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The damages resulting from ransomware have already risen 57x over what they were in 2015

Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that ransomware will cost its victims more around $265 billion (USD) annually by 2031. Moreover, they say that there is a new attack every 2 seconds as ransomware perpetrators progressively refine their malware payloads and related extortion activities. The dollar figure is based on 30 percent year-over-year growth in damage costs over the next 10 years.

That represents a significant acceleration from recent years, when scattershot ransomware was building momentum and extracting money from a largely unaware world.

As more devices become Internet-enabled, more attack vectors can be exploited

The prevalence of IoT devices has opened up new vectors for ransomware attackers. The malefactors can easily adapt their malware to Internet-enabled devices such as industrial sensors, healthcare monitors, or self-driving cars.

Ransomware will also start to target drones, says Cybersecurity Ventures. These flying devices are forming the backbone of new aerial distribution networks. Imagine a scenario where if the victims fail to pay, the compromised drones could simply drop their packages from the sky.

Smart-city initiatives that rely on Internet connectivity are becoming increasingly popular. By 2031, almost every one of these smart devices will be potentially susceptible to compromise. Imagine ransomware criminals demanding payment to avoid shutting off key road safety signs or public lighting. City security managers and engineers a decade from now could be fighting every day just to avoid disaster.

Efforts to fight ransomware by finding and closing code loopholes will probably not be enough to protect us, according to Cybersecurity Ventures. Automated code-scanning tools offer some assistance, but much of today’s vulnerability detection still requires human ingenuity, they say.

Ransomware authors will continue to tweak the structure and methodologies used by their malicious code. And over the next decade hackers will weaponize ransomware for use within a continuously shifting geopolitical climate.

“Ransomware is the fastest-growing cybercrime for a reason,” says Steve Morgan, founder at Cybersecurity Ventures and editor-in-chief at Cybercrime Magazine. “It’s the proverbial get-rich-quick scheme in the minds of hackers.”