Malware extortion attacks show no sign of slowing over the coming months

From CryptoLocker and TeslaCrypt to WannaCry and NotPetya, the past five years has seen ransomware evolve into a multibillion-dollar criminal enterprise, with malware extortion attacks taking their toll on businesses and individuals on an increasingly global scale.

Now, as scattered reports of a new wave of bitcoin-hungry trojans continue to hit the headlines, a new study indicates that global ransomware damage costs are likely to exceed $11.5 billion annually by 2019, up from $5 billion this year.

According to a new report from industry think tank Cybersecurity Ventures, by the end of 2019 there will be a ransomware attack on businesses every 14 seconds. Attacks on individuals will occur even more frequently, the company said.

Adding further cause for concern, Steve Morgan, founder of the Menlo Park research house, noted that ransomware damage costs are not limited to payouts made to reinstate access to files and data.

“Ransomware costs include damage and destruction (or loss) of data, downtime, lost productivity, post-attack disruption to the normal course of business, forensic investigation, restoration and deletion of hostage data and systems, reputational harm, and employee training in direct response to the ransomware attacks,” Morgan said.

Overall, ransomware’s $11.5 billion price tag pales into insignificance in the wider context of a global cybercrime market that’s expected to exceed $6 trillion by 2021.

“CIOs, CISOs, and IT security teams need to heighten their awareness and response plans around the ransomware threat,” urged Cybersecurity Ventures. “Cyber defense needs to cross boundaries so that every IT worker understands exactly what ransomware is, how it infects organizations, and how to combat it.”