Bitcoin ransomware attacks have regularly hit the headlines this year, giving cryptocurrency negative press, however malware, in general, has been increasing making ransomware a much less significant threat than is actually reported.
Stand and Deliver – Bitcoin or Your OS
In a recent blog post detailing malware statistics for 2016 and Q1 of 2017, head of G DATA SecurityLabs Ralf Benzmüller discussed the proportion of ransomware to other types of malware, saying:
Ransomware accounted for much of the damage, although the proportion of this malware among the overall instances is quite small […] It’s very different with adware. This is the most prolific malware category, but it’s hardly ever noticed.
According to their findings, over 6.8 million new digital malware strains were detected in 2016. That represents an increase of almost 33% over 2015. In the first quarter of 2017 alone, over 1.8 million strains were detected, or one every 4.2 seconds. The chart below (provided by G DATA security labs) predicts large increases in new malware types for 2017 with ransomware only representing a small fraction of this increase.
Ransomware: an Overstated Threat?
The proliferation of new malware strains is increasing year after year, yet ransomware such as WannaCry and Petya make up only a small percentage of the total types of malware on the loose. One of the most common forms of malware is known as a Trojan, which downloads and executes malicious software on a user’s computer such as spyware, keyloggers and botnet assignment. Adware is the second most common form. they slow down a users computer, tracking and logging visited websites.
Ransomware, by comparison, is dwarfed by these types of attacks, yet they have managed to capture the attention of both the media and the public with their disruptive attacks and high-profile targets. WannaCry, for example, attacked UK’s national health service, among others, bringing hospitals, their admissions systems and, possibly even literally, patients to their knees. So while they may be a small threat, proportionally speaking, their impact can have a crippling and devastating effect.
Who Creates Malware and What You Can Do to Protect Yourself
Ransomware programs are released as zero-day exploits, released by online groups such as the Shadow Brokers. Anyone who regularly updates their computer system and who practices even the bare minimum of computer security has very little to fear. The main targets of malware are PC users, with Mac users now a close second. Linux users cannot rest easy either, although they are the least at risk from malware.