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MSP Marketing | May 30, 2018

A Brief History of Ransomware for Your MSP Marketing Agent

msp marketingCrime does pay, and for cyber criminals, they make it a business. It’s no wonder IT support from companies such as yourself are in high demand. Businesses of all sizes and industries need protection from security threats, particularly ransomware which has proven to be quite lucrative. Ransomware is popular because it’s a low-risk, high-return endeavor for cyber criminals:

They can simply hack devices or networks from afar, take these as virtual hostages, and lock out rightful users. To get back access, the users must pay a ransom; otherwise, their data will be deleted for good and their smartphones will be rendered useless. Cybercriminals involved in ransomware are hard to track because they perform their activities remotely. Victims can’t point out a suspect from a police lineup because a face-to-face interaction never takes place.

Where Ransomware Began

According to Symantec, a global leader in cybersecurity, ransomware isn’t as new as people think it is. It goes way back to 1989 when the AIDS Trojan— also referred to as the PC Cyborg virus— first appeared. Surprisingly, it wasn’t created by a programmer, but by a biologist named Joseph Popp. At the AIDS conference hosted by the World Health Organization, he gave away 20,000 infected floppy disks labeled “AIDS Information – Introductory Diskettes” to unsuspecting attendees.
Once the disk is inserted in a computer drive, the AIDS Trojan would be executed. It would then count the number of times that computer was booted, and once it reached 90, the malicious program would encrypt the file names in the C drive and hide the directories. The only way to regain access was for the user to send $189 to PC Cyborg’s offshore PO Box.
Lucky for victims back then, the AIDS Trojan was easy to defeat. They didn’t need to pay the ransom because the encrypted file names were quickly decrypted by counter programs.

Where Ransomware Is Now

Nowadays, ransomware is more sophisticated and less obvious. It’s also no longer a one-man show. Currently, ransomware is a thriving industry with different operators competing over customers for the biggest profits. Money travels not in cash, but in Bitcoins, which leave no trace.
From 2014 to 2016, a form of ransomware called Crypto Wall managed to extort more than $18 million in total from its victims. FBI had to issue a warning against Crypto Wall because of the financial losses it generated.
When large organizations are attacked, the ransom can go higher than $50,000— a far cry from Popp’s $189 ransom. To make matters worse, establishments providing critical services like hospitals are commonly targeted because cybercriminals know they have no choice but to pay up.

Recognizing the dangers, security companies— Symantec included— listed ransomware as one of the biggest threats of 2016. Ransomware has had a long and sordid history and will continue to be a problem in the future. Help your clients stay safe with information backup, cyber security and security education through MSP marketing to help fight off attacks and mitigate risks.


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