The value of dark web ransomware sales rose 2,502% to $6.24 million (€5.27 million) over the past 12 months, compared to just over $249,000 in the previous year, according to a new report from US cyber security firm Carbon Black.
The company said it had identified over 6,300 locations where hackers had advertised ransomware services over the course of the past year, and over 45,000 product listings.
Prices for DIY ransomware software packages range from just $0.50 to as much as $3,000, but have a median price of $10.50, Carbon Black’s study reveals.
In some cases, ransomware vendors are raking in more than $100,000 a year by selling software designed to help hackers encrypt victims’ computer files and demand a payment in return for unlocking them.
Carbon Black warns that ransomware hackers are becoming more sophisticated, and are now leveraging cloud infrastructures to gain scale and speed.
The study found that the emergence of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin for ransom payment and the anonymity of the Tor internet browser has fuelled the proliferation and success of the dark web ransomware economy.
Commenting on the company’s findings, Carbon Black Security Strategist Rick McElroy said: “With the ability for ransomware authors to make more than $100,000 per year, it comes as very little surprise that dark web underground economies are flourishing.
“The sad reality is that many businesses are on their own when it comes to staying protected. A lack of fundamental security controls such as backups, testing, restoration, patching, visibility, and out of date prevention strategies means business can expect the problem to get worse before it gets any better.”
In January, the FBI revealed that ransomware scams were on track to become a billion-dollar-a-year global business in 2016, up from $24 million the previous year.
Europol recently warned that organised criminal networks are increasingly turning to ransomware and other forms of malware, which have more traditionally been associated with the hacking community.
In its latest Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment, Europe’s law enforcement agency observed that organised crime groups are hiring hackers or paying for crime-as-a-service offerings to help them launch cyber attacks.
Europol said ransomware attacks, such as May’s global WannaCry outbreak and the spread of the Petya virus in June, have eclipsed most other forms of cyber threat over the course of the past year.
“The global impact of huge cyber security events such as the WannaCry ransomware epidemic has taken the threat from cyber crime to another level,” Europol boss Rob Wainwright said.
“Banks and other major businesses are now targeted on a scale not seen before and, while Europol and its partners in policing and Industry have enjoyed success in disrupting major criminal syndicates operating online, the collective response is still not good enough. In particular people and companies everywhere must do more to better protect themselves.”