Ransomware is the most profitable cybercrime

Cisco report finds that encrypting victim’s data makes a lot of money

Ransomware has fast become the dominant form of malware as it makes the most profit for gangs, according to new research.

Cisco's 2016 Midyear Cybersecurity Report found that fragile infrastructure, poor network hygiene, and slow detection rates are the main reasons this type of malicious attack is effective.

The networking firm said it expects the upward trend in ransomware to continue with even more destructive variants that can spread by themselves and hold entire networks and companies hostage appearing.

It said new modular strains of ransomware will be able to quickly switch tactics to maximise efficiency and future ransomware attacks will evade detection by being able to limit CPU usage and refrain from command-and-control actions.

The report also found a growing number of ransomware attacks using server vulnerabilities specifically within JBoss servers of which, 10 per cent of those connected to the internet worldwide were found to be compromised. Many of the JBoss vulnerabilities used to compromise these systems were identified five years ago, meaning that basic patching and vendor updates could have easily prevented such attacks, according to Cisco.

Cyber criminals are also getting better at keeping a low profile when carrying out ransomware attacks, with an increased use of cryptocurrency, Transport Layer Security and Tor, which enables anonymous communication across the web.

The report said  many companies do a lousy job of keeping software up to date as a means of defending against ransomware attacks. It reported that 20-25 per cent of Chrome users were on the latest version of the browser, and Java sees slow migrations with one-third of the systems examined running Java SE 6, which is being phased out by Oracle (the current version is SE 10).

In Microsoft Office 2013, 10 per cent or less of users are using the newest service pack version.

"As organisations capitalise on new business models presented by digital transformation, security is the critical foundation. Attackers are going undetected and expanding their time to operate. To close the attackers' windows of opportunity, customers will require more visibility into their networks and must improve activities, like patching and retiring ageing infrastructure lacking in advanced security capabilities," said Marty Roesch, vice president and chief architect of the Security Business Group at Cisco.

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