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Europol dubs ransomware a top threat and an epidemic

CRIME FIGHTING GANG Europol has produced a report that found that ransomware is a major threat and has reached epidemic proportions.

It is preaching to the choir here because we had already worked that out, but Europol carries more weight than we do so we can’t dismiss it out of hand. Besides, they might nick us for something.

“The report provides a predominantly law enforcement focused assessment of the key developments, changes and emerging threats in the field of cybercrime over the last year,” says Europol.

“It relies on the invaluable contributions of the EU Member States, and our partners in private industry, the financial sector and academia, as well as the expert input of Europol staff”.

It is clear then that it is not just making it up. Europol says that the police are getting better at dealing with some parts of the cybercrime spectrum but that other areas are bulging with opportunity.

“Law enforcement and industry action has led to a decline in the use of exploit kits. This has resulted in a shift towards alternative malware delivery methods, including spam botnets and social engineering”, it added.

“Along with technical attacks, social engineering techniques have become an essential tactic for the commission of many, often complex, cyber-dependent and cyber-facilitated crimes, including payment fraud and online child sexual exploitation”.

This is all terrible stuff, and Europol says that the threats impact on all EU citizens. But nothing has been as proliferant as ransomware.

“Ransomware attacks have eclipsed most other global cybercrime threats, with the first half of 2017 witnessing ransomware attacks on a scale previously unseen following the emergence of self-propagating ‘ransomworms’, as observed in the WannaCry and Petya/NotPetya cases. Moreover, while information-stealing malware such as banking Trojans remain a key threat, they often have a limited target profile,”It added..

“Ransomware has widened the range of potential malware victims, impacting victims indiscriminately across multiple industries in both the private and public sectors, and highlighting how connectivity and poor digital hygiene and security practices can allow such a threat to quickly spread and expand the attack vector.”

In case you don’t want to take Europol’s word on this, David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, the Russian security firm that works with Europol on the No More Ransom Initiative, agrees with the report’s finding.

“The number of ransomware incidents has soared since 2012, with criminals lured by the promise of profit and ease of implementation,” he said. “The threat continues to evolve, becoming stealthier and more destructive, increasingly targeting businesses more than individuals because the potential returns are much higher”. µ

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