A quick history of ransomware

A quick history of ransomware

It may be difficult to imagine, but the first ransomware in history emerged in 1989 (that’s 27 years ago). It was called the AIDS Trojan, whose modus operandi seems crude nowadays. It spread via floppy disks and involved sending $189 to a post office box in Panama to pay the ransom.

How times have changed!

As cyber criminals moved from cyber vandalism to cyber crime as a business, ransomware emerged as the go-to malware to feed the money-making machine.

The advent of Bitcoin and evolution of encryption algorithms favored made the context ripe for ransomware development too.

This graph shows just how many types of encrypting malware researchers have discovered in the past 10 years.

ransomware discoveries - CERT-RO
Image source: CERT-RO

And keep in mind 3 things, so you can get a sense of how big the issue really is:

  • There are numerous variants for each type (for example, CrytpoWall is on its 4th version);
  • No one can map all the existing ransomware out there (because most ransomware attacks go unreported);
  • New ransomware is coming out in volumes at an ever-increasing pace.

growth in ransomware 2005-2015 symantec report
Source: The evolution of ransomware by Symantec

If you’re curious to see which key moments made ransomware history, here’s a great list of them.

As you can see for yourself, things escalated quickly and the trend continues to grow.

Cyber criminals are not just malicious hackers who want public recognition and are driven by their quest for cyber mischief. They’re business-oriented and seek to cash out on their efforts.

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