The Ransomware Economy: a Black Market Fueled by Users

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We all know money is the motivating force when deciding to lead a life of cybercrime. From the creation to the distribution of ransomware, the economic success of  bad guys doing bad things over digital properties isn’t dissolving anytime soon. The interesting spin to this ransomware economy is you.

Using the basic philosophy of supply and demand, buyer and seller, ransomware has been thriving because we’re letting it. Like any product, criminals are creating a demand by locking our possessions and data (the supply) and you could say supply is booming. By the end of the buyer-cycle customers have already boughten back their freedom and data.

The simple transaction that’s made thousands of times a day fuels this micro-economy to create more demand. It’s an interesting development and something many have not considered, if you already paid up once, what is stopping them from coming back a second time? Here are the 4 pillars of the ransomware economy and some insight on how you can do your part crashing it into the ground.

The Product

Just like any other black market product, ransomware is purchased at varying prices on the black market. Criminals can obtain any kind of ransomware ranging in price, usually between $40 and as high as $3,000. Other costs invested in the product consist of the time spent creating and sending emails that compromise your emails and sites. Trustwave conducted a study that claimed it would cost roughly $2,500 to spread an infection to 2,000 users. I’m sure you already see where the ROI comes in.

The Price

Ransomware distributors have gone so far to study median income in countries to price what the market will accept. Higher median income countries demand higher ransom and the United States is on top of that list. There is also a universal demand for Bitcoin, which is accepted at a flat rate to infect you at a better value.

The Consumer

The ransomware target market is any entity that exchange and retain critical business information. These people also consist of users not following IT best practice and have the ability to pay the ransom. Healthcare organizations are among the highest risk of infection due to the pressure to pay up to ensure patients are being taken care of with stable systems.

The Competition

The low barrier to entry in this black market can yield pretty fast results if you know what you’re doing. And since people are giving into this crime regularly, it’s resulted in a fierce competition for victims dollars. Some criminals have even made a name for themselves presenting the ransom demand in a professional way that differentiates their “brand.”

Collapsing the Ransomware Economy

With business booming, you can only expect to see an increase in 2017, but we could see a possible decline if everyone does their part. The unique twist on this market is that it only exists because of us giving in to the demands that handcuff us. It’s as simple as saying no. The other element is preemptive and involves placing an adequate backup on your systems before the extortion occurs. Consult with your IT team regularly to run backup checks to make sure you can restore critical operations in a stable time frame.