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Thursday, 14 October 2021 10:18

VirusTotal study finds 95% of 80m ransomware samples analysed aimed at Windows Featured

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VirusTotal study finds 95% of 80m ransomware samples analysed aimed at Windows Pixabay

Ninety-five percent of 80 million ransomware samples detected by VirusTotal, a Google-owned database where samples can be uploaded to see which anti-virus engines can detect them, were Windows-based executables or dynamic link libraries [DLLs], a study shows.

About 2% were Android-based, while one set, known as EvilQuest, targeted OSX, the study, titled Ransomware Activity Report, said. It took into account samples submitted all the way back to January 2020.

Vicente Diaz of VirusTotal said in a short blog post accompanying the 14-page study that of the 140 countries which submitted ransomware samples, Israel was far and away an outlier with the highest number of submissions and nearly 600% rise in submissions compared to its baseline.

percentage increase

Percentage increase from baseline.

"Israel was followed by South Korea, Vietnam, China, Singapore, India, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, Iran and the UK as the most affected territories based on the number of submissions to VirusTotal," Diaz said.

Over the last 16 years, VirusTotal claims to have processed more than two million files a day across 232 countries.

The following four conclusions were reached:

  • First, while big campaigns come and go, there is a constant baseline of ransomware activity that never stops.
  • Second, attackers are using a range of different approaches, including well-known botnet malware and other remote access trojans.
  • Third, in terms of ransomware distribution attackers don’t appear to need exploits other than for privilege escalation and for malware spreading within internal networks.
  • Finally, Windows accounts for 95% of the ransomware targets, compared to 2% for Android.

"Activity among the most spread ransomware families comes and goes, but there is a baseline of activity of around 100 not-so-popular ransomware families that never stops," the report said.

different sorts

Number of ransomware clusters identified grouped by family.

"According to our observations, it seems that in most cases attackers prepare fresh new samples for their campaigns. In July 2021 we observed a wave of the new variant of Babuk ransomware.

"GandCrab was the most active family in early 2020, before its prevalence decreased dramatically in the second half of the year."

The study identified at least 130 different ransomware families. "Identification was not a trivial exercise given the different naming conventions used by the security industry," it said.

"For example, the set of samples we selected for our analysis can be grouped into more than 30,000 different clusters based on similarity. Clusters are sets of malware grouped together because they look similar."

Gandcrab was the top ransomware family by a very big margin among the samples analysed.

 number of samples

Top 10 ransomware families by number of different samples. All screenshots courtesy VirusTotal.


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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