$70 Million Ransomware Demand Shocks the World

First, cybercriminals hacked the Colonial Pipeline, causing gas shortages across the southeastern U.S.

Then they hacked JBS, a global meat producer, shutting down all of its U.S. beef plants.

Now they’re at it again, with the largest and most sophisticated ransomware attack in history taking place over the Fourth of July weekend.

Rather than target businesses directly, a Russian cybercrime gang hacked management software firms around the world, such as Miami-based Kaseya. It then used the firms’ software to infiltrate their clients’ computer networks.

All told, up to 1,500 companies and organizations were disrupted by the attacks, including schools, grocery stores and a variety of small businesses.

The cybercriminals claim they encrypted over 1 million computers, meaning they can’t be used without a special decryption key.

And the cost of that key? A whopping $70 million in bitcoin — the largest cybercrime ransom ever recorded.

The Biden administration advised businesses to avoid paying the ransom, as it would only encourage further attacks.

It also threatened to “take action” against the Russian government if it doesn’t do more to stop cybercriminals.

There’s no sign the cyberthreat will go away anytime soon, though.

In fact, the data shows it’s only going to get worse.

Cybercriminals Have Gotten Greedier

In December 2018, I wrote an article predicting that “2019 will be the year of cyberattacks.”

It turns out I was a little early with my warning. But after that article was published, cybercriminals have gotten bolder and greedier.

The average ransomware payment in 2018 was under $10,000, according to cybersecurity research firm Coveware.

But as of the first quarter of 2021, cybercriminals were demanding $200,000 or more on average for decryption keys — over a 20X increase.

ransom payments by quarter chart

And as we’ve seen in recent months, cybercriminals are now going after bigger targets, sometimes demanding massive payments. In June, JBS revealed it paid a Russian gang $11 million after its meat plants were hacked.

Brett Callow, an analyst at the cybersecurity firm Emsisoft, warns: “Because companies continue to pay millions of dollars in ransoms, we have cybercriminals who are more determined and better resourced than ever before.”

In fact, Cybersecurity Ventures estimates that by the end of 2021, there will be a ransomware attack on a business every 11 seconds.

It predicts the total cost in damages will reach $20 billion — a sharp increase from only a few years ago.

global ransomware damage costs chart

These damages include lost data, decreased productivity and reputational harm, as well as the cost of ransom payouts.

Companies Can Prevent Ransomware Attacks

In a survey by cybersecurity firm PurpleSec, half of the organizations said they don’t believe they’re prepared to stop a ransomware attack.

It’s essential these businesses invest in better cybersecurity tools and protect themselves before it’s too late.

That’s why Research and Markets expects the cybersecurity market to grow from $132 billion in 2020 to $434 billion in 2030, a compound annual growth rate of 12.6%.

global cybersecurity market poised to soar chart

And there’s a way for us to profit in the meantime.

In a recent newsletter for his Strategic Fortunes subscribers, Ian King’s stock pick is a global cybersecurity leader.

Ian believes this company’s shares could triple in the next three years as the worldwide focus on cybersecurity drives demand for its products.

You can learn about Ian’s strategy for investing in our digital economy by clicking here.

Regards,

Jay Goldberg

Assistant Managing Editor, Banyan Hill Publishing

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