Home Security More than 6000 sites selling ransomware on dark Web: report

More than 6000 sites selling ransomware on dark Web: report

Ransomware would have cost businesses worldwide US$1 billion this year, according to an estimate by endpoint security provider Carbon Black.

In a report issued on Wednesday at its Cb Connect conference in San Francisco, the company said there were more than 6300 marketplaces on the dark Web where one could buy ransomware, a total of 45,000 product listings.

The data included in the report was gathered in August and September, with 21 of the biggest marketplaces on the dark Web being monitored for virtual offerings related to ransomware.

In finalising the data, the sample from these 21 was extrapolated based on the assumption that 25% of the dark Web is made up of similar marketplaces.

The report found that prices for do-it-yourself ransomware kits ranged from as little as 50 US cents to US$3000 and the median price was US$10.50. Six listings were found which were priced at more than US$1000, all custom-developed with unique code that had not had much exposure in the wild.

ransomware prices

The ransomware marketplace on the dark Web had grown from US$249,287 to US$6.3 million, a growth rate of 2502%.

The report said FBI estimates were that the total that was extorted was about US$1 billion in 2017, compared to US$24 million in 2015.

Some ransomware sellers appeared to be doing much better than regular software developers financially, pulling in US$100,000 annually while the latter took home US$69,000. The top ransomware earners were those who sold custom-made malware.

Carbon Black laid the blame for the growth in ransomware and its profitability on bitcoin and the Tor network.

ransomware earnings

Average earnings by the average software developer in a number of countries compared with annual earnings by the top ransomware authors.

"The most notable innovations contributing to the proliferation and success of the dark Web ransomware economy have been the emergence of bitcoin for ransom payment, and the anonymity network, Tor, to mask illicit activities," the company claimed.

"Bitcoin allows money to be transferred in a way that makes it nearly impossible for law enforcement to 'follow the money'. Bank transfers and credit card transactions traditionally aid in the quick takedown of scams. Bitcoin means there’s no bank to identify the account holder."

Carbon Black also blamed the attitude of consumers: 52% of those asked whether they were willing to pay a ransom to get their files decrypted answered in the positive. Twelve percent said they would pay more than US$500 to get their files back, 29% between US$100 and US$500, and 59% less than US$100. The report did not mention how many people had been surveyed.

The report outlined a sophisticated economy and supply chain that had ensured the success of the ransomware market. From creation to distribution, encryption/decryption, payment and command and control servers, the whole setup was well organised.

carbon black big

The report said the only way to put hurdles in the way of market expansion was by decreasing the return on investment for attackers.

Looking ahead, Carbon Black said that ransomware would increasingly target Linux servers in the coming year. " For example, attackers will increasingly look to conduct SQL injections to infect servers and charge a higher ransom price. We have already observed attacks hitting MongoDB earlier this year which provide excellent foreshadowing," the report said.

There was no hint as to the connection between SQL injections which can be effected on any platform, not merely Linux. Further MongoDB is a database that runs both on Linux and Windows.

Carbon Black was in the news in August when a competitor, DirectDefense, claimed that the company was leaking data from several Fortune 1000 companies, a claim that Carbon Black contested.

The report can be downloaded here.

Graphics: courtesy Carbon Black


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.