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Ransomware Payments Hit a Record $1.1 Billion in 2023

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that encrypts the victim's data and demands a payment, usually in cryptocurrency, to restore access. Ransomware attacks have become a major threat to businesses, governments, and individuals around the world, causing significant financial losses and operational disruptions.

 

Computer locked with ransomware person with head in hands

According to a report by Chainalysis, a blockchain analysis company, ransomware payments reached a record high of $1.1 billion in 2023, more than doubling from the previous year's $567 million. The report attributes this increase to several factors, such as:

  • The emergence of new ransomware variants and actors, some of which offer "ransomware as a service" (RaaS) to lower the technical barriers for entry and share profits with affiliates.

  • The adoption of a "big game hunting" strategy by some ransomware groups, which involves targeting larger and more lucrative organizations, such as casinos, airlines, and infrastructure providers, and demanding higher ransom amounts.

  • The exploitation of vulnerabilities in widely used software and services, such as MOVEit, a file-transfer service that was compromised by the CL0P ransomware group in June 2023, affecting hundreds of customers across various sectors.

  • The use of sophisticated techniques to evade detection and encryption, such as double extortion (threatening to leak stolen data if the ransom is not paid), data exfiltration (stealing sensitive information before encrypting it), and DDoS attacks (overwhelming the victim's network with traffic to prevent recovery).

 

The report also highlights some of the major ransomware incidents that occurred in 2023, such as:

Locked computer ransomware blue background
  • The attack on Colonial Pipeline, a US fuel operator that supplies about 45% of the East Coast's fuel, which resulted in a temporary shutdown of its operations and a payment of $4.4 million in Bitcoin to the DarkSide ransomware group.

  • The attack on British Airways, the UK's flag carrier airline, which affected its website and mobile app, causing flight delays and cancellations, and a payment of $5 million in Bitcoin to the Hive ransomware group.

  • The attack on Caesars Entertainment, one of the world's largest casino operators, which disrupted its online services and customer loyalty programs, and a payment of $10 million in Bitcoin to the REvil ransomware group.

 

The report also notes that ransomware payments are not the only cost that victims have to bear. There are also other direct and indirect costs associated with ransomware attacks, such as:

  • Recovery costs: These include the expenses for restoring data and systems, hiring cybersecurity experts, purchasing new hardware and software, and implementing security improvements.

  • Downtime costs: These include the losses from reduced productivity, disrupted operations, lost revenue, and reputational damage.

  • Regulatory costs: These include the fines and penalties for violating data protection laws and regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the US.

  • Legal costs: These include the fees for dealing with lawsuits and claims from customers, employees, partners, and shareholders who may have been affected by the breach.

 

Woman’s hand holding money $100 Benjamins

The report concludes that ransomware is an escalating problem that requires a coordinated response from governments, law enforcement agencies, cybersecurity firms, and private sector organizations. Some of the recommendations that the report makes are:

  • Increasing awareness and education among potential victims about the risks and best practices of ransomware prevention and response.

  • Enhancing collaboration and information sharing among stakeholders to identify and disrupt ransomware actors and their infrastructure.

  • Improving cybersecurity hygiene and resilience by applying patches, backups, multi-factor authentication, encryption, and other security measures.

  • Promoting responsible disclosure and reporting of ransomware incidents to authorities and relevant parties.

  • Offering rewards and incentives for whistleblowers and informants who can provide actionable intelligence on ransomware groups.

 

Ensure your organization is protected against ransomware. Reach out to Webcheck Security today for a discussion around your current state and how we can help you reach a higher grade of protection.



Sources:

[1] Cyber gangs got away with a record $1.1 billion in crypto ransom payments in 2023 - MSN

[2] Security Bite: Ransomware payments hit record $1.1 billion in 2023 despite previous year’s decline - 9to5Mac

[3] Ransomware payments hit record $1.1B: report - MSN

[4] Ransomware payments hit record $1.1B: Report | The Hill

[5] Ransomware Attacks Rake in Over $1 Billion in 2023 for New Record | PCMag

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