Marilyn Wilkinson, January 2024

The 7 Most Dangerous Types of Ransomware In 2024

Ransomware is the most serious cybersecurity threat of our time. In 2023, more than 72% of businesses worldwide fell victim to ransomware attacks. These attacks can be a major financial burden, with the average cost of a data breach now reaching $4.45 million—a 15% increase from three years ago. As ransomware attacks become more frequent and more sophisticated, we are also seeing more types of ransomware than ever before. 

Understanding the different types of ransomware is crucial for developing effective defense strategies. Let’s dive into the seven most dangerous types of ransomware currently plaguing businesses: Locker, Crypto, Scareware, Leakware, RaaS, Wiper, and DDoS. For each type, we’ll explore the level of risk, how they operate, and how to prevent them. 

There Are More Different Types of Ransomware Than Ever

In the past, there were two main types of ransomware: Crypto and Locker. Today, the situation is more complex. Many new ransomware types have emerged, each with its own way of wreaking havoc for users and businesses.

Each type of ransomware poses a unique kind of threat: some variants lock users out of their systems (Locker), while others encrypt files and demand payment for the decryption key (Crypto). 

Knowing the specifics of each type helps in tailoring more robust cybersecurity measures and response plans.

What Are the Main Types of Ransomware in 2024?

There are many different types of ransomware, and new forms are being developed every day. Nonetheless, here are the seven most important types of ransomware in 2024:

  1. Crypto
  2. Leakware (Doxware)
  3. Wiper
  4. RaaS
  5. DDoS
  6. Scareware
  7. Locker

1. Crypto Ransomware

Risk Level: High

Crypto ransomware is a common and highly effective form of ransomware. It’s essentially data kidnapping. 

Crypto ransomware attacks typically infiltrate through malicious emails, websites, or downloads. Then, the ransomware encrypts files on the victim’s computer, including documents, multimedia, and sometimes even backups, rendering them inaccessible. 

This type of ransomware can also attempt to encrypt files on network and cloud drives. The attackers then demand a ransom, usually via cryptocurrency, in return for the decryption key. 

Crypto ransomware can result in the permanent loss of vital data. Even if the victim pays the ransom, there is no guarantee that the hackers will hand over the decryption key. Well-known examples include WannaCry, CryptoLocker, and Locky.

Best Security Strategy:

Implement advanced ransomware protection that includes the storage layer, train employees on how to recognize phishing attempts and maintain regular, secure backups of all critical data.

2. Leakware (Doxware)

Risk Level: High

Leakware, also known as exfiltration or doxware, goes beyond typical data encryption. Attackers first steal sensitive data, then threaten to “leak” it (hence the name) unless the victim pays a hefty ransom. 

Sharing confidential data has the potential to inflict immense damage on a business’s reputation and its customers’ privacy. And as if that wasn’t enough, leakware attacks often include data encryption to put even greater pressure on the victim.

This dual-threat approach can result in severe consequences, including substantial fines for data protection breaches. 

Best Security Strategy:

Utilize encryption for sensitive data, perform regular security audits and keep track of access permissions to avoid insider threats

3. Wiper Ransomware

Risk Level: Very high

Wiper ransomware looks like conventional ransomware but is much more destructive. Instead of simply encrypting data, Wiper permanently deletes or corrupts it, leaving no chance of recovery, even if a ransom is paid. 

The primary aim is not financial gain but disruption and destruction, often linked to cyber warfare or vendettas against specific organizations or countries. This type of attack can completely wipe out system functionality, erase critical data, and disrupt organizational operations, posing a severe threat to businesses and governments. 

Best Security Strategy:

Adopt a zero-trust approach and ensure your cybersecurity strategy is multi-layered to prevent wiper ransomware from infiltrating your organization.

4. Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS)

Risk Level: High

Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) operates on a subscription or affiliate model, similar to legitimate cloud services. It essentially enables any criminal to launch a cyber attack—no hacking skills needed. Cybercriminals can rent or purchase ransomware from RaaS providers, usually via the dark web, complete with customer support and other services. 

The RaaS model has made ransomware more common, democratizing access and enabling a broader range of actors to launch ransomware attacks. The ease of use, combined with the potential for high returns, makes RaaS a particularly troubling trend.

Best Security Strategy:

Implement comprehensive ransomware protection, conduct regular security training for all staff and maintain a ransomware response plan.

5. DDoS Ransomware

Risk Level: Moderate

How It Works:

DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) ransomware is different from typical ransomware because it attacks network services rather than encrypting files.In DDoS attacks, attackers overwhelm servers with bogus traffic to incapacitate network resources and services. The flood of requests usually comes with a ransom note, promising to cease the attack upon payment. 

DDoS attacks don’t directly threaten data, but they can significantly disrupt business operations and services, leading to substantial indirect costs and damages. These attacks are resource-intensive for the attackers, so they tend not to last long, but they still cause serious disruptions to the business.

Best Security Strategy:

Regularly monitor network traffic for unusual patterns or spikes that might indicate a DDoS attack.

6. Locker Ransomware

Risk Level: Low

How It Works:

Locker ransomware, also known as “screen lockers,” is notorious for locking users out of their systems. 

Locker mainly targets Windows systems, usually residing in the C:\Windows\SysWOW64 directory and spreading to the directories C:\ProgramData\Steg\ and C:\ProgramData\rkcl\. The ransomware then restricts access to the system and files and displays a ransom note with a countdown timer on the infected machine’s screen upon boot-up or login. 

Users might find themselves unable to use the mouse and keyboard or access the desktop, though the core data generally remains unencrypted and intact. This type of attack is less sophisticated, often allowing for recovery through safe mode boot-ups and antivirus software.

Best Security Strategy:

Regularly update your operating system and all installed software to patch vulnerabilities that Locker ransomware might exploit. 

7. Scareware

Risk Level: Very Low

How It Works:

Scareware leverages social engineering to exploit victims’ fear, usually by displaying fake security alerts or system problems. These pop-up windows may imitate legitimate security software logos, falsely informing users of a malware infection and urging them to purchase and install software to fix these invented issues. 

This so-called “antivirus” software might be entirely useless or, worse, contain actual malware. While scareware doesn’t typically affect the data on a computer, it relentlessly bombards the user with deceptive pop-ups and can lead to further infection if the user downloads malicious software.

Best Security Strategy:

Invest in reputable security solutions and educate users to be skeptical of scareware attempts, as well as other types of spam and phishing emails.

Protect Your Company From All Types Ransomware

By now, you should have a solid understanding of the different types of ransomware and how to protect your organization. If you’d like to keep reading, check out our whitepaper on the most effective ransomware protection strategies