Sonicwall study: Ransomware attacks increased 20% globally, 109% in the US in 1H2020

Summary

A cyber threat report by network security company Sonicwall that analyzed threat intelligence data from 1.1m sensors in 215 countries found that ransomware attacks have increased by 20% globally in the 1H2020 over 1H2019 (121.4m attack events) and by 109% in the US (79.9m attacks). Malware attacks fell by 24% over the same time period.

Phishing scams based around COVID-19 themes, and exploits targeting the remote work environment were a notable feature. For example, there was a 176% increase in malware attacks disguised as Microsoft Office files, and a 50% increase in IoT malware attacks, as attackers used these ‘smart home’ devices as a vector to penetrate corporate networks.

Report

Analysis

The surge in ransomware at the same time that there has been a decrease in malware is in line with other data indicating that cyber-attacks are becoming ever more sophisticated and focusing more on specific targets and less on widespread spam blasts. The increase in IoT attacks is a result of the increase in the number of devices used, and also reflects attackers probing for weak spots in corporate security perimeters as employees access enterprise networks from home. These IT networks have gotten far more difficult to effectively secure as remote work has made traditional ‘perimeter security’ a much less effective deterrent.

The increase in ransomware has been one of the main themes of the cyber threat environment in 2020, with reports of major attacks on a near daily basis in recent months. We have discussed the impact of some of these events, and the challenges that companies are facing to protect against, prepare for and respond to the increase in ransomware here, here, here and here.

The combination of ransomware being the most damaging type of cyber breach financially with the large increase in the number of ransomware attacks means that the cost of breaches will continue rising steeply. The result of this expanding threat environment will continue to separate the best and worst rated companies on cyber governance. The Cyberhedge Cyber Governance Indices track this divergence and are outperforming the broader markets in the US and EU by 19% and 41% respectively.

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Denis Bolshakov

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