Ransomware perpetrators' increasing focus on Australia is just targeted marketing

All the warnings in the world aren't going to stop a small business from paying a ransom to recover encrypted files when the alternative is the collapse of the business – and that, one security expert has warned, is why Australia will continue to be increasingly targeted by cybercriminals looking to make a quick buck from the malware.

Ransomware as a service (RaaS), a growing phenomenon that allows perpetrators to rent ransomware-generating engines to target a particular portion of Internet users. Cybercriminals “know that people from certain countries have a high exposure rate [to ransomware],” ESET ANZ senior research fellow Nick FitzGerald told CSO Australia.

“If Australians end up downloading and executing bad code more than others, [perpetrators] might be prepared to pay more to target Australians because they know it has a lot of wealthy people, and because they know there's a bigger chance of it getting onto machines – which is a higher ROI.”

Ransomware authors have indeed had great success targeting Australian users in recent years, driving the country up the leaderboard to the point where they regularly rank amongst the world's most frequent ransomware victims. Some 9415 TorrentLocker victims were discovered in one study in late 2014 – putting it second in the world – while a Trend Micro analysis last year found Australia was hit with a flood of TorrentLocker emails that produced a flood of Australian victims – up from a 2013 analysis in which Kaspersky Labs ranked Australia fifth globally.

ESET's latest security report, Trends 2016: (In) Security Everywhere, highlighted the growing sophistication of ransomware attacks, which have expanded to include mobile devices with recent ransomware such as Lockerpin and Lockdroid.

With so many new threats appearing and businesses focused more on staying in operation than on philosophical arguments about stamping out ransomware by ignoring it, businesses that were actually hit by online nasties were finding it quicker and easier to just pay up – as a Massachusetts police department and a Los Angeles hospital have famously done recently.

“Morally you shouldn't encourage people by paying up,” FitzGerald said, “but if it means the death of your business – which might include a dozen people – what are people realistically going to do?”

“It's not an enormous amount of money for someone from a developed Western industrialised economy, and [operational shutdown] is a total calamity so it's often a no-brainer for people affected by these things to pay up.”

The continuing success rate for malware attacks may also be fuelled by Australia’s relatively large base of small and medium businesses (SMBs), which generally lack the security budgets of larger companies as well as the backup infrastructure and technological knowhow necessary to work around many ransomware infections.

As a result, many businesses are proving ripe territory even for old malware: in January, ESET reported, some 9 percent of Australian malware and 7 percent of New Zealand malware consisted of Bayrob, a family of malware that has been circulating since 2007.



Read more: Americans, Romanians most willing to pay ransomware fees – but not for work files

With data increasingly being stored in the cloud, it’s critical to be able to evaluate and manage the security of cloud solutions. Dropbox's Solutions Architect team are teaming up with the Symantec Information Protection group to discuss the latest industry best practices.

Register here for the February 25th webinar on* Managing enterprise cloud security.



Join us at the CSO Perspectives Roadshow in March.

  • Hear from International keynote speakers:Robert Lentz, and Graham Cluley,
  • A Security Awareness stream
  • 18 different interactive Security Exchange discussions
Read more: US DHS: cyber attacks on Ukraine power firms hit 225,000 customers Join CSO for a day of networking with your peers, engaging and discussing topics relevant to you, hearing from some of the top worldwide IT Security leaders in the market and attending the exhibition floor to win some amazing prizes.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags encrypted filesNick FitzGeraldRansomware as a service (RaaS)ransomcybercriminalsLockdroidTorrentLockeresetransomwareCSO Australia

More about CSODropboxESETindeedIT SecurityKasperskySymantecTrend Micro

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by David Braue

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place