Trend Micro expects online extortion to evolve into new forms in 2016


  • TECH
  • Saturday, 02 Jan 2016

This year, cyber extortionists will devise methods to target its victims' psyche to make each attack personal, says Trend Micro Inc.

Threats will evolve to rely more on mastering the psychology behind each scheme than mastering the technical aspects of the operation.

Also, reputation is hugely important and threats which can ruin an individual's or a business’ reputation will prove to be effective and lucrative.

Therefore, Trend Micro recommends security vendors to work together with law enforcement and would-be victims to help combat these evolving threats.

Online extortion will continue to grow in 2016.


Extortion has been a key part of cybercriminal activity for many years.

On the consumer side, it ranges from fake antivirus, police Trojans, and more recently crypto-ransomware.

Fundamentally, the threat remains the same, “we have your data, we are denying access to it, give us money or else”.

The company pointed out that the criminal syndicates are quite profitable with earnings estimated in millions of dollars.

This is due to the risk-free nature of the activity and it shouldn’t be a surprise that this has turned into one of the largest threats facing ordinary users today.

Moving forward, Trend Micro expects more threats than attempts to extort money from users.

This will be beyond just data as other things that users find valuable and are online could become targets.

For example, users of Ashley Madison, the online dating service faced threats over their alleged membership after the information was leaked by the attackers.

Similar attacks on the reputation of users are expected to happen in the near future.

Enterprises and other large organisations will face their own reputation risks due to data breaches.


Damage caused by major data breach which exposes an organisation’s secrets will be a key concern similar to what Sony and Hacking team, an online security and surveillance provider experienced this year.

Trend Micro pointed out that hacktivists respond to incentives more than anything else.

Instead of defacing websites or carrying out denial-of-service (DOS) attacks, hacktivists with more capabilities might well try to steal a company’s most valued secrets and leak them to the public.

This is part of a new kind of threat as far as data breaches are concerned.

Traditionally, these threats are either for-profit attacks by cybercriminals, or information theft carried out by nation states.

However, attacks by hacktivists might be different from these previous threats and need to be treated accordingly.

Attacks on consumer-grade smart devices will prove fatal – directly or otherwise.

More devices and items are being connected to the Internet by the day, with shipments expected to grow  67% annually for the next five years. 

Due to the fact these devices are part of users’ daily lives, the security flaws become more apparent and problematic.

As a result, known vulnerabilities are in the wild for longer periods than they would be in, say, PCs, where software vendors regularly release patches.

The combination of both the day-to-day importance of the devices and the lack of security might result in injuries or even worse, death due to the failure of these smart devices.

Trend Micro pointed out that while threats continue to evolve and cybercriminals resort to new tactics, we are expected to see concrete results of past efforts to curb cyber threats.

The company expects user awareness and partnerships with law enforcement and private organisation to result in swift legislation, takedowns, arrests and convictions.


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