This is due in part to three unprecedented ransomware attacks targeting corporate networks that forever changed the landscape of this increasingly virulent threat, which Kaspersky Lab has named its key topic for 2017.
The year 2017 will be remembered as a time when the ransomware threat suddenly evolved with advanced threat actors targeting businesses worldwide, using a series of destructive worm-powered attacks whose ultimate goal remains a mystery. These attacks included WannaCry on May 12, ExPetr on June 27 and BadRabbit in late October, which all used exploits designed to compromise corporate networks. Businesses were also targeted by other ransomware and Kaspersky Lab prevented ransomware infections on over 240,000 corporate users overall.
“The headline attacks of 2017 are an extreme example of the growing criminal interest in corporate targets. We spotted this trend in 2016, it has accelerated throughout 2017 and shows no signs of slowing down,” said Fedor Sinitsyn, senior malware analyst, Kaspersky Lab. “Business victims are remarkably vulnerable, can be charged a higher ransom than individuals and are often willing to pay up in order to keep the business operating. New business-focused infection vectors, such as through remote desktop systems, are not surprisingly also on the rise.”
Other ransomware trends in 2017
- Overall, just under 950,000 unique users were attacked in 2017, compared to around 1.5 million in 2016 – with the difference between them largely a reflection of detection methodology (for example, the downloaders often associated with cryptomalware are now better detected by heuristic technologies, so not classified together with the ransomware-related verdicts collected by our telemetry).
- The three major attacks, as well as other, less notorious families including AES-NI and Uiwix, used sophisticated exploits leaked online in spring 2017 by a group known as the Shadow Brokers.
- There was a decline in new families of ransomware (38 in 2017, down from 62 in 2016), with a corresponding increase in modifications to existing ransomware (over 96,000 new modifications detected in 2017, compared to 54,000 in 2016). The rise in modifications may reflect attempts by attackers to obfuscate their ransomware as security solutions get better at detecting them.
- From the second quarter of 2017, a number of groups ended their ransomware activities and published the keys needed to decrypt files. These included AES-NI, xdata, Petya/Mischa/GoldenEye and Crysis. Crysis later reappeared – possibly raised from the dead by a different group.
- The growing trend for infecting companies through remote desktop systems continued in 2017, when this approach became one of the main propagation methods for several widespread families, such as Crysis, Purgen/GlobeImposter and Cryakl.
- Approximately 65 percent of businesses that were hit by ransomware in 2017 said they lost access to a significant amount or even all of their data; one in six of those who paid up never recovered their data. These numbers are largely consistent with 2016.