11 of the worst ransomware - we name the internet's nastiest extortion malware

What's the worst the ransomware world can throw at users?

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Updated 15 May 2017: The WannaCry ransomware first started infecting PCs on Friday 12 May 2017 and quickly spread around the world, wreaking havoc on hospital and other health infrastructure across the UK. It uses a modified leaked NSA exploit, EternalBlue, to spread, and another wave of attacks could be around the corner.

Five years ago ransomware was a type of malware that had been kicking around for a decade to little effect.  By 2017, it is everywhere, supplanting all other forms of malware as the number one menace. Two things changed its status – the rise of Bitcoin (almost untraceable payment) and the example of FBI scareware which started to decline around 2012 but proved the principle that digital extortion can be profitable.

According to Symantec, 16 families were discovered in the decade to 2014, most spread on a very small scale such as Cryzip, the first small-scale ransomware to affect the UK. In 2015, by spectacular contrast, 27 families were recorded in that year alone. 

Ransomware is difficult to stop even for Windows computers running antivirus although that is improving. The only reliable defence is backup but even that can come under attack from ransomware if it is reachable from the infected PC. Users are urged not to pay the fees. Longer term, extortion malware could move to the next tactic of threatening people with exposure for crimes they had not committed, such as downloading child abuse images. With more SMEs being affected than ever before, this threat has a way to run yet.

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