North America is biggest ransomware target: Report

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – North America has been extorted for the most money by ransomware attackers of any region – and the groups targeting it tend to be associated with Russia-based cyber-criminal groups, according to a new report.

Users in the region paid US$131 million (S$177 million) in crypto currency to ransomware attackers between July 2020 and June 2021, according to a report from Chainalysis, a crypto-forensics firm. That is more than double the amount sent from Western Europe, which paid the second-most.

“Ransomware strains that took the most from North American victims during the time period studied include NetWalker, Egregor, Phoenix Cryptolocker, and Doppelpaymer,” Chainalysis said, adding that all of the groups “are associated with Russia-based cybercriminal groups including Evil Corp, which has been previously linked to the Russian government.”

While ransomware attacks have been growing for years, they have drawn particular attention this year as several high-profile incidents have disrupted supply chains.

The Biden administration plans to enlist 30 other countries to join forces in the fight against ransomware and other kinds of cyber crime, including the illegal use of crypto currency, it said earlier this month.

For instance, an attack on JBS SA, the largest global meat producer, wiped out output from facilities that supplied almost a quarter of American beef supplies. And in May, Colonial Pipeline paid US$4.4 million to a Russia-linked ransomware gang.

A report released in April by a ransomware task force said the amount paid by victims increased by 311 per cent in 2020, reaching nearly US$350 million in crypto currency.

“The number of bad actors responsible for these widespread attacks is surprisingly small,” the report said. By taking action against the biggest players in groups such as infrastructure providers and money launderers, it said, “law enforcement can have an outsized impact and disrupt the operations of multiple strains”.

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