Businesses face 'exponential' rise in ransomware attacks
Irish businesses are being warned about an increase in ransomware attacks that force them to pay thousands of euro to cybercriminals.
A new report claims that incidents of ransomware, which is computer malware that locks a PC's files until a ransom is paid online, have increased fourfold in the last year.
The Arctic Wolf Networks survey is backed up by new data from the US Department of Justice and security experts in Ireland, who say that there has been an "unprecedented" rise in ransomware attacks on companies.
"In the last six months, we have seen an exponential rise in the number of ransomware incidences," said Conor Flynn, chief executive of the Dublin-based firm Information Security Assurance Services.
"There's a new arms race. It's the first time we've seen the real monetisation of malware. They've found a way to get mass market penetration."
Ransomware attacks are becoming a preferred cyber-criminal tool because they are very difficult to overcome once a computer system has become infected.
"Typically, ransoms are paid in the bitcoin cyber-currency and start at around €500 upwards.
"A typical home user gets hit for one or two bitcoins," said Mr Flynn. "As you go up the ladder to SMEs and corporates, the value of ransomware goes up accordingly."
Fear of reporting a ransomware breach may be encouraging small businesses to pay the elicited ransoms, according to Mr Flynn.
"If you're a processor of personal data and the only copy is a file that has been encrypted by ransomware, that has to be declared to the [data] Commissioner and the person has to be contacted," he said.
"So companies are now paying up because they don't want to declare it with all the negative associations that has."
A recent survey from the Irish security firm IT Data Solutions claimed that a fifth of Irish companies have been hit by ransomware attacks.
Last month, the Law Society of Northern Ireland issued a warning to solicitors about incidences of ransomware.
In March, a Government spokesman admitted that "a number" of its offices had been hit by ransomware as were some public service offices.