Ransomware is big money. In fact, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, ransomware attackers collected more than $209 million from victims in the first three months of 2016 alone. This is up dramatically from $24 million for all of 2015. And if there is one thing history can teach us, it’s that big money drives innovation. So, it’s logical to predict that as ransomware evolves, so too will its sophistication.
Proof of this is already showing. Traditionally, ransomware attacks have been extremely opportunistic; mass-mailed across the Internet hoping to infect as many victims as possible. Now, trends show that ransomware authors and distributors are getting more targeted and almost more entrepreneurial with their attacks, targeting specific verticals and data types with greater precision. For example, instead of emailing a huge distribution list, a malicious actor may take time to do research on a healthcare organization to craft a believable phishing email. Or, ransomware may be programmed to match patterns that look like social security numbers, addresses, or patient records in an attempt to encrypt patient data instead of simply encrypting alphabetically throughout a filesystem.