Ransomware mutations double in 2019

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During the second quarter of this year, researchers at Kaspersky detected 16,017 new ransomware modifications including ones belonging to eight new malware families which is a dangerous sign that criminal activity is intensifying online.

The number of ransomware modifications discovered by the cybersecurity firm is more than double the number of new samples detected during the same period last year.

Kaspersky's new IT Threat Evolution Q2 2019 report also revealed that 232,292 unique users were targeted by ransomware attacks which marks a 46 percent increase when compared to the number of users who fell victim to similar attacks in Q2 of 2018.

The countries hit the hardest by ransomware during the second quarter of 2019 were Bangladesh (9%), Uzbekistan (6%) and Mozambique (4%).

Ransomware families

WannaCry remained the ransomware family that attacked users most often in Q2 2019 (23.4% of cases) despite the fact that Microsoft released a patch for its operating system to close the vulnerability exploited by the ransomware two months before the start of its widespread and destructive attacks two years ago.

Gandcrab was another major actor responsible for 13.8 percent of attacks even though its creators publicly announced that the ransomware would no longer be distributed.

Security researcher at Kaspersky, Fedor Sinitsyn explained that a new ransomware will likely emerge to fill the gap left by Gandcrab, saying:

“In this quarter we observed an increase in the number of new ransomware modifications, even though the Gandcrab family closed down in early June. The GandCrab ransomware family has long been one of the most popular cryptors amongst cybercriminals. For more than 18 months it has stayed in the list of the most rampant ransomware families we detect, but even its decline did not lower the statistics, as there are still other numerous widespread Trojans. 

"The GandCrab case is a good illustration of how effective ransomware can be, with its creators stopping their malicious activity after claiming they made a tremendous amount of money by extorting funds from their victims. We expect new actors to replace GandCrab and urge everyone to protect their devices by installing software updates regularly and choosing a reliable security solution.” 

To avoid falling victim to a ransomware attack, Kaspersky recommends that users update their operating system, use an updated security solution and keep local backup copies of their files just in case.

Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.