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Crypto currency aiding ransomware growth

Ransomware may have faded from the headlines this year, but it remains a big problem for businesses across Australia and New Zealand – with cryptocurrencies bolstering the malware’s popularity.

That’s the message from WatchGuard Technologies ANZ regional director Mark Sinclair, who told Telecom Times that despite less publicity, ransomware continues to hit Australian and New Zealand companies heavily.

“When they’re demanding payment, it’s usually Bitcoin or some form of crypto currency, so as long as cryptocurrency stays around it will be the channel of choice for the bad guys to demand money,” Sinclair said.

“Cryptocurrency is certainly helping add towards the prevalence of ransomware at the moment.”

A survey of 186 partners – both WatchGuard’s regular partners and ones who have done very little with the vendor – showed eight out of 10 respondents felt ransomware was a real concern.

Sinclair cited the case of one partner whose newly acquired customer had been hit by ransomware nine times in a couple of months, causing ‘significant pain’ for the business.

“I ran some stats [this week] looking at the percentage of malware we have detected across Australia and New Zealand and nearly 75% of it is what we call unknown malware, or malware we haven’t seen before,” Sinclair said.

“Of that malware, a lot of it is ransomware, and it is still hitting organisations out there and it is something that is going to get worse and worse over time unless people get on top of it and take it seriously,” he said.

Sinclair said while the mechanics of ransomware is remaining the same, with the malware requiring users to click on something or connect to something, or have an unmatched machine, the payload is constantly morphing and evading traditional security products.

He said the advice to minimise the risk of ransomware remains the same: Good – and frequent – backups to restore data in the event of a ransomware attack, combined with good security products on the gateway and user education to ensure they understand ransomware and general IT hygiene.

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