How remote work opened the floodgates to ransomware; plus How to Cut Down on Ransomware Attacks Without Banning Bitcoin

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Ransomware has roared into the headlines in recent weeks after criminal hacking networks, tentatively linked to Russia, launched attacks on the major US meat packing plant JBS and the nation’s largest fuel pipeline.

Joe Biden and his administration are scrambling to address the growing threat, pressing Vladimir Putin in a highly anticipated meeting on Wednesday to take action against the rise of ransomware attacks. Biden said he gave Putin a list of 16 areas – mostly in critical infrastructure – that are “off limits” for cyber-attacks.

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How to Cut Down on Ransomware Attacks Without Banning Bitcoin
Ransomware isn’t new; the idea dates back to 1986 with the “Brain” computer virus. Now, it’s become the criminal business model of the internet for two reasons. The first is the realization that no one values data more than its original owner, and it makes more sense to ransom it back to them—sometimes with the added extortion of threatening to make it public—than it does to sell it to anyone else. The second is a safe way of collecting ransoms: Bitcoin.

This is where the suggestion to ban cryptocurrencies as a way to “solve” ransomware comes from. Lee Reiners, executive director of the Global Financial Markets Center at Duke Law, proposed this in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. Journalist Jacob Silverman made the same proposal in a New Republic essay. Without this payment channel, they write, the major ransomware epidemic is likely to vanish, since the only payment alternatives are suitcases full of cash or the banking system, both of which have severe limitations for criminal enterprises.

Ransomware claims are roiling an entire segment of the insurance industry
The recent surge of ransomware attacks is upending the cyber insurance industry, pushing up the requirements and cost of coverage just as more companies need it.

Ransomware attacks — in which cybercriminals take over an organization’s computer network and demand a payment to hand back control — have increased in frequency and severity over the past two years. According to blockchain research firm Chainalysis, ransom payments from companies increased 341 percent to a total of $412 million during 2020.

Australian Federal Police muscles up to go after ransomware gangs
Criminal groups digitally exhorting Australian businesses and agencies could face the prospect of prosecution and efforts to claw back funds, thanks to a new law enforcement operation aimed at ransomware operators.

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