Ransomware is big business.
According to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), more than 992 CryptoWall-related complaints were received between April 2014 and June 2015. During that period, victims reported more than $18 million in losses.
"The financial impact to victims goes beyond the ransom fee itself, which is typically between $200 and $10,000," according to the advisory from IC3. "Many victims incur additional costs associated with network mitigation, network countermeasures, loss of productivity, legal fees, IT services, and/or the purchase of credit monitoring services for employees or customers."
"The problem begins when the victim clicks on an infected advertisement, email, or attachment, or visits an infected website," the advisory notes. 'Once the victim’s device is infected with the ransomware variant, the victim’s files become encrypted. In most cases, once the victim pays a ransom fee, he or she regains access to the files that were encrypted. Most criminals involved in ransomware schemes demand payment in Bitcoin. Criminals prefer Bitcoin because it's easy to use, fast, publicly available, decentralized, and provides a sense of heightened security/anonymity."
In March, stats from Trend Micro revealed that New Zealand and Australia were home to the most CryptoWall 3.0 infections, with 50.38 percent. North America and Europe were next with 24.18 and 14.27 percent, respectively.
CryptoWall, and ransomware in general, is effective because many people are failing in three areas: keeping their software up-to-date; performing nightly backups of workstations and file servers; and maintaining up-to-date anti-malware software, Kaspersky Lab's Kurt Baumgartner told SecurityWeek.
"The second one is particularly helpful because ransomware will seek out mapped drives and encrypt files on servers," said Baumgartner, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. "I have seen this bad fortune in Colorado at non-profits and small businesses. One employee tries running a cracked software installer that includes embedded ransomware code, and it ends up encrypting the files on a mapped drive the organization considered their “backup.” You can’t recover from that without paying the price – ransomware crypto routines have improved to the point where you can’t just find a side-channel attack to recover files."