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Popular Ransomware Earns $195,000 In a Month, Report Says

And its creators can make as much as $946,000 per year, according to an estimate.

by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai
Aug 16 2016, 1:00pm

Image: Steve Garfield/Flickr

There's a very obvious reason why ransomware, a form of malware that locks a victim's files until they pay a ransom in bitcoin, is extremely popular: its operators make ridiculous amounts of money even if very few of their victims shell out the digital cash.

But how much money exactly? According to a new report, one of the world's most popular ransomware campaigns at the moment made $195,000 in the span of one single month, thanks to 161 affiliate campaigns infecting 150,000 victims.

The ransomware in question is called Cerber. Its author or authors set it up so that they would to earn 40 percent of the total profits, with the rest given to the affiliates. Considering that, Cerber's creatorsmade $78,000 last July, according to the security firm Check Point, which published the report on Tuesday.

The author or authors could gross almost $1 million dollar per year.

"Ransomware is no longer a highly profitable business reserved only for skilled attackers who can write sophisticated encryption schemes and establish a steady infrastructure," Check Point researchers wrote in the report. "An unskilled actor who lacks the required technical knowledge can now easily reach out to one of many users in various closed forums. For a small payment, the would-be attackers can obtain an undetected ransomware variant and a designated set of C&C infrastructure servers, and easily manage their active campaigns using a basic web interface."

If every month is that successful, the author or authors could gross almost $1 million dollar per year. It's an enormous amount of money, especially if we consider that only 0.3 percent of victims paid the ransom, according to Check Point.

It's hard to tell how much money other ransomware strains make, but if Cerber is a good case study as Check Point claims, there's a lot of bitcoin flowing to the world's cybercriminals everyday.