Researchers say that cyber-crime gangs have had a 40% drop in earnings as victims are refusing to pay ransoms. However, while there has been a drop in criminal revenue, the number of attacks is rising, according to the BBC.
Cryptocurrency experts at Chainalysis say ransomware groups extorted at least $457m (£370m) from victims in 2022 – $311m less than the year before. The true figures are likely to be higher, but experts agree that fewer victims are paying.
Companies, governments, schools and even hospitals around the world are regularly falling victim to ransomware hackers, who lock staff out of their IT systems until a ransom is paid, usually in Bitcoin. The hackers often threaten to publish or sell stolen data too.
No governments have made it illegal to pay hacker ransoms, but cyber-experts think that US sanctions against hacker groups, or those with links to Russia’s Federal Security Service, have made paying some groups legally risky. Other factors may also be at play, including an increase in ransomware awareness leading to improved cyber-security at organizations.
“Hackers are definitely finding it harder to get paid for ransomware attacks,” said Brett Callow, threat researcher at cyber-security company Emsisoft. Companies have become better at protecting their back-ups, reducing their need to pay hackers for recovery, he added.
“Additionally, as ransomware attacks have become so common, they are less of a PR disaster for companies, making them less likely to pay to keep incidents quiet and out of the news.” Callow concluded.
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