There was once a very wise man who also happened to be quite short. Someone asked him, “Do you view the glass as being half full or half empty?” He replied, “I’m too short to see that it’s empty. From down here, it’s always at least partly full.”

A similar comment could be made today about the state of ransomware defenses. You may think you have a top-down view of every cyber threat, but when it comes to encrypting malware, you don’t know what you’re not seeing.

While ransomware statistics in 2017 are alarming in terms of growth and severity of attacks, the cybersecurity industry has made great strides in defending against them. But despite our best efforts, the threat shows no signs of abating. If you think you’re not vulnerable, here are five stats that should serve as a reality check about your ransomware risk:

Stat 1: Ransomware types tripled in 2017

Symantec discovered 100 new families of malware families involved in encrypting malware this year. That’s three times the amount detected in 2016.

Stat 2: Ransomware messages are up 6,000% this year

The number of emails infected by ransom softwares went up 6,000 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to a review by IBM Security. That’s an astronomical number. Ransomware attackers hide their malware in common attachments like spreadsheets, text documents, invoices, faxes and so on. As these attacks grow more sophisticated, a lot of the red flags we look for in phishing attempts are harder to see or are no longer there.

Stat 3: Email Phishing is the #1 ransomware vehicle in 2017

Ransomware often targets individual PCs. Naturally, that means email is the most common method of attack. Research by IBM reveals that 59% of ransomware attacks originate with phishing emails and a remarkable 91% of all malware is delivered by email.

Stat 4: The USA is the #1 ransomware target

While there’s been a 36% increase in global ransomware attacks from last year to this year, the USA is the biggest target.

Stat 5: 11% more users encountered ransomware in 2017

The number of users who encountered this threat between April 2016 and March 2017 grew by 11.4% when compared to the same period between 2015 and 2016.

Taken together, these stats make one thing clear: ransomware is dramatically on the rise.

These stats deliver a warning:

  • More users are seeing attacks
  • Email is the main attack vehicle, using phishing as the approach
  • The volume of attacks, as well as the variety of malware types, are on the rise.

The situation seems dire. What can you do about it? Well, before we can talk about how to beat ransomware, we have to understand what it actually is.

Understanding the Connection Between Spear Phishing and Ransomware