Ransomware will likely get worse in 2021: report

The average ransom payment jumped 31% to $233,817

Ransomware wreaked havoc in 2020. It may be even worse this year.

The average ransom payment jumped 31% to $233,817 in the third quarter from the second quarter, according to a report from Coveware.

One of the biggest fears in 2021 is that ransomware criminals will go after bigger and bigger targets.

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"The biggest change over the past 6 quarters is [criminals] now realize that their tactics scale to much larger enterprises without much of an increase in their own operating costs," Coveware said in its report. "The profit margins are extremely high and the risk is low." 

In a textbook ransomware attack, the attacker locks critical computer files. If the victim pays, the files are unlocked.

In 2021, hospitals are likely to remain major targets, amid the coronavirus pandemic, as criminals "casually blow past any ethical red lines," said SC Media, a cybersecurity information site.

As hospitals are flooded with new coronavirus patients, attackers know that a hospital will be more desperate to pay the ransom to keep their operations running. 

In addition to health care, manufacturing is expected to be a big target in 2021, Jim McGann, vice president of marketing and business development at Index Engines, a backup and cybersecurity firm, told Fox News.

And the attacks will be more sophisticated than in previous years, he said.

"Cybercriminals are deploying advanced technology, including machine learning, to aid them in penetrating security defenses," McGann said in a statement.

Also, expect backup systems to "look very different," McGann added.

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"Backup has not seen a lot of innovation over the last decade, but cyberattacks have generated a renewed focus on backup," according to McGann. New backup technology will provide "sophisticated analytics, smarter machine learning, and isolated air-gaps for added security," he explained, the latter referring to a recovery technique where a copy of an organization's data is always offline and therefore cannot be accessed by attackers. 

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Lastly, one of the most dangerous trends expected to spill over into 2021 is a "side hustle" that attackers have been using, according to Sophos' 2021 Threat Report. Here, attackers not only hold the computer systems hostage but they steal the data "and threaten to release it to the world if the targets fail to pay a bounty." 

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