Don’t take this title too literally. Ransomware, the malware that extorts money from victims to prevent a disaster, will surely continue to be active, at least in the short term.
However, IT security experts have already mooted the possibility of a step up the malware evolutionary ladder to the ransomworm. This malware nasty combines the extortion of ransomware with the propagation of the computer worm.
After infecting one victim, the ransomware would then copy itself systematically to every other machine on the same local network. But why do experts put such a high probability on the ransomworm making its appearance?
The main reason is money. Ransomware is a lucrative business, with an estimated 1 billion dollars (USD) for cybercriminals in 2016. It has become organised crime, even organised business.
Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) is available to attackers, who can then leverage immediately usable services to prey on the targets of their choice.
Figures may vary, but one estimate suggests that a return of up to $90,000 is feasible for a ransomware campaign that requires the attacker to invest $6,000 – the kind of return on investment that many other businesses can only dream about!
In that case, so the criminal logic goes, why not multiply opportunities and takings by automatically spreading the ransomware attack? Ransomware happens to be well-suited to this kind of replication, leaving copies of itself on removable drives, USB memory sticks, and any other media used for copying or transferring data.
Microsoft discovered a ransomware application (Zcryptor) in May, 2016, that behaved like a worm, moving from one Windows computer to another via these types of removable media.
Multiply this by an estimated average of 4,000 ransomware attacks per day (2016 figures), and ransomworm damage could be orders of magnitude greater than that of ransomware. But there is still time for a belated resolution for 2017, which is to check your IT security preparations and provider and to make sure that whatever protection is available, you will have all of it.