Ransomware attacks surge and victims keep on paying up

27 Apr 2017

Victims in the US are more likely to pay ransomware demands. Image: Crazystocker/Shutterstock

New figures reveal the plethora of ransomware attacks around the world, with victims from certain countries far more likely to pay.

If you’re living in the US and you get hit by ransomware, you are almost twice as likely to pay up as those in the rest of the world.

That’s according to Symantec’s latest study, which found that Americans agree to pay off the cyber-attackers 64pc of the time, with the global average resting at 34pc.


Ransomware is a piece of malicious software that blocks access to victims’ computers, encrypting files with the threat of deletion should a ransom fail to be paid.

Symantec found more than 100 new malware families released into the wild in 2016, “more than triple the amount seen previously”, with global attacks up one-third.

However, the US is seen as an easy target, as it is the most attacked country in the world. When it comes to likelihood of a payout, choosing this area makes perfect sense.

But dishing out the cash isn’t the ideal approach, according to a growing number of security experts.

“This has consequences,” said Symantec, finding that in 2016, the average ransom spiked at 266pc, “with criminals demanding an average of $1,077 per victim – up from $294 as reported for the previous year”. The payments made by victims will not necessarily match the original demands, though.

These figures are complemented by Verizon’s report on the same theme, also released this week.

Rather than looking at geography, this report found that healthcare is the most likely industry to be attacked by ransomware.

Image: Verizon 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report/McAfee

Infographic: Verizon 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report/McAfee

Steady increase

“Through most of 2015 and 2016, telemetry at McAfee Labs recorded a steady increase in new ransomware samples, as bad actors modified code and implemented new attack forms, encryption methods, exploit kits and evasion techniques,” reads the report.

As 2016 came to a close, most security companies appeared to be warning of ransomware surges.

However, there are options out there for victims other than working out how to satisfy financial demands that are often made through bitcoin, a currency few people are entirely comfortable with, or even aware of.

Last year, Europol, Kaspersky Lab and Intel joined forces to tackle the problem, creating the No More Ransom site.

Here, the original trio – plus a growing number of partners – lay out the tools already available for internet users, to help negate the need to hand over ransoms.

This is important as, although Symantec noted a rise in what victims are willing to pay, it’s by no means slowing to an accepted limit.

‘The bad guys haven’t found the top end of what people will pay,” said Kevin Haley, Symantec’s director of security response, to Reuters.

“If six out of 10 people will pay your ransom when it’s $300, you’re thinking ,‘What if I raise it to $400? What if I raise to $500?’.”

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic