2017 in Review: Ransomware threats and evolving protection

2017 in Review: Ransomware threats and evolving protection

The holiday season is not only a great opportunity to spend time with loved ones, but also to look back at the year gone by. For us at Emsisoft, we could finally take a brief moment to realize just how busy 2017 has been for the team and the wider security industry: from major ransomware outbreaks that took most (Emsisoft customers excluded) by surprise to constant product evolution to guarantee the best possible malware protection for our customers, this year has been anything but uneventful.

Better surf protection: Both online and in the water

Prevention is worth a pound of cure, so raising awareness of online security issues has always been close to our hearts. Back in November 2016 we started out with the world’s first surf protection research using drones and high technology drifters, teaming up with Surf Life Saving New Zealand to map currents and further understand threats and dangers that await unsuspecting surfers under the surface.

The campaign results exceeded our highest expectations: not only was the project widely covered in media outlets across the country, but the insight gained formed the basis for future projects and was even presented at a conference sponsored by the World Health Organization.

As our CEO Christian Mairoll put it:

Whether online or in the water, Emsisoft always aims to observe dangerous environments, analyze specific threats and most importantly prevent dangerous situations that surfers suffer from everyday.

Ransomware outbreaks take many by surprise

Ransomware attacks are nothing new for our team, but the sheer size and speed of two major outbreaks this year caught many off guard. In May, Wannacry ransomware took advantage of the NSA shadow broker exploits to rapidly spread to hundreds of thousands of machines, including major corporations in Europe and beyond.

A mere month later, Petya used the same exploits to wreak havoc across high-profile businesses in dozens of countries and exposed, despite repeated warnings from security experts, the general lack of basic protective measures, including up-to-date operating systems, regular backups and the use of reputable anti-malware software.

Our customers were safe from these attacks thanks to Emsisoft Anti-Malware’s multi-layered protection. Yet it’s events like these that remind us of the need to constantly improve our technology and awareness to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals.

Emsisoft evolves to stay ahead of malware

Malware attacks of this nature require an immediate response. Luckily, one of our main advantages over many competitors is our ability to adapt quickly. Starting in January, we introduced a new product versioning scheme that aligns with our development month and laid the foundation to bring protection and usability features to our customers faster than ever, rather than waiting for a major release.

Making great protection even better

Our customers choose Emsisoft first and foremost for one reason: to be protected from all types of malware threats. It’s a job we take seriously, which is why we have launched a number of improvements throughout 2017. Our personal highlights:

This doesn’t include the countless under-the-hood changes to the Surf Guard to detect even more phishing scams and the performance improvements we have launched month after month to ensure your protection does not get in the way of your day.

Keeping things simple

Simplicity is one of our core values here at Emsisoft, and the product team made it a clear focus to deliver against it in 2017. We looked at all aspects of our software and listened to a lot of customer feedback to learn how we can make things better, faster, and simpler. The result was a raft of new and improved features that we released over the last 12 months, including:

  • a simplified user permissions system based on 2 groups;
  • a brand-new feature to exclude specific programs from scanning and protection;
  • an extended Forensic Log to better reproduce malware-related events on your machine;
  • an auto-resolve mode for the behavior blocker to reduce user-dependencies;
  • email notifications.

Merging Emsisoft Internet Security with Emsisoft Anti-Malware

But perhaps the biggest change in terms of our product development has been the merging of Emsisoft Internet Security with Emsisoft Anti-Malware in October this year. What may have seemed like a sudden decision was the result of a careful evaluation of our core competencies, the realities of a changing malware landscape and the preparation for things to come. To ensure customers dependent on a firewall would receive a comparable level of protection, we released a Fortification feature for the Windows Firewall to ensure that malware will not be able to tamper with it.

Business-grade security that just works

As we’ve touched on earlier, this year in particular exposed just how devastating ransomware attacks can be for companies both large and small if they do not have reliable endpoint protection in place. We always believed that sophisticated, enterprise-level endpoint protection does not need to be complex, and we have continued to refine the experience of our business customers, whether that’s enhanced Emsisoft Enterprise Console connection features or new MSI setup files for time-efficient group policy deployment in larger Windows networks.

Our efforts did not go unnoticed either, as independent test lab AV-Comparatives praised our business solution for its ease of use, clean design and fast deployment capabilities in this year’s Business Security Report 2017. Combined with a stellar malware protection rate powered by Emsisoft Anti-Malware, we walked away with the “Approved Business Product Award” for the second year running.

The feedback that counts: yours

While it’s great to get recognized with industry awards for our malware protection performance, it’s the messages we receive from our customers and partners that put a smile on our faces and give us the motivation to get up in the morning to fight the good fight.

I wanted to take a moment of your time and let you know that there just isn’t a better anti-malware company than Emsisoft. Your dedication to the world of online protection is the best in the business. I have 100% confidence in Emsisoft to keep me safe on line no matter what. It’s just something I never have to think about.

Joel Gardner, Switzerland

Emsisoft is about security. Looks good, works good, is light and what is most important, Emsisoft is about trust. My is over 8 years as paid customer, without any single security PC problem.

Franky via Twitter

Another gold star for Emsisoft! I’ve been with you since a-squared, and it’s always
been prompt, professional and excellent service all the way, not to mention the superb software solutions. These days, companies that care are unfortunately few and far between.

Douglas Sharp, Germany

I own a brick and mortar retail computer repair shop. We have sold hundreds if not thousands of copies of Emsisoft through our retail business. I have to say Emsisoft works so well that I feel like it may be hurting our repair business. Our customers like it and that’s what matters.

David Gentry, Lantean Systems LLC, USA

What lies ahead in 2018?

Ransomware once again dominated the year, and we are expecting this trend to continue into 2018. Wannacry and Petya attacks made sure that even the most technophobic among us have at least a basic level of awareness. But they also laid bare the ample opportunities for cyber crime as too many business still don’t have credible security strategies in place.

We covered the emergence and increasing sophistication of Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) business models, allowing anyone with malicious intentions to execute their own ransomware attack and share the ill-gotten gains with the RaaS creators. Given the ease of using these services and the proliferation of cryptocurrencies, we at Emsisoft expect the ransomware campaigns to continue unabated into the new year.

The other trend to keep an eye on is also connected to the rise of digital currencies: Cryptomining. Online criminals and even some „legitimate“ websites are experimenting with the use of crypto-miners to extract revenue from users. Whether it will evolve into a legitimate alternative to the established ad model or remain mostly a tactic by malware authors remains to be seen. Whatever the outcome, as long as cryptocurrencies continue to rise, we expect to come across increasingly sophisticated variants.

But what will Emsisoft look like in 2018?

We plan to continue our efforts to declutter Emsisoft Anti-Malware to make it the easiest to use protection software on the market. Our Malware Lab is working relentlessly on a new malware detection and protection system that is going to raise the bar in the industry. In addition, our product development teams have started working on a major project a couple of months ago that is expected to be launched later this year. We can’t wait to share more details as we get closer to the actual release and to hear what you think.

But until then, you can count on Emsisoft to protect you from all the current and future threats that may lurk out there. Malware never sleeps, and nor do we.

Have a brilliant, malware-free 2018!

  • ReservedNickname

    Thank You for ur work, happy new year!

  • Arthur

    Hi, there, girls & guys!!! Thank you for the best product in the world!!! Happy Holidays!


    All the best for 2018 and beyond.

  • Well, the main reason I chose Emsisoft was because it was more customizable and trusted and deferred to the user more than other products offering similar (or slightly better) security. Sadly that’s going away more and more, you moving in the same direction as all the rest, as underlined by that “simplicity” point made in this post, with “reducing user-dependencies” and “decluttering” plans for the future too.
    So far I can still put up with it, if obviously increasingly grudgingly, but I’d sure like to see someone taking pride in and aiming for customization, complexity and handing back the reins to the user again.

    • I am an old security geek loving and thriving with complex options and customization, hence my eternal love for the now retired Online Armor. But people like us have to to be realist, common users or computer beginners won’t waste a minute on those options and may not even understand what they are and what they do.
      Using an analogy, if my motorbike constructor put lot of tweaking switches for my motor, i won’t have any use of them because i don’t know how to do and what they are supposed to do and may even put myself at risk when “testing” them…

      Emsisoft aimed for efficiency via simplicity since years, and as far as i know from feedbacks, it pleased most people; of course old geeks like me or you are left wanting for more but “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”.

      I prefer Emsisoft to be simplistic but efficient and secure for all users than a gas factory and being the Pandora’s box to them.

      • We had this conversation before. Definitely opposite mindset from mine, and mine won’t change, if anything just gets fortified by the general move in the other direction. Having stuff to help beginners or average users shouldn’t take away from the more advanced, the needs of each should be looked after, regardless of which are many and which are few, but if anything I’ll say again that the less dominant a product is, the more it should look for a niche, for “the few” that the most used products don’t cater to, or not well. And EAM is not one of the top players with hundreds of millions of users.

        • “the less dominant a product is, the more it should look for a niche, for “the few” that the most used products don’t cater to, or not well.”
          I knew many very powerful and efficient niche software, even better than many “big names”, where are they now? they all died because they had so few customers that the incomes can’t even cope with the development costs.

          I will take Online Armor as example again, perfect niche market product for geeks and alike, extremely efficient and lot of options/settings (even better than Comodo to my eyes), but it can’t even pay for its own development then IPv6 came.. For OA to adapt, it had to be re-coded from the ground…then we know why it didn’t happened.

          Don’t get me wrong, i know where you come from and why you are complaining, you are more like me than the classic Emsisoft user, i saw it while reading your various comments.

          I’m still a geek, i still love extremely customizable software, i use many of them aside Emsisoft on various machines; but concerning EAM current form, i’m happy to use it, it does what i expect from it. If it had more options, it would be just “cherry on the cake” but i can live without them.

          • *sigh* Market, business practices and “realities”. Like you say, those things just keep killing what may still be good, and usher in a whole lot of the problems, of the world and society in general I mean, not just of this tiny slice of it. If only we (as a society and species) would put our collective will into throwing the concepts to the garbage bin of history…
            The more important question for me now though, since I need to renew my license, is whether that big project for mid-2018 mentioned in this post will make me ask for a partial refund and need to again look for something else (not that I hold hopes of anything decent still existing, for the reasons you keep mentioning…) when it’ll hit, considering my desire for security software to be complex and customizable, help me control and monitor my system, by which I mainly mean legitimate applications and OS, since those are running all the time while actual malware is something I very rarely bump into, and suggest and inform but defer decisions to me, not take any of its own unless I specifically allow it to? And whether then or before, due to any other changes planned till then, EAM will stop playing nice with Comodo Firewall, because that there sure is no valid replacement for anymore :/

      • Oh, and since you quoted that needs of the many and few bit again, I’ll just add that two quotes I’m quite fond of when it comes to this are “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).” and “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”