Cyber arms race at tipping point: research

The pandemic’s work-from-home reality resulted in an unprecedented change for organisations as they fought to defend exponentially greater attack surfaces from cybercriminals armed with powerful cloud-based tools, cloud storage and endless targets.

As working environments evolved, so did the methods of threat actors and other motivated perpetrators, as detailed in the latest 2021 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report. 

“2020 offered a perfect storm for cybercriminals and a critical tipping point for the cyber arms race,” said SonicWall President and CEO Bill Conner. “The pandemic — along with remote work, a charged political climate, record prices of cryptocurrency, and threat actors weaponizing cloud storage and tools — drove the effectiveness and volume of cyberattacks to new highs.”

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The 2021 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report highlights how COVID-19 provided threat actors with ample opportunity for more powerful, aggressive and numerous attacks, thriving on the fear and uncertainty of remote and mobile workforces navigating corporate networks from home.

“There is no code of conduct when it comes to cybercriminals, their methods of attacks and the selection of their targets,” said Conner. “Technology is moving at an unprecedented rate. Threats that were once thought to be two or three years away are now a reality, with do-it-yourself, cloud-based tools creating an army of cybercriminals armed with the same devastating force and impact of a nation-state or larger criminal enterprise. Organisations must remain vigilant and proactive in hardening their cybersecurity posture.”

Debasish Mukherjee, Vice President, Regional Sales APAC adds “As more organisations are adopting to digital transformation, it is imperative to have strategies in place to plan mitigation, build resilience and respond to anomalies. With the increase in data breach and leaked information, organisations are now more susceptible to threats and need to be more prepared than ever in combating cyber attacks.”

He continues “The findings in the 2021 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report reveals great insights into the latest threats, including those in Asia Pacific and how organisations can better prepare for security optimisation.”

The 2021 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report goes inside the stories that headlined 2020, and takes a closer look at new and disruptive cyber threats to provide insight into the evolving cyber threat landscape. Major findings of the new in-depth SonicWall report include:

  • Ransomware reaches new heights with increasingly targeted attacks: A 62% increase in ransomware globally, and 158% spike in North America, points to cybercriminals using more sophisticated tactics and more dangerous variants, like Ryuk, to earn an easy payday.
  • More ‘never-before-seen’ malware variants identified:  268,362 ‘never-before-seen’ malware variants in 2020, a 74% year-over-year increase were discovered.
  • Malicious Office files surpass last year’s preferred PDFs: SonicWall research shows the shift to employees working from home full-time could be directly linked to the increased utilization of Office files and PDFs as malicious vehicles armed with phishing URLs, embedded malicious files and other dangerous exploits. 
  • IoT malware increases as pandemic creates potential network of disruption: In March 2020, masses of employees packed their personal office belongings and equipment to work from home for months on end, simultaneously creating an explosion of new attack vectors. In 2020, SonicWall Capture Labs threat researchers recorded 56.9 million IoT malware attempts, a 66% increase that showed shifting tactics for lurking cybercriminals.
  • Retail, healthcare and government face mounting ransomware volume: Industry-specific ransomware data reflects the impact cybercriminals had on retail (365%), healthcare (123%) and government (21%) sectors over the course of the pandemic.