A survey on ransomware: Evolution, taxonomy, and defense solutions


In recent years, ransomware has been one of the most notorious malware targeting end-users, governments, and business organizations. It has become a very profitable business for cybercriminals with revenues of millions of dollars, and a very serious threat to organizations with financial losses of billions of dollars. Numerous studies were proposed to address the ransomware threat, including surveys that cover certain aspects of ransomware research. However, no study exists in the literature that gives the complete picture on ransomware and ransomware defense research with respect to the diversity of targeted platforms. Since ransomware is already prevalent in PCs/workstations/desktops/laptops, and is becoming more prevalent in mobile devices, and has already hit IoT/CPS recently, and will likely grow further in the IoT/CPS domain very soon, understanding ransomware and analyzing defense mechanisms with respect to target platforms is becoming more imperative. In order to fill this gap and motivate further research, in this paper, we present a comprehensive survey on ransomware and ransomware defense research with respect to PCs/workstations, mobile devices, and IoT/CPS platforms. Specifically, covering 137 studies over the period of 1990-2020, we give a detailed overview of ransomware evolution, comprehensively analyze the key building blocks of ransomware, present a taxonomy of notable ransomware families, and provide an extensive overview of ransomware defense research (i.e., analysis, detection, and recovery) with respect to platforms of PCs/workstations, mobile devices, and IoT/CPS. Moreover, we derive an extensive list of open issues for future ransomware research. We believe this survey will motivate further research by giving a complete picture on state-of-the-art ransomware research.

ACM Computing Surveys