Ransomware reports jump first six months of 2021

A newly released report from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Agency, known as FinCEN, indicates that ransomware is an increasing threat to the U.S. financial sector, as well as to businesses and the public. More SARS reports related to ransomware were filed in the first six months of 2021 than all of 2020, according to the agency.

Ransomware is malicious software that encrypts a victim’s files and holds the data “hostage” until a ransom is paid. In its analysis of ransomware trends in BSA reporting between January 2021 and June 2021, FinCEN found that the number of ransomware-related SARs filed monthly has grown rapidly, with 635 SARs filed and 458 transactions reported.

This is up 30% from the total of 487 SARs filed for the entire 2020 calendar year, while the total value of suspicious activity reported in ransomware-related SARs during the first six months of 2021 was $590 million — exceeding the value reported for the entirety of 2020 ($416 million), according to the report.

The report also states that during the past two years, ransomware actors have shifted from “a high-volume opportunistic approach” to a more “selective methodology” in choosing victims, targeting larger enterprises and demanding bigger payouts to maximize their return on investment.

Further, some ransomware actors have diversified their revenue streams using a ransomware-as-a-service business model in which ransomware creators sell user-friendly ransomware kits on the dark web or outsource ransomware distribution to affiliates in exchange for a percentage of the ransom, which lowers the technical expertise needed to carry out an attack, the report states.

Additionally, the transition to remote and online work in response to COVID-19 has also exacerbated risks and vulnerabilities of businesses to cyberattacks such as ransomware, according to the report.

Read the full report on the FinCEN website.

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