The big difference between ransomware and malware is that a ransomware hijacks a system or a software application, or a database, and then the person who has released the ransomware allows access to the hijacked system after a ransom has been paid. For example, someone steals a login and password of your website or PC and then gives it back to you only when you pay that person some money or provide him or her an incentive.
Malware is simply to cause harm or to steal information or to cause some sort of damage on your PC, or server or database.
Both ransomware and malware are illegal activities, but according to this Computer World report, there has been a rise in the instances of ransomware being released in 2016, compared to malware. That is, in 2016, there were more instances of ransomware being unleashed than malware. The Computer World report has referred to the global cyber threat report that was released earlier this week. The report says that whereas the release of malware was slightly down, the ransomware attacks in 2016 were 167 times the number in 2015. The report was released by the cyber security company called SonicWall.
Data from daily network feeds sent from more than 1 million sensors in nearly 200 countries was used to arrive at the conclusions in the report.
In 2016, unique samples of malware fell to 60 million samples, down from 64 million in 2015. This is a decrease of 6.25%. Total malware attempts also fell from 8.19 billion to 7.87 billion in 2016, which is a 4% decrease.
The business of providing ransomware as a service thrived in 2016. In this service, ransomware is provided to people who would like to cause mischief, by the ransomware developers. This form of service is called RaaS (ransomware as a service).
In 2015 there were 3.8 million ransomware attacks. In 2016 there were 638 million ransomware attacks.
One reason, according to SonicWall, while there are more ransomware and less malware, is because, perhaps, it is easier to get hold of a ransomware because the scripts are being sold or released by the developers, whereas, in the case of malware, the scripts need to be developed by the person who wants to cause a mischief and these scripts are not easy to obtain.
The most popular ransomware in 2016 was spread via email, and it was called Locky. It was used in 500 million total ransomware attacks all in all.
Another new phenomena was the DDoS attack that was carried out using millions of Internet-connected devices. 70% of such attacks happened in the US while 14% happened in Brazil and 10% in India.
As more and more people get connected to the Internet, and more and more devices rely on the Internet to perform basic functions, such attacks are going to become commonplace. Manufacturers will have to incorporate technologies to not just make these devices and Internet connections more secure, but also educate the users constantly.