Last Updated on 22/11/2021 by Sunaina
Image courtesy: ID Agent
According to a study issued by the US Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, the ransomware business is expanding this year and may be worth billions to some of its top players (via The Record). The research looked at suspicious activity reports from banking institutions to assess the significant rise in ransomware payments in the first half of 2021, and it was even able to estimate how much some hacker organisations were making by analysing blockchain transactions connected to their wallets.
According to the study, complaints of suspected ransomware-related transactions reached about $590 million between January 2021 and June 2021. One of the most startling statistics in the research is that the top ten hacking groups have trafficked over $5.2 billion in Bitcoin over the last three years.
It’s a staggering amount, but it’s most certainly incomplete. FinCEN arrived at this conclusion by locating wallets linked to payments to the top ten ransomware programmes, then analysing their outgoing transactions (with the money likely heading off to be laundered, though it’s worth noting that it’s nearly impossible to know whether it came from ransomware activities). The hacker gangs may have more cryptocurrency stashed away in wallets they haven’t accessed yet. The research only included Bitcoin, and the data suggests that there has been a rise in hackers requesting other currencies such as Monero.
Chainalysis’ research director stated in June that the blockchain data firm has named 2020 “the year of ransomware” and questioned if 2021 will be labelled the same. The answer appears to be yes, albeit it may require an update – FinCEN believes that there was $200 million more paid out in the first half of 2021 than in the entire year of 2020. According to the report, if current trends continue, hackers might earn more money from ransomware this year than they have in the previous decade.
It’s no surprise that the ransomware industry is thriving in 2021; we’ve seen hackers target and extort big tech firms, pipelines, hospitals, insurance organisations, and more. However, this study demonstrates how paying ransoms may assist support hackers’ attempts to get access to new targets, with just a few organisations achieving significant success. However, the administration has been striving to break this vicious cycle. The Department of Justice is putting together a team to go target exchanges that facilitate criminal transactions, such as ransomware demands. But, with billions at stake, it will have to overcome enormous incentives if it is to stay ahead.