Why Is Ransomware Still the Top Cybercrime? A Former FBI Counter-Intelligence Operative Will Explain

By James R. Slaby, Acronis Director of Cyber Protection

With recent attacks against government offices like Baltimore, MD and the crippling of A2 Hosting’s servers, the scourge of ransomware continues to dominate the headlines about cybercrime. Recognizing that threat doesn’t require an IT background – stories abound regarding the destruction that the online threat causes to consumers, businesses and public institutions.

Despite the emergence of other threats like cryptojacking, ransomware is still first in the 2019 malware hall of infamy. Even 60 Minutes ran a recent segment on another series of ransomware attacks that torpedoed local government services in Atlanta, Newark and Sarasota, and halted operations at Cleveland’s airport and San Francisco’s transit authority.

Against this backdrop, the latest annual edition of Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) just hit the streets. Along with command-and-control attacks, it reports that ransomware incursions accounted for 75% of the malware-driven security incidents of the past 12 months. The 2019 DBIR also notes the particularly harmful effects of ransomware attacks on industries that cybercriminals favor most as targets: Healthcare was notable among them, accounting for over 70% of all healthcare industry malware incidents in the past year. That’s because compromised IT servers can quickly become a matter of life and death. In the interest of restoring critical patient services, hospitals tend to pay up quickly to get their data back from cyber extortionists.

The aggressive and lucrative use of ransomware as a favored cybercrime weapon has long been the focus of Eric O’Neill, the renowned former FBI counter-intelligence operative and author of the recently-published Gray Day: My Undercover Mission to Expose America’s First Cyberspy. His book is a memoir of his role in unmasking and imprisoning notorious FBI mole Robert Hannsen. The same story is also told in the 2007 Hollywood docudrama “Breach”, in which O’Neill is portrayed by Ryan Phillippe.

Now a sought-after consultant on cybersecurity issues, O’Neill has led Acronis webinars on the subject of ransomware and how to fight it. He is also going to be a featured speaker at the first annual Acronis Global Cyber Summit, which will take place at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach on October 13-16, 2019. O’Neill will use true stories informed by his decades of work as an FBI undercover operative and independent security consultant to analyze recent high-profile malware attacks and examine why ransomware continues to be the number-one cybercrime.

O’Neill will detail the need for diligence against ransomware attacks, explore the threat of phishing and email attacks, explain how spies recruit new operatives, the dangers of economic espionage, and why it is important to hunt cyberthreats before they hunt you.

There’s also a darker dimension to O’Neill’s analysis: ransomware is currently being leveraged by spy agencies and terrorist organizations to disrupt and destroy information at private businesses and public institutions alike.

O’Neill’s insights will be among the many from renowned speakers on the Acronis Global Cyber Summit 2019 agenda, which also features luminaries like Robert Herjavec, cybersecurity entrepreneur and co-host of television’s Shark Tank. The three-day event will have a full roster of cybersecurity heavyweights diving deep into a broad range of urgent cyber protection issues, customized for several distinct audiences: enterprises, independent software developers, service providers, and tech resellers.

O’Neill notes that “There are no hackers, there are only spies. Hacking is the necessary evolution of espionage.” Understanding what that means in full – and how you can protect your organization against ransomware and the other online threats – is critical for the future of IT professionals. For service providers, VARs, and ISVs, that knowledge also presents an opportunity to expand their business by offering customers cyber protection services and software to fight ransomware, cryptojacking and other cyberattacks.

The Acronis Global Cyber Summit 2019 will be this year’s key event for gaining those insights. Anyone looking to explore those opportunities should consider registering by August 31, 2019 to take advantage of the early-bird discount.

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