Ransomware has become the most profitable malware in history, according to a new Cisco report, which claims it will only become "more pervasive and resilient".
Its publication came as another security vendor, SentinelOne, claimed it has scored an industry first by launching a $1m guarantee for clients hit by ransomware.
In its Mid-year Cybersecurity Report (MCR), Cisco said ransomware is "dominating" the malware market and although it is not new, it is now the most profitable type in history.
"In the first half of 2016, ransomware campaigns targeting both individual and enterprise users became more widespread and potent," the report said. "On the horizon: faster and more effective propagation methods that maximise the impact of ransomware campaigns and increase the probability that adversaries will generate significant revenue.
"There are dozens of ransomware variants, many language-specific, and all of them resilient. Currently, the majority of known ransomware cannot be easily decrypted, leaving victims with little option but to pay the asking price in most cases."
Quocirca analyst Bob Tarzey (pictured) told CRN that news of ransomware's rise is not a surprise but is concerning nonetheless.
"It doesn't surprise me because people are prepared to pay the money and it comes at all levels - consumers and businesses," he said.
"There are two ways to protect against it: anti-malware which spots this sort of stuff, and - the most obvious - backing up regularly the good, old-fashioned way. If the data is backed up then you don't have to pay the ransom. If it is straightforward, if you've got a back-up you can rebuild your systems."
But he added that there are new variations of ransomware emerging, where adversaries threaten to publish confidential data stored on a PC.
New European Union rules, the General Data Protection Regulations (GDRP) are due to come in in the coming months, which state companies may be fined up to four per cent of their annual turnover in the case of a serious data breach, reflecting the importance of data privacy and security across the industry.
"The truth is that many organisations probably don't see themselves as high-value targets for attackers and it's likely that they have very minimal protection or staff training and awareness."
Rob Norris, director of enterprise and cybersecurity in EMEIA at Fujitsu stressed that in light of this, and the findings in Cisco's report, businesses must look carefully at their entire security set up.
"With Cisco's report predicting a new next generation of cyber-attacks, it is vital that businesses look seriously at their cybersecurity initiatives," he said. "The fact that some aren't is shocking, as in today's digital landscape all businesses that use technology are at risk no matter their size.
"The truth is that many organisations probably don't see themselves as high-value targets for attackers and it's likely that they have very minimal protection or staff training and awareness. However, many malicious actors will consider these businesses as easy targets and will look to hold organisations to ransom through a ‘soft attack' that compromises its data."
"We're headed for a major shift where security vendors will be required, not only by customers but by lawyers and insurers, to put their money where their mouth is."
Cisco's report came as endpoint security vendor SentinelOne announced the launch of its cyber threat protection guarantee programme. This will see it dish out $1,000 per endpoint, or up to $1m per company, if its solution fails to block a ransomware attack.
"The security industry is undergoing a credibility crisis, with security vendors launching product after product without specific validation of their effectiveness," said Jeremiah Grossman, chief of security strategy at SentinelOne.
"But we're headed for a major shift where security vendors will be required, not only by customers but by lawyers and insurers, to put their money where their mouth is."
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