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Ransomware, threats, IoT malware, cryptojacking on the rise

By Shannon Williams
Wed 23 Feb 2022

There has been a sustained meteoric rise in ransomware in 2021 with 623.3 million attacks globally, according to new research from SopnicWall. 

The bi-annual 2022 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report showed nearly all monitored threats, cyberattacks and malicious digital assaults rose in 2021, including ransomware, encrypted threats, IoT malware and cryptojacking.

"Cyberattacks become more attractive and potentially more disastrous as dependence on information technology increases," says SonicWall president and chief executive Bill Conner. 

"Securing information in a boundless world is a near impossible and thankless job, especially as the boundaries of organisations are ever-expanding to limitless endpoints and networks."

Ransomware's Savage Reign Continues as Attacks Increase 105%

SonicWall Capture Labs threat researchers diligently tracked the dramatic rise in ransomware, recording an astounding 318.6 million more ransomware attacks than 2020, a 105% increase. Ransomware volume has risen 232% since 2019.

High-profile ransomware attacks impacted businesses, state and federal governments, schools, hospitals and even individuals. Attacks hit supply chains, causing widespread system downtime, economic loss and reputational damage. Following global trends, all industries faced large increases of ransomware volume, including government (+1,885%), healthcare (755%), education (152%) and retail (21%).

Ransomware has developed into a massive and systemic threat that is forecasted to get worse. Across the globe, U.S. and U.K. climbed a staggering 98% and 227% respectively. In Asia, ransomware attacks also leapt in 2021 with a 121.682% increase YoY, with India and Japan also saw alarming rises of 981% and 63.55% respectively, in IoT malware volume.

Debasish Mukherjee, vice president, regional sales-APAC at SonicWall adds, "With threats of almost every type on the rise, is it imperative that we have strategies and resilience systems in place to respond almost instantaneously. 

"Especially in Asia Pacific where many have been the target of these malicious attacks in a new paradigm for cybercrime, all the more our findings in the 2022 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report will help us to find the right security measures to protect our greatest assets and be a step ahead to prevent unwanted and damaging attacks," he says.

As Cyberattack Vectors Expand, Malicious Assaults Climb

The frequency and variety of cyberattacks continue to expand every year, with an increasing cost to organisations worldwide. SMBs and enterprises are progressively threatened by an assortment of cyberattacks, and without knowing what they are, or how cybercriminals operate, protecting business-critical data from cyberattacks becomes unmanageable.

"Attacks on networks rose to a fever pitch in 2021," said SonicWall vice president of platform architecture Dmitriy Ayrapetov. 

"Ransomware, cryptojacking, vulnerably exploitation, phishing and other attacks continue to plague organisations around the world and overwhelm security teams. It's important to understand the breakdown of these attacks and why they continue to be successful, as well as the drivers and trends behind them," he says.

Insight on additional cyber threats include:

Apache Log4j vulnerabilities were quickly exploited, with threat actors logging 142.2 million exploit attempts between Dec. 11 and Jan. 31 an average of 2.7 million each day. Within three days of the public disclosure, exploit attempts had already passed the 1 million mark.Malware volume was slightly down again in 2021, marking both a third-straight year of decrease as well as a seven-year low. However, an uptick in attacks during the second half of 2021 almost completely erased the 22% drop in malware that SonicWall had recorded at the mid-year point, bringing the total decrease for 2021 to just 4% suggesting malware numbers may rebound in 2022.

Encrypted threats increased 167% year-over-year. In August, the number of encrypted attacks broke the 1 million mark for the first time, then continued to rise, reaching nearly 2.5 million by year's end. Cryptojacking continued to surge last year, rising 19% globally to 97.1 million, which is the most attacks that SonicWall Capture Labs threat researchers have ever recorded in a single year.IoT malware volume rose 6% in 2021, totalling 60.1 million hits by year's end. While this isn't good news, it's at least better than it has been: In 2019 and 2020, IoT malware volume rose 218% and 66%, respectively. With no corresponding slowdown in the proliferation of connected devices, this suggests that attack volumes may be levelling off.

Smarter Than Ever, RTDMI Discovered 65% More 'Never-before-seen' Malware Variants

SonicWall's patented Real-Time Deep Memory InspectionTM (RTDMI) technology identified a total of 442,151 never-before-seen malware variants in 2021, a 65% year-over-year increase and an average of 1,211 per day. In Q4, RTDMI found more never-before-seen malware variants than in any quarter since its introduction in 2018.

SonicWall Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) with RTDMI recently earned its fourth consecutive 'perfect score' in the ICSA Labs ATD testing for Q4 2021. ICSA Labs is an independent third party that tested SonicWall's solutions using never-before-seen malware samples, and over the course of the entire year (2021) SonicWall technology did not miss a single malware sample nor produced one false positive.

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