attack is quite staggering, and is only expected to grow exponentially well into the future. In order to help quantify this, security researchers at the University of Padua conducted a study.
They discovered that approximately $4.6 million (in terms of the Bitcoin currency) has been paid out to Cyber attackers since 2015. Also, there is yet another $45 million that remains unaccounted for, but are believed to be payouts for Ransomware attacks.
Here is a summary of the Bitcoin money that has been paid out for each kind of Ransomware attack:
*CryptoWall: $2.2 million
*DMA Locker: $178,000
It should be noted that this study only used the Bitcoin currency, not other forms of Cryptocurrencies. The reason for this: “We found twenty ransomware that fulfilled our selection criteria, i.e., those ransomware: (i) that used Bitcoin as at least one mode of ransom payment, and (ii) for which at least one Bitcoin address is publicly known.” (SOURCE: https://www.scmagazine.com/ransowmare-has-generated-about-46-million-in-bitcoin-for-its-distributors/article/760019/).
It would really be interesting to see if these scientific researchers can quantify the exact dollar amount that was paid out using the other forms of Cryptocurrencies. If and when this number is revealed, perhaps the damages could be much more staggering, or who knows, it may not be as much.
But, as mentioned, future blogs will examine the mechanics into how a Ransomware attack is launched, and the steps that you need to take it in order not to be a victim. But in the meantime, here are two quick tips:
*Always back up your data. In case you do ever become a victim, you simply get new hardware and software and bring your operations up to speed again using your backups.
*If you do ever become a victim, under no circumstances should you pay the Cyber attacker. There is no guarantee even after you make payment that you will get your locked files back.