December 28, 2016 By Douglas Bonderud 2 min read

What’s worse than ransomware? Ransomworms. According to CSO Online, 2017 may be a rough year for information security teams. Combined with evolving cryptography and ransomware techniques, cybercriminals are hoping to burrow even deeper into corporate networks. Here’s a look ahead.

Preparing for Crypto-Ransomware

Ransomworms aren’t new. Back in May 2016, Graham Cluley and other cybersecurity experts reported on the rise of ZCryptor, a piece of ransomware that propagated across networks by copying itself onto removable media drives, such as connected USB sticks.

As CSO noted, ZCryptor may be the first iteration of a larger problem. According to Corey Nachreiner, chief technology officer (CTO) of WatchGuard Technologies, a ransomware/network worm mashup wouldn’t just infect attached devices, but “tirelessly copy itself to every computer on your local network it could reach.” Nachreiner also issued a warning for companies: “Whether or not you want to imagine such a scenario, I guarantee that cybercriminals are already thinking about it.”

And that’s just for starters. If criminals are able to steal network information before encrypting data and sending the worm on its way, they’re effectively able to compromise corporate machines twice.

In a nutshell, IT professionals can expect ransomware to dig deep and start worming its way across company networks in 2017.

A Cryptic Future

But there’s more than just burrowing baddies on deck for 2017. Ransomware was a $1 billion business in 2016, CSO Online noted, with more than 4,000 attacks reported every day. According to Information Management, security professionals should expect crypto-ransomware to hone in on specific industries as the price of stolen data falls.

With single records down to just $10 apiece, it’s no longer cost effective for attackers to infect and steal data. Instead, they’re better served by locking down patient information and then demanding payment for release. While the data isn’t up for sale to a third party, in the case of a health care organization, the inability to access vital information could lead to a stoppage of service or denial of care. This encourages victims to pay up or face losses of up to $1 million per day.

Worm Wars

Malware-makers are also changing their crypto-attack methods. As noted by IT Business Edge, attacks will “grow more intelligent by targeting high-value digital assets, including surveillance cameras, phone systems, security systems” and other business-critical devices. In addition, expect cybercriminals to set their sights on Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled devices to replace encryption with extortion by disabling physical systems.

Ransomware is still a hot property — many companies and individuals will pay up when critical data access is cut off — but criminals are looking for easier ways to big payouts. One option is evolving target selection, such as IoT devices and high-value communication assets, while threat developers are also looking to dig deep, burrow down and worm their way onto corporate networks.

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