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Ransomware is malware that restricts access to a victim’s data or files by encrypting them, and then demands a payment in cryptocurrency to decrypt the files. This form of cyberattack has evolved into a sophisticated threat that can threaten critical infrastructure, federal governments, and healthcare organizations. Ransomware can halt operations, ruin a company’s reputation and create a ripple effect of infection across the networked ecosystem. According to the Allianz Risk Barometer 2022, business leaders ranked cyber incidents as their number one global concern, topping COVID-19 and supply chain disruptions.

At first, ransomware attacks focused on the “little guy.” Criminals would use malvertising to infect random users through their browsers and then hold the user’s data hostage for a few hundred dollars. But as ransomware matured, organized gangs entered the market and refined the malware to target large organizations, conducting a double extortion attack that breached the victim’s system, encrypted their data and demanded a payment.

While many victims have paid the ransom, there is no guarantee that the victims will receive a working decryption key. The reason is that criminals aren’t in the file recovery business; they’re in the money-making business, and a good decryptor can cost them thousands of dollars. And, even if a victim does receive a working decryption key, they may be subjected to repeated ransom demands. To avoid this, organizations should report all ransomware attacks to law enforcement as soon as possible. This will help to improve their defenses and to leverage the resources of law enforcement agencies to hunt down the perpetrators.