Technology

Ransomware has more than doubled in the last year, new figures show

The number of ransomware samples detected by researchers has more than doubled in the last year - and they warn the Internet of Things will be the next target for cyber criminals.

Experts from Intel Security's McAfee Labs recorded a 127 per cent increase in the number of ransomware samples they detected, taking the total figure to 7.3 million.

This means the type of malware, which encrypts users' files and demands money for their return, has risen by more than 3,000 per cent since figures began in 2012.

The researchers said the healthcare sector is being particularly targeted by cyber criminals, who have made nearly $100,000 (£75,900) exploiting hospitals so far this year.

This type of attack can be very lucrative for hackers, and Intel found one ransomware author who appeared to have amassed $121 million (£91 million) in Bitcoin payments.

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"Day-to-day ransomware attacks on computer devices are fast becoming the norm," said Intel Security's EMEA CTO Raj Samani, commenting on the report.

"Attackers are starting to target sectors such as healthcare, which have historically suffered fewer data breaches and as such have tended to focus less on security.

"The next phase of ransomware will see this form of attack creeping into our everyday devices. Ransomware in connected cars and smart devices has been proven in concept and it's only a matter of time before we see instances of people left helpless, unable to drive their cars or use their home appliances unless they pay up a ransom.

"This is the shape of the future - devices we wouldn't normally perceive as computers being held to ransom by cyber criminals for financial gain.

"In order to undermine the growing sophistication of ransomware, we need to stay one step ahead - moving security measures beyond traditional devices to ensure consumers and businesses are protected across every network and have the tools in place to correct systems if an attack is detected."

Yet the research found that many businesses are not prepared to tackle the threat.

More than a quarter of companies surveyed do not monitor sharing of or access to employee or customer data, and only 37 per cent use endpoint monitoring of user activity or physical media activity, the report said.

Meanwhile, while 90 per cent of businesses have cloud protection strategies, only 12 per cent have visibility into data activity in the cloud.

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