Ransomware is currently on track to become the most prevalent form of malware affecting business, with almost 40 percent of businesses experiencing a ransomware attack last year alone.

ransomware

According to a report by security firm, Malwarebytes, which surveyed 500 companies in four countries, their research found that one-third of targeted victims lost revenue as a result of an attack, and in the case of healthcare facilities, 3.5% claimed that a ransomware attack had put peoples lives at risk.

Nathan Scott, the technical project manager at Malwarebytes said that “Over the last four years, ransomware has evolved into one of the biggest cyber security threats in the wild, with instances of ransomware in exploit kits increasing 259 percent in the last five months alone. The impact on businesses around the world has been significant.”

Malwarebytes’ research also found that respondents were candid about the financial implications of ransomware attacks, claiming that more than one-third of the ransomware victims lost revenue as a result of the attack. Worryingly. 20 percent also said they had to stop operations completely in the aftermath of a successful data breach.

The report,” State of Ransomware,” published on Wednesday, attempts to explore and explain how ransomware is spreading across the globe.

Not of course that ransomware is anything new, but it has seen a near exponential rise in popularity over the last 18 months or so as a method of attacking businesses and other large organisations.

In simple terms, ransomware is the act of planting malicious software on a server or computer that then takes control of the machine or network, and encrypts all the data on it, rendering them inaccessible. The ransomware attackers then demand payment, typically in a digital currency such as bitcoin, in exchange for the decryption key that will return the network or affected computers to their previous state.

But as Malwarebytes points out, there’s no guarantee that they keys will work, or if the attackers will demand another payment to unlock the affected hardware.

“Cybercriminals are increasing their use of ransomware in their attack strategies globally, causing business disruption, loss of files and wasted IT man-hours. In order to stay safe, businesses must invest heavily in both employee education and technology…[to] protect them against known and unknown ransomware threats.”