Looking back at 2019, I believe ransomware was the most significant security threat. According to Malwarebytes, ransom malware, or ransomware, is a type of malware that prevents users from accessing their system or personal files and demands a ransom payment to regain access. Malwarebyes.com also highlighted that the development of the earliest variants of ransomware dates to the late 1980s, with payment transactions conducted via snail mail. Today, however, ransomware authors order that payment be sent via cryptocurrency such as bitcoin. A 2017 report from Cybersecurity Ventures predicted ransomware damages would cost the world $5 billion in 2017, up from $325 million in 2015, a 15-time increase in just two years. The losses for 2018 were predicted to reach $8 billion, and for 2019 the figure is $11.5 billion.
Cybersecurity Ventures predictions for 2019 could very well be spot-on in their forecast. As the U.S. was hit by a barrage of ransomware attacks that impacted at least 948 government agencies, educational establishments, and health-care providers at a potential cost over $7.5 billion, according to a December Emsisoft report. Now this is just in the U.S. alone, even one of the world’s largest manufacturers of hearing aid, Demant, was almost forced out of business due to ransomware. In September of 2019, Demant incurred losses of up to $95 million following what appears to be a ransomware infection that hit the company. The financial impact would have been even worse had it not been for a $14.6 million cyber insurance policy held by Demant. This marks one of the most significant losses caused by a cyber-security incident outside of the NotPetya ransomware outbreak known to have incurred companies like shipping giant Maersk and courier service FedEx losses of over $300 million, each.
According to Cybersecurity Ventures, cybercrime is predicted to cost the world more than $6 trillion annually by 2021, up from $3 trillion in 2015. Ransomware is likely to worsen and make up a proportionately larger share of total cybercrime by 2021. With ransomware attacks declaring this much damage, for me, it was definitely the biggest security threat of 2019 and even beyond. For information on how you can avoid this type of threat, I recommend checking out my cyber tip about ransomware avoidance.