Ransomware is one of the biggest security threats to institutions, companies, and consumers alike. With the help of the No More Ransom initiative, many people have been aided without spending any money. But, unfortunately, it would appear this malware-based attack method will not go away anytime soon.
No More Ransom is A Success
Putting an end to ransomware attacks is a lot more complicated than one may think. It is not something a government can ‘ban”, even though it is illegal to build and distribute such malicious code. Nor is it something software and hardware manufacturers can actively mitigate without breaking the bank. Even then, the countermeasures in place will require constant monitoring, finetuning, and adjustments.
Despite such unfavorable odds, there are projects capable of offering relief where ransomware attacks are concerned. No More Ransom, a project launched by Europol and partners, is such an example. It saw the light of day in 2016 and is still going strong today. In the early days, there were four decryption tools for different types of ransomware. Today, there are 121 tools suitable for over 150 different malicious code families.
The landscape has changed, and not for the better. More variants keep showing up, each adding something new or poses a different set of challenges for security researchers. Criminals will continue to explore ransomware for many years to come, as it remains a lucrative option. Victims will need to pay a sum of money to get their infected files back unscathed. However, paying does not guarantee restoration of file access; thus it is best avoided altogether.
With the help of No More Ransom, paying is not a necessity any longer. With over 6 million downloads of the various tools, the project has prevented over $900 million in ransomware-related payments. It may only be a drop of water on a boiling plate, but it still represents a fair bit of money and numerous victims who would’ve otherwise paid the criminals directly. Of course, there is always room for improvements and doing better, but the efforts to date deserve proper recognition.
The War Continues Unabated
For those who thought the ransomware war was over, that is far from the case. The global number of attacks is still increasing, making it the “leading” cyber threat. Moreover, while companies and institutions can obtain “cyber insurance” against such attacks, those prices are going up alarmingly quickly. Insurance is a good thing to fall back on, but it does very little to push companies to step up their IT game and fend off attacks altogether.
Whereas COVID-19 is a real-world pandemic, ransomware is its digital counterpart. It is like a plague that one seemingly cannot get rid of unless one injects the proper countermeasures into one’s system. For humans, that requires one or two vaccine shorts. It is a billion-dollar overhaul for major companies in the IT world, a fee most aren’t willing to spend for various reasons. Relying on No More Ransom is a solution, but not always the best one.
Treating the symptoms will only go well for so long before something major occurs. When that event will happen remains unknown, but it could be any day. Rather than focusing on cyber insurance, everyone should amp up their IT security and infrastructure. Easier said than done in a time where silicon is still hard to come by. However, failure to do so will only create a band-aid on an open wound. Ransomware is a problem that needs to be tackled at its core and roots, rather than dealing with it after the facts.
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