Google has warned that ransomware is “here to stay”, as research from the company, along with Chainalysis, UC San Diego, and the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, reveals that cyber criminals pocketed at least $25 million (£19 million) from ransomware in the last two years.
Speaking at the Black Hat conference, the researchers said that by following those payments through the blockchain and then comparing them against known samples, they were able to establish what was being paid to hackers.
Ransomware is malware that encrypts files, leaving them unable to be used or read. They are then only decrypted when the victim pays a ransom, which typically have to be made using the Bitcoin virtual currency.
The researchers said most of the money had been made in 2016, as hackers then realised how lucrative it was.
It was also revealed that some types of ransomware were more successful than others, with the ‘Locky’ scam netting $7 million (£5.3 million) alone.
BBC News reported that Google’s Elie Bursztein said the particular attacks have “become a very, very profitable market and is here to stay”.
It comes as it has been announced that more than $140,000 (£105,000) worth of bitcoins paid out by victims of the recent global WannaCry ransomware attack have been removed from their online wallets.
Victims were told they had to spend between $300 and $600 to get access to their data. Although they were advised not to pay the ransom, since it would likely just make them a target for other cyber criminals and not actually get them their systems back, many decided to go ahead with payment.
Now, most of the funds paid by victims have been removed by criminals. It is widely expected that the online currency obtained will be transferred and put into larger payments to make it more difficult to track where it ends up.