Astrologer and physician Michel de Nostradame was born in the south of France in December of 1503. A precocious youth, who demonstrated the benefits of home schooling, he entered the University of Avignon to study medicine at the age of 14. When he got his license to practice, he followed custom and adopted the Latin version of his name…and became Nostradamus. In mid age he turned to the occult, and became famous for his prophecies, which he published in 1555 in a book titled The Prophecies. He is known to have gotten a least one prediction right, accurately forecasting on the night he died that he would not live to see the morning, but is  also credited with predicting such events as the rise of Hitler, both world wars of the last century, and the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. As 2017 debuts, we will start with a prediction of our own. In the cyber world, things will get worse before they get better. Here’s one possibility.

Ransomware will rule

The use of ransomware is rapidly rising. Hackers get access to a business or individual’s servers and encrypt the data. The hackers then demand a ransom. Once infected, the victim is faced with a bit of a hobson’s choice, either pay the ransom or lose the files forever. Attacks mushroomed in 2016, with ransomware variants proliferating. The FBI estimated cybercriminals earned over a billion dollars from ransomware during 2016. But that number may rise dramatically this year.

CSO online says cyber experts predict the next level of ransomware will be far worse. It quotes Corey Nachreiner, CTO at WatchGuard Technologies, who sees a worm about to turn. “Nachreiner expects cybercriminals will mix ransomware with a network worm. Years ago, network worms like CodeRed, SQL Slammer, and more recently, Conficker were pretty common. Hackers exploited network vulnerabilities and tricks to make malware automatically spread itself over networks.” Per Nachreiner, “Now, imagine ransomware attached to a network worm. After infecting one victim, it would tirelessly copy itself to every computer on your local network it could reach….Whether or not you want to imagine such a scenario, I guarantee that cyber criminals are already thinking about it.”

Cyber criminals will find diabolical ways to use ransomware in 2017.  For example, a recently discovered piece of ransomware called Popcorn Time, offers victims an alternative to paying up, by rewarding them if they become accomplices by successfully infecting two other devices with the ransomware. Pass it on. 2017 will be a year of living dangerously.

By Tom Davis, SDI Cyber Risk Practice

January 3, 2017