Britain Is Now A Top Ransomware Target

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Nearly one in ten of all emails infected by ransomware targeted the UK over 2015, Bitdefender reveals

Ransomware attacks on the UK have grown by such an extent that the country is now hit by nearly one of every ten infections worldwide, new research has found.

A study by security firm Bitdefender found that 9.1 percent of all ransomware-infected emails it detected in 2015 targeted internet users in the UK, with 54 percent of all malware files targeting UK internet users also containing ransomware.

And the company only expects the situation to worsen through 2016 as more and more criminals look to follow in the success of 2015’s attacks.

Under attack

lockBitdefender found that the UK was second only to the US when it came to being targeted by ransomware attacks, with the latter being subjected to 21.2 percent of all malicious email infections.

And the US also took top spot when it came to the proportion of ransomware detected, as 61.8 percent of all malware files targeting US internet users contained some form of ransomware.

The US is closely followed by France (55.8 percent); the UK (54.5 percent); Romania (50.2 percent); Australia (47.9 percent); Denmark (42.3 percent) and Germany (30.2 percent).

“These numbers show that ransomware masterminds have made countries such as the UK and US priority targets to attack, most likely because they consider both to be highly profitable markets,” states Catalin Cosoi, chief security strategist at Bitdefender.

“In 2015, the creators of the notorious CryptoWall ransomware have managed to extort more than $325 million from US victims. We also have to consider the use of sophisticated encryption algorithms that often leave victims no choice but to pay the ransom. In some cases, the FBI itself has encouraged companies to settle the ransom.”

Bitdefender anticipates this growth in ransomware continuing in 2016, with Linux ransomware particularly expected to worsen as the malware becomes more refined and begins to target known vulnerabilities.

The company also predicts the increasing use of botnets in ransomware scams to increase in 2016. Criminals would be able to use brute force attacks to gain login credentials for content management systems, which could be then used by Linux ransomware operators to automate encryption of a significant part of the internet.

A study by ESET earlier in the year found that ransomware is an increasingly dangerous proposition for many UK businesses, with over a third of UK companies having either personally been held to ransom by hackers, or know someone that has had their networks infected by ransomware.

Security firm McAfee Labs also warned earlier this month that ransomware attacks grew 127 percent from Q2 2014 to Q2 2015, with McAfee attributing this to a number of fast-growing new families such as CTB-Locker and CryptoWall, both of which hit the headlines earlier this year.

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