Currently personal computers remain the main targets of ransomware viruses. However, there is more technology which we use every day and which has lots of information that could be held hostage. Virus researchers are trying their best to prevent ransomware attacks and educate people, therefore criminals are always looking for new unexpected ways to attack. This article gives some insights on what could be waiting next.
Mobile phones are already being targeted and the number of attacks is expected to only grow in the future. These devices not only have your files but can also contain sensitive messages, contacts and more similar data. This makes phones a desired target for ransomware creators.
Locking the phone and restricting access to the very much needed calling, texting, browsing, navigation and similar features is only half of the possible threat. A more frightening fact is that more and more ransomware developers threaten to make the stolen information public if you do not pay the ransom. Phones usually have a much higher percentage of sensitive personal data than computers and this fact might drive the ransomware creators’ focus from computers to mobile devices in the near future.
Another thing that makes it very realistic is how easy it is to actually send the sensitive information to the right people. The phone already has contacts saved on it and threatening to send them private photos or messages might be a better motivation to pay than just a risk of your data being deleted.
Wearables and multi-device attacks
Along with your phone the attack can spread to wearables, smart home systems and other gadgets. Ransomware can start by infecting your phone and then wait until you connect to other devices in order to infect as many other gadgets as possible. It might then strike suddenly by disabling them all at once.
While these gadgets alone probably do not have much value inside and can be easily reset to factory settings, seeing that ransomware took control of half of your life might seem scary and the victims might think that paying is the best option.
Imagine that it is Saturday evening and suddenly your phone, TV, smart watch and fitness tracker stop working at once and your home lighting system cannot be controlled anymore. Would you try to fix them one by one or wait for Monday to be able to call an experienced technician? We believe that many people in such case would simply opt for praying the ransom hoping that it costs them less time and money than fixing multiple affected devices.
Social accounts, emails and other online data
In the future ransomware might shift from targeting what is on the computer and simply collect social account logins, all your emails and other sensitive data that you have online. It might then save the collection somewhere on its own servers and threaten to make it public if you do not pay. There have already been several cases of threatening to publicize data found on smartphones so this ransomware step into social accounts seems very likely.
Possibly one of the most dangerous ransomware shifts would be starting to infect cars. It is very realistic in the near future as the cars are becoming huge computers on wheels and almost everything is controlled by certain programs. This surge in car technology is not bad in itself as it does not necessarily mean that the criminals can massively target many autos at once. However, what enables them to do so is increased connectivity. The new cars can connect to smartphones, WiFi and even other cars around them. This leaves many ports open for the attackers.
While most users can simply ignore ransomware threats to delete their computer files and format the hard disk, it would be impossible to ignore car ransomware. Imagine that your Tesla suddenly starts slowing down and the info screen in the middle starts displaying a warning: “This car has been hijacked and will stop in 60 seconds. You must pay $500 in order to unlock the system and continue the journey.”
As you can see, the consequences here could be much more serious. What if the criminals make your car start speeding on its own if you do not pay the ransom on time? What if you stop in the middle of a highway? Of course, you can always contact your service but it usually costs a lot to fix software problems and you would lose a lot of time. A ransom, while still high, looks like a cheaper option and might result in many users choosing to pay.
We think cars is one of the most dangerous targets and it is only a matter of time before ransomware attacks will start to happen. Security researchers already talk about antiviruses for automobiles and we hope that they will be effective enough to curb such threats.