The COVID-19 pandemic has one unexpected benefit; ransomware attacks are down. Ransomware is malware which literally holds a victim's data hostage unless he or she pays a ransom, usually via an untraceable cryptocurrency. Usually. criminals send a Trojan as an email attachment to an employee at a business or organization. They target those who they feel can pay the largest ransom. Most criminals provide a secret key so people can get their files back, otherwise, people wouldn't pay the ransom.
While ransomware attacks and COVID-19 do not seem related; there is a correlation. Some organizations cut back on all but essential employees, leaving fewer point for cyber criminals to gain access to the network. Additionally, companies are really hurting and not able to pay ransoms. Criminals know if a company can't pay the ransom, there is no sense in holding files hostage. They also know targeting a person working from home isn't as lucrative as targeting someone at work who has more access to critical data. The remote employee may not have access to servers with data worth stealing.
While the number of ransomware attacks on healthcare and education organizations went down significantly from January to March 2020, the reprieve is probably only temporary. Perhaps scammers are too busy making money off fake COVID-19 cures to worry about ransomware attacks. Ransomware attacks may also have naturally subsided as cryptojacking becomes popular. With cryptojacking, criminals take control of computers to mine cryptocurrencies without the computer owner's knowledge. Ransomware attacks decline as cryptojacking increases as computer owners rarely know their computers are being used to mine cryptocurrency, making it a safer cyber crime.
Criminals using ransomware may attack organizations where they are vulnerable, such as the Ryuk ransomware variant. Ryuk attacked a North Carolina water utility after Hurricane Florence. Nevertheless, the COVID-19 pandemic has saved many organizations from ransomware attacks by making them financially insecure.