There’s been a surge in the number of targeted ransomware groups globally by 30% from 2022 to 2023. In parallel to this increase, the number of victims of targeted ransomware attacks spiked by 70% within the same time period.

These insights were shared at Kaspersky’s ninth annual Cyber Security Weekend – META, taking place this week in Kuala Lumpur.

Similar to regular businesses, targeted ransomware groups hire cybercriminals as employees to run extensive and intelligent operations to launch increasingly sophisticated targeted ransomware attacks.

Unlike common ransomware attacks, which target victims arbitrarily, targeted ransomware groups are notorious for attacking governments, specific high-profile organisations, or a selective group of people within an organisation.

Kaspersky researchers closely monitored about 60 targeted ransomware groups in 2023, compared to about 46 groups in 2022, and discovered incidents that indicated collaboration between targeted ransomware groups.

In some cases, groups known for trading access points into corporate networks and systems, sold initial points of entry to advanced ransomware groups that are capable of launching more sophisticated attacks.

Since cybercriminals have to cross multiple stages to launch a targeted ransomware attack, such collaborations allow them to save time and go straight into network reconnaissance or infection.

In 2023, marking its seventh year as a key contributor to the No More Ransom initiative, Kaspersky’s free decryption tools were downloaded more than 360 000 times, aiding data recovery for over 2-million users affected by ransomware.

However, despite these significant accomplishments, ransomware payments globally surpassed $1,1-billion in 2023, marking an unprecedented high.

“Targeted ransomware groups are very persistent and have a huge appetite for extortion,” comments Maher Yamout, senior security Researcher at Kaspersky. “For example, if a victim refuses to pay ransom, the cybercriminals often threaten to make the stolen data public. In some cases, these cybercriminals also filed GDPR or SEC complaints in certain regions against the victim organisations for breaking data protection laws.”