Cisco Systems confirms that new generation ransomware is on the prowl

Cisco Systems Inc has confirmed that a new generation ransomware is on prowl which exploits computer server vulnerabilities without requiring human interaction. The networking giant also disclosed some details about the ransomware which hit MedStar Health hospital last month.

Cisco confirmed that the healthcare provider was hit by a new malware called Strain which is also known as Samas. With Strain, hackers try to target backup files and records, encrypting them to make them unreadable unless a fee is paid. In order to regain access, hackers need to pay a ransom which is around $10k to $15k.

“Bitcoins are mostly preferred in ransomware, as it is a difficult to trace virtual currency not controlled by any country. Factually speaking, the day Bitcoins were used for money transactions, it gave birth to ransomware. Bitcoins have helped drive Ransomware to success since the currency’s introduction in 2009”, said Craig Williams, a senior technical leader at Cisco’s Talos security research group.

Samas exploits vulnerabilities giving hackers a way into JBoss application servers that are frequently used by some of the largest corporations. Once inside, the hackers sometimes implant a tool that steals credentials, allowing it to spread through the system, and encrypt scores of digital files along the way.

Most ransomware still requires a human to click a link or open an infected email attachment, but Cisco’s report warned that ‘the age of self-propagating ransomware, or crypto worms, is right around the corner. Worms are generally virus-like infections that are programmed to spread automatically, without human interaction.

As per Cisco systems estimate, the threat of ransomware has increased over the last six months. Till the year 2015, Ransomware perpetuation was taking place only when a human was clicking on a link or opening an infected email attachment. But this year, the ransomware is said to become automated and more sophisticated. And will not need much of human intervention.

Last year, there were 2,453 reports of ransomware hackings to the FBI totaling a reported loss of $24.1 million. So, the financial loss is said to increase by 50% this year as per Cisco’s latest estimate.

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