Malware levels drop as attacks become more targeted

Malware magnifier

Overall malware levels have shown a 39 percent decline over the last quarter as attackers have switched to a more targeted approach.

The third quarter threat intelligence report from SonicWall Capture Labs records a 40 percent surge in global ransomware, a 19 percent increase in intrusion attempts and a 30 percent rise in IoT malware.

"For most of us, 2020 has been the year where we've seen economies almost stop, morning commutes end and traditional offices disappear," says SonicWall President and CEO Bill Conner. "However, the overnight emergence of remote workforces and virtual offices has given cybercriminals new and attractive vectors to exploit. These findings show their relentless pursuit to obtain what is not rightfully theirs for monetary gain, economic dominance and global recognition."

Looked at regionally Regional comparisons show India has seen the biggest drop in malware (-68 percent) followed by Germany (-64 percent), the US saw a -33 percent drop and the UK -44 percent. By contrast the US saw 145.2 million ransomware hits in the quarter -- a 139 percent year-on-year increase.

A third (33.7 percent) of all ransomware attacks this year were accounted for by the Ryuk malware. Through Q3 2019, SonicWall detected just 5,123 Ryuk attacks, but Q3 2020 saw detection of 67.3 million Ryuk attacks.

SonicWall's vice president, platform architecture, Dmitriy Ayrapetov says:

What's interesting is that Ryuk is a relatively young ransomware family that was discovered in August 2018 and has made significant gains in popularity in 2020. The increase of remote and mobile workforces appears to have increased its prevalence, resulting not only in financial losses, but also impacting healthcare services with attacks on hospitals.

Ryuk is especially dangerous because it is targeted, manual and often leveraged via a multistage attack preceded by Emotet and TrickBot malware. Therefore, if an organization has Ryuk, it's a pretty good indication that it's infested with several types of malware.

The study also finds a 30 percent increase in IoT malware attacks, a total of 32.4 million world-wide. This is put down to attackers trying to use the devices as entry points to attack networks being used by the flood of home workers.

You can read more about the findings on the SonicWall blog.

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