Malware volume drops, crytptojacking down 78%, stealthy attacks on web apps double

News by Mark Mayne

Global malware attacks fell for only the second time in five years, dropping six percent to 9.9 billion, down from 10.5 billion, but there are rises in more stealthy attacks including encrypted threats up 27%

Good news as volumes of attacks drop, but bad as attackers turn to stealthier attacks on softer targets

Global malware attacks fell for only the second time in five years, dropping six percent to 9.9 billion, down from 10.5 billion, according to a new report. 

This seeming good news is not all it seems however, with attackers eschewing large volume attacks in favour of more evasive and targeted attacks on soft targets. In other ‘good’ news, ransomware attacks also dropped nine  percent to almost 188 million, while the volume of cryptojacking incidents plummeted 78 percent in the second half of 2019. This last is probably due to the volatile crypto market directly impacting revenues for hackers, as well as the shuttering of browser-based Monero-mining service Coinhive in March 2019. 

However, the bad news is that hackers have turned their attention to more lucrative targets, with web apps such as Dropbox and Slack seeing a huge uptick in attacks, up 52 percent in the past year to 40.8 million. According to the 2020 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report the overall internet trend towards encrypting traffic has been reflected in hacking too, with a rise in encrypted threats of 27 percent, totalling up to almost four million.

In addition, fileless malware and a range of new techniques (including code obfuscation, sandbox detection and bypass) saw a rise in popularity, with new threats hiding in common and trusted file types such as Office (20.3 percent) and PDFs (17.4 percent). Indeed, these two file types represented 38 percent of new threats detected by SonicWall.

Terry Greer-King, VP EMEA at SonicWall told SC Media UK that cyber-criminals are becoming smarter and more ambitious than ever before: “They now spend more time honing their craft, targeting vulnerable IoT devices and aiming ransomware at the highest-value targets most likely to payout. With hackers doubling their attacks on popular web apps used for work and everyday needs, financial and personal information within those services is now more vulnerable than ever. Sold on the dark web for a profit, there’s no telling where these details will end up.”

Interestingly, another trend highlighted by the report is a rise in IoT attacks, which saw a moderate five percent increase, with a total volume of 34.3 million attacks in 2019. With IoT Devices widely tipped for an exponential rise (one industry study predicts the global IoT security market will to reach or exceed £27 billion by 2023, a spike of 33.7 percent), the stage is set for increased volumes of IoT attack traffic as device penetration and deployment increases. 

“Total end-to-end security is key, including a layered approach to security across wired, wireless, mobile and cloud networks. It will continue to be crucial to secure and manage IoT devices to prevent tampering and unauthorised access. As the report testifies, data will continue to be put under threat by malicious actors, often across changing vectors, and so it is hugely important that businesses and governments are proactive in protecting this.”, summarised Greer-King.

The report found that the most popular ransomware family of 2019 (making up 33 percent of all ransomware attacks), was Cerber, also boasting four of the top 10 ransomware signatures of the year, including the top two spots totaling more than 77 million hits. 

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