Ransomware: Is time running out for the biggest menace on the web?

Attempts at delivering ransomware have declined, as cybercriminals move towards other forms of malware -- at least for now.

    Ransomware attacks like WannaCry and Petya caused major chaos last year, while the likes of Locky and Cerber were less high-profile, but still managed to generate large amounts of income for their criminal creators.

    2017 was the year of ransomware, but it could be that the file-encrypting malware has already reached its peak, as an analysis of cybercriminal campaigns appears to show that malicious actors are already dumping ransomware in favour of other forms of cyber-attack.

    According to an analysis of cybercrime tactics and techniques by researchers at security company Malwarebytes, the final months of 2017 saw cyber-attackers ditch ransomware, either in favour of returning to more stealthy forms of malware like trojans and spyware, or moving onto the likes of cryptocurrency miners and ad-fraud malware.

    Figures suggest ransomware peaked when it accounted for over 70 percent of exploit and spam drops in June -- the same month as the Petya ransomware attack and shortly after May's WannaCry outbreak. However, since that point, the percentage of ransomware drops has fallen significantly, dropping to under 10 percent of malicious payloads in December.

    It could be that the high profile of ransomware following the WannaCry incident pushed the malware into the public eye to such an extent that potential victims became more aware of the threat, while making more businesses more likely to back up data. In both cases, some cybercriminals may have found ransomware to be a less effective means of illicitly making money.

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